“The book is the first to consider all the available evidence in the case and to offer a well-substantiated explanation of what happened to Joe Crater and why.“
— Stephen J. Riegel
SUP: Stephen, can you tell readers what your book is about in a few sentences?
Riegel: My book takes a new look at a famous old, unsolved missing person case – that of Judge Joseph Force Crater, who stepped into a taxicab in the middle of Manhattan on August 6, 1930, and was never seen or heard from again. Despite a massive manhunt across the country and the world that stretched over three decades, the New York Police Department and other investigators were unable to support or favor any of the numerous explanations of Crater’s disappearance, nor even answer more basic questions such as whether he vanished of his own accord or involuntarily at the hands of others. Making extensive use for the first time of new sources, including the NYPD files and court records, and taking a closer look at the missing man’s colorful life, time, and place – Manhattan at the end of the Jazz Age – the book is the first to consider all the available evidence in the case and to offer a well-substantiated explanation of what happened to Joe Crater and why.
SUP: What drew you to this subject?
Riegel: The subject of this book appealed to me for a number of reasons. First, having a background in the study of American History, the historical aspect of the story, which touches on Franklin D. Roosevelt and national politics, attracted me. I also became interested in the very different New York City of the Roaring Twenties – Tammany Hall, Mayor Jimmy Walker, its nightclubs, culture and corruption, all of which Crater figured in – that my book tries to portray. Also, as a lawyer practicing in the city, I better understood his successful legal and judicial career and its possible role in his disappearance, and the practice of law and the courts in the 1920s figure prominently in the story. Finally, the unsolved aspect of his disappearance presented a challenge and puzzle that I wanted to try to piece together.
SUP: Were there any other books on Judge Joseph Crater used as research, or is this book the first of its kind?
Riegel: This is the first comprehensive book-length treatment of Crater’s disappearance, so almost all of my research was done in primary sources. Only one other non-fiction account of his case previously has been published; recent attempts to solve the case have been in historical novels.
SUP: Can you describe the research process and difficulty?
Riegel: I did not find the research process for this book particularly difficult. Much of the research was done in libraries, archives and collections here in New York City. I was granted access to the NYPD files through a Freedom of Information Law request, and spent many hours in the basement of NYPD Headquarters, reviewing and taking notes of the contents of the remaining police files, but the people there who helped me were very cooperative throughout. My research also entailed extensive time reviewing the contemporary newspaper and magazine articles about the judge’s disappearance on a daily basis, which in conjunction with the NYPD files, gave me a real time sense of how the search progressed in the initial months of the investigation.
SUP: Would you say any part of Judge Crater’s disappearance has set a precedent for how similar cases are dealt with today?
Riegel: I don’t think so. The Crater case was unique, very much of its time and place.
SUP: What would you say will be the most fascinating aspect of this book for readers?
Riegel: Some readers of the book may be drawn mainly to its who-done-it aspect – its marshalling of the evidence in the case developed over thirty years, its analysis of the evidence against the different theories of Crater’s disappearance, and its presentation of a convincing explanation of how Crater disappeared and why. Others may find most interesting the book’s depiction of a rapidly transforming New York City at the end of the Roaring Twenties and the start of the Great Depression.
SUP: Who do you think will most enjoy this book? Who is the intended audience?
Riegel: I hope this book will appeal to a few audiences – those interested in famous historical mysteries, cold case/true crime investigations, New York City and State’ history, and lawyers and others curious about legal practice and history.
Stephen J. Riegel is a practicing litigator and former federal prosecutor in New York City who appears in some of the same courts Crater did. He also has degrees in American history from Princeton University and Stanford University. He has published articles on legal history.
