The Thief-Taker Hangings

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Early praise for THE THIEF-TAKER HANGINGS:

Skirboll (The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven) masterfully weaves the captivating stories of three Englishmen and how one’s newspaper coverage of the other two ‘birthed a genre.’ “
Publishers Weekly, starred review

thief takerDaniel Defoe invented scandal journalism by covering the sordid lives and hangman’s deaths of two of London’s most notorious criminals.

Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot, is proud to announce the release of THE THIEF-TAKER HANGINGS: How Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Wild, and Jack Sheppard Captivated London and Created the Celebrity Criminal, by Aaron Skirboll (ISBN 978-0-7627-9148-4; $26.95 hardcover). The book will be published on September 2, 2014.

In the early 1700s, lawlessness ruled England, and highwaymen, thieves, and prostitutes thrived. When notorious burglar Jack Sheppard finally met the hangman, street singers warbled ballads about the housebreaker whom no prison could hold. Before his execution, he told his story to a writer in the crowd. Daniel Defoe had done hard time himself for sedition and bankruptcy and saw how prison corrupted the poor. They came out thieves, but he came out a journalist. Six months later, Defoe covered another death at the hanging tree. Jonathan Wild had all but invented the double-cross. He cultivated thieves and then betrayed them for his reward and their executions. Jack Sheppard hadn’t taken orders from this self-proclaimed “thief-taker general,” and the two-faced bounty hunter took it personally, helping to bring the burglar’s life to an end. But Wild’s duplicity soon came to light, and he became the most despised man in the land. When he swung, a mob hurled rocks, rotten food, and even dead animals at him. Defoe once again got the scoop, and tabloid journalism had begun.

Aaron Skirboll is the author of The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven and has written about America’s first professional songwriter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ernest Hemingway’s last days for American Way magazine, and the history of the phone booth and cell phone etiquette for The Morning News. He lives in Pennsylvania.

 

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