The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation
Beekman Place, one of the most exclusive addresses in Manhattan, hasn’t always been home to the rich. In the 1930s, when bluebloods like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers began to build luxury towers, poor European immigrants lived in filthy slums among the riverside factories and abbatoirs. It was in this setting that a young man committed a grisly triple-murder on Easter Sunday, 1937.
The details of the case were so sensational that one might think it had been cooked up in a tabloid editor’s overheated imagination. The charismatic perpetrator, Robert Irwin, was a promising young sculptor, but he was also deeply disturbed. An obsession with Veronica Gedeon, a stunning photographer's model, would inspire him to murder.
Harold Schechter masterfully tells the story of the "Mad Sculptor" case, one of the most engrossing American crime dramas of the twentieth century—evoking an atmosphere and a madness that will have readers glued to their chairs.
"The author displays a talent for mixing lurid pulp narrative, dead-on procedural facts, and tabloid rag copy. Despite a full confession from Irwin, his defense attorney Samuel Leibowitz, “The Great Defender” with a notable record and clients such as Al Capone and the Scottsboro Boys, twisted the jury around his finger and walked away with a draw. Ambitious, bold, and evocative, Schechter’s storytelling grabs the reader in a similar manner to Capote’s searing In Cold Blood."
The Mystery Writers of America today announced the nominees for the prestigious 2015 Edgar Awards. Harold Schechter's The Mad Sculptor has been nominated for an award in the "Best Fact Crime" category. Awards will be presented on April 29, 2015.
"Even the most baffled detective may take heart from Sherlock Holmes's sage pronouncement in "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League" (1891): "As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is, the less mysterious it proves to be." The 1937 triple homicide of Veronica Gedeon, an attractive model who posed for artists and crime magazines; her mother; and an English boarder at their Beekman Place apartment on Manhattan's East Side luridly demonstrates Holmes's wisdom.
"This history revives a tabloid sensation of 1937, when a mother and daughter were found strangled in their Manhattan apartment. The fact that the daughter was a twenty-year-old nude model who left behind a "seemingly endless stream of boyfriends" made the case, as Schechter writes, a "perfect storm of prurience." The killer turned out to be sculptor, taxidermist, and failed seminarian who had spent his adult life in and out of mental institutions.
"Schechter (American literature, City University New York) shares another rigorously researched true crime story in the latest in his series that delves into American serial killers (e.g., Fatal; Fiend; Bestial; et al.).