Fans of Irish crime fiction are no strangers to anticipation. From the classic police procedural to the emerging domestic noir, this genre and its nail-biting stories have exploded across the global literary sphere. And that popularity is in no small part due to the curiosity and excitement that readers feel as they consume this popular fiction. We at Syracuse University Press are feeling the same way about the publication of Guilt Rules All, edited by Elizabeth Mannion and Brian Cliff. Guilt Rules All is an essay collection that explores the roots and also the fluidity of this developing genre. Both scholars and enthusiasts of Irish crime fiction have come together to discuss topics spanning from globalization, to women and violence, and even to Irish historical topics like the Troubles. We asked Cliff and Mannion to tell us a little more about how the project was started, why the collaborative format, and where their love for Irish crime fiction began.
Guilt Rules All hopes to find an audience in both the academic sphere of Irish Studies and with the general readership of Irish crime fiction. How was it trying to balance this diverse readership spanning from scholars to aficionados?
For the most part, it was exciting and a bit liberating. We’ve worked hard to make sure the collection offers insights to Irish Studies scholars new to crime fiction criticism, while doing just as much to welcome experienced crime fiction readers and scholars who may be newer to Irish materials.
Of the five sections of Guilt Rules All, the final discusses the very recently emerged subgenre of domestic noir. This subgenre, and the entirety of Irish crime fiction, is deeply influenced by female writers. How is the discussion of women authors and their work addressed in this collection?
A central goal as we developed this collection was to make the contents reflect the full scope of subgenres and the ways women are writing across all of them, from police procedurals to psychological thrillers. So many women are producing some of the richest, most exciting Irish fiction of any genre, and accounts of Irish crime fiction need to address that in detail. Not enough critical work has yet been done on writers beyond Tana French and Benjamin Black, but any dive into Irish crime writing will reveal that writers like Julie Parsons and Arlene Hunt were there from the earliest stages of the genre’s recent growth.
What unique perspectives do nonacademic writers bring to the discussion of Irish crime fiction, that Guilt Rules All would suffer without?
Mannion: Gerard Brennan has a PhD from Queen’s Belfast, so he has one foot in that academic world, but his other is firmly set in the creative realm. Like Declan Burke, who has perhaps done more than anyone to spread the word about Irish crime fiction’s strengths, Brennan is a seasoned crime writer. Both Declan and Gerard were important to this collection because they were able to discuss their subjects – Steve Cavanagh for Gerard, and Alex Barclay for Declan – from the perspective of practicing novelists. Joe Long’s perspective is that of a hard-core fan. He’s one of the undersung heroes of Irish crime writing in America, a real advocate for these writers. Together, these three contributors reflect some of the different perspectives from which people have done so much to support the genre’s growth in recent decades.
In editing Guilt Rules All, what new or different conclusions did you come to about the Irish crime fiction genre?
Both of us have worked extensively on the genre, Beth with her 2016 edited collection The Contemporary Irish Detective Novel and Brian with his 2018 monograph Irish Crime Fiction. The experience of editing and contributing to Guilt Rules All was another reminder of just how diverse and energetic the genre is, and an exciting chance to see what insights our colleagues have been able to glean from their array of authors. The main conclusion we’ve reached is that Irish crime fiction – in general, and in the particulars given here – is marked by a defining fluidity and a generosity in fusing subgenres. These traits show how both crime fiction and Irish literature are more capacious than they may sometimes seem. It’s our hope that, by tracing these traits, these essays will contribute to a foundation on which to build further accounts of the genre’s role in Irish culture. It’s also become crystal clear to us that there are some amazing scholars out there who want to track those directions.
What was the impetus for Guilt Rules All? Why this book, and why a collaborative project?
We had worked well together on The Contemporary Irish Detective Novel, to which Brian contributed a chapter on John Connolly’s work, and we had a number of discussions about what – beyond our own previous publications – could be done to broaden the discussion’s scope, and to reflect the range of authors who’ve made a place for themselves in that discussion. We also saw that the field was expanding faster than most readers can keep up. It was important to us that an attempt be made to keep pace and—before too much more time passed—capture the impact of some writers who were there before the field gained international attention.
