Friday, April 24, 2015

Compulsion - Meyer Levin

Meyer Levin
Fig Tree, Apr 14 2015, $15.95
ISBN 9781941493021

In 1924 Chicago, geniuses Judd Steiner and Artie Straus kill thirteen year old Paulie Kessler.  Their motive is an experiment to prove how much smarter than the cops and the rest of society they are that they can get away with murder.  However, their premise that they are embodiment of Nietzsche’s superman proves false when they make a minor mistake as Steiner inadvertently left his glasses behind; leading to law enforcement focusing on him and his best friend.  In spite of attorney Jonathan Wilk’s ground breaking mental illness and homosexuality defenses, the pair is convicted of the homicide. 

Three decades later, Steiner will shortly go before the parole board.  The Chicago Daily News assigns reporter Sid Silver to interview Steiner and survivors, like the still in shock killer’s dad, of the horrible crime of the century.

Based on the Leopold and Loeb murder of Bobbie Franks, the reprint of the 1956 true crime novelization remains a powerful dramatization that looks closely at why they did it and the impact of the cold-blooded murder on families and communities years afterward; as there is no closure for anyone.  Over nine decades since the actual murder and almost sixty years since the original book and its subsequent movie were released, Meyer Levin’s Compulsion still haunts its audience.

Harriet Klausner

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