Cover: First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt in HARDCOVER

First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt

Homicide in Chicago, 1875-1920

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Product Details


$40.00 • £32.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674021495

Publication Date: 04/15/2006


384 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

14 line illustrations


Adler tells this story with verve. Someone is killed more than every second page, as 226 separate incidents draw the reader into this shifting culture of violence… In the end Adler’s message is clear: Commerce and reckless driving aside, our streets and homes are safer when people don’t have reason to fear their future financial stability, and men lose their obsession with the privileges and imperatives of manhood.—James Grossman, The Chicago Tribune

[A] fascinating and important book.—Timothy B. Spears, American Historical Review

Fascinating reading… It’s rather stunning to get a feel for how violence never really disappears, but instead continually shifts and adapts to its surroundings, whether those surroundings are the more rough-and-tumble nineteenth century or the more industrialized and efficient twentieth.—Sarah Statz,

Will our fascination with murder ever diminish? Unlikely, and Jeffrey S. Adler’s exploration of homicide in Chicago from 1875–1920 continues to whet our appetite for news, conclusions, speculations, and stories about homicides. First, let’s get one thing straight. This is a book about lives, not about deaths. One reason why we—the movie-going public, the readers of detective fiction and popular novels, criminologists, historians, and legal scholars—all love homicide, read about it, write about it, is because homicide reveals so much about people’s lives: homicides tell us about the lives of the victims, as split open by the event as their heads; the lives of the defendants, whose confessions or denials are accompanied by incriminating background information and speculation about who they were and why they did it; even the family members and the investigators are stripped naked for the gawking. This being said, this is not a salacious book, or an exploitative book. It is a scholarly treatment of homicide as one source, often the only source, of data about how people lived and died in a very interesting time and place, Chicago from 1875–1920.—Leigh Bienen, Law and History Review

Several factors combine to make this book rival Eric Monkkenon’s study of New York as the best history of big city homicide yet published. Start with Chicago in its explosively growing heyday, 1875–1920, its reputation for murderous violence unmatched; add numerous contemporary reports and studies; stir in some theoretical points scored for and against Norbert Elias and the Chicago School of Sociology; and throw in a juicy title from Lincoln Steffens. But the key ingredient is an unmatched collection of primary sources, led by nearly 6,000 detailed police reports, which allow Jeffrey Adler to exercise his interpretative skills with more subtlety and precision than any previous researcher.—Roger Lane, Urban History

The most important work in the growing field of homicide studies to be published in some time. The importance of the city, the nearly fifty-year time scale, the cogency and subtlety of the argument, the sources of unparalleled richness all make for an impressive whole. I learned a lot, much of it rather surprising, from this original book.—Roger Lane, author of Violent Death in the City

First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt is outstanding. In Adler’s skilled hands, what could be just a litany of urban chaos becomes understandable. Distraught moms, angry bar brawlers, cold-blooded robbers, and careless drivers draw the reader into a city being transformed by migration, immigration, industrial growth and changing family life. I could not put the book down.—Eric H. Monkkonen, author of Murder in New York City

I can’t think of any book in any discipline that has done a better job of coming to grips with America’s homicide problem. In a nicely written and beautifully organized work, Adler tells moving stories about the lives of Chicagoans and the ways in which their frustrations led to violence. I recommend it enthusiastically.—Randolph A. Roth, author of The Democratic Dilemma

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