Love of Irish crime fiction shines through every chapter of Guilt Rules All. As this passion propels the collection, can you recall your introduction to the genre? What was the first book or series that lit the spark?
Mannion: My sparks were Declan Hughes and Jane Casey. I was familiar with Declan’s plays, and when I heard he wrote crime fiction, I jumped in. I think Brian is the person who introduced me to Jane’s Maeve Kerrigan series. I was hooked with the first book (The Burning).
Cliff: My reading of crime fiction in general was set off decades ago with the Irish poet Paul Muldoon’s “Immram,” which fuses to delirious effect the Southern California of Chandler and Macdonald with medieval Irish vision quests. My specific love for Irish crime fiction, though, began with John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series, Tana French’s Faithful Place, and Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series.
In your opinion, why is Irish crime fiction such a booming genre in today’s global literary field?
As we explore in our introduction, the genre’s growth really kicks in at a point where many of the parameters of Irish fiction in general could seem at times to have been pretty thoroughly delineated, but Irish crime fiction – like other forms of popular fiction in Ireland – has offered a wealth of new angles, perspectives, and approaches, to which scholars are increasingly attending. At the same time, for genre readers outside of Ireland, Irish crime fiction offers characters and contexts that are accessible to a wide range of readers in and beyond the Irish diaspora, while still maintaining a strong sense of specificity, a combination that seems to give readers an easy path into a complex world.
Attention all readers! We are excited to share our new Fall 2014 catalog. We have a great lineup of books including biographies, short stories, literary translations, and many others.
Michael Long (author of Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life After Baseball) returns with another inspiring biography. In Gay is Good, Long collects the letters of gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny. These letters are lively and colorful because they in Kameny’s inimitable voice—a voice that was consistently loud, echoing through such places as the Oval Office, the Pentagon, and the British Parliament.
Our Director’s Choice book for this season is a fascinating exploration of sacred wampum belts. These belts depict significant moments in the lives of the people in Eastern Woodlands tribes, portraying everything from weddings to treaties. Reading the Wampum conveys the vitality and continuance of wampum traditions in Iroquois art, literature, and community.
We are thrilled to be publishing Monarch of the Square, the first anthology of Muhammad Zafzāf’s work to be translated into English. Regarded as “Morocco’s Tolstoy,” Zafzāf creates stories that bring to life the flavors and sites of Casablanca, and the daily struggle to survive in remote rural villages. Filled with irony, sarcasm, and sympathy, these tales offer profound reflections on the human condition.
View the fullfall catalog to read about all of our upcoming books.
Nothing fits a warm summer night better than a great old car show. Well the biggest and best old car show in Central New York takes place every day at the wonderful Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich (Chenango County).
When you first step in to one of their several large showrooms it is sensory overload. Cars are lined up as far as the eye can see: red, black, white, turquoise, brown, green. They look like Life Savers on wheels. It is positively dazzling!
There are more than 150 cars on display every day at this unknown museum in Norwich. From Model T and Model As, to big-finned classics from the 1950s, to the muscle cars of the 1960s they are all here. Of special note is the largest collection of Franklin Automobiles under one roof. These cars were made up until 1934 in Syracuse. Other local auto manufacturers are represented here as well.
Some of the surest head-turners are the giant, block-long cars of the 1920s and 1930s. There are several Dusenbergs, Packards and Cords here that are as long as boats and have every imaginable accessory to ferry around the rich and famous of the day.
The thing I like best about the Northeast Classic Car Museum is its multi-generational appeal. This is the perfect place for Grandpa to bring his grandson (or granddaughter) to and give them a lesson on yesteryear. Both generations will love it. Granddad will enjoy reminiscing about his first car and the kids will love all the fancy, colorful features that make almost every auto here look as if it sprang from one of today’s superhero movies.
This is a nice museum, a little off the beaten path, but certainly worth a couple of hours on a a warm sunny Saturday! It is also a chapter in my new book Unknown Museums of Upstate New York.