Archive for August 2012

stolen away- Max Allen Collins   Leave a comment


Published in 1991, this is a fictionalised account of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping of 1932.

i first came into contact with the kidnapping story whilst i was teaching my children 20th century history and they became obsessed with the story. i think they related to the human story involving a baby, someone they could easily relate to. added to that is the fact that it remained unsolved for so long, all became ingredients in a fascinating news story which became a great vehicle to teach about 1930’s USA.

i bought this book from kindle as part of my holiday reading, and the link to the true life crime appealed to me. i wasn’t too sure of the details of the case so i read up on it quickly on wikipedia. i was surprised to see the book itself  listed as being a thorough assessment of the case with an alternative ending.i considered then that  a fictionalised account is a brilliant way to give a theory without having to prove your point very hard.

I was initially put off by the ‘maltese falconesque’ language of the main character, Nathan Heller, but after a couple of chapters i has orientated and drawn in to the story. i found that the story unfolded simply and clearly, which in itself is a credit to the author when you consider the complex details of the case. The characters of Lindbergh and his wife and the other main characters in the drama were well drawn, and i had to struggle to remind myself that this was fictional and the opinion of the author, not fact.

at the end of the novel, the author kindly lists the enormous quantity of books he read before writing, and also qualified what was fictional and added to drive the story. The use of the narrator to direct the action, to link through the gap in time after the kidnapping until the time of Hauptmann’s death in the electric chair., and finally to give us a final catch up on what finally happened to the principal stars in the drama.

Collin’s description of Hauptmann in the death house, with his references to the sheet swathed electric chair really stayed with me after finishing the novel.

i found it really easy to read, yet on finishing it, i realised he had taken care to include every detail of the case i had discovered and in the correct chronology. He had not avoided any of the chaos or melodrama of the case, and instead of trying to simplify it and eliminate the dross, he seemed to revel in the melodrama and choreographed everything into a very convincing single narrative.

i was particularly struck by the idea that the baby had survived and came to search out Heller years later, i found the issues surrounding the survival of the baby and whether he should have been returned, all very well handled, although they were only touched on in passing.

i loved the book, and felt it was possibly one of his best. i had read the trilogy: the pearl harbour murders, the hindenburg murders and the titanic murders, and was not as affected by them as with this book.

if you like historical fiction, it is definitely worth a look.


Posted August 12, 2012 by dianne7 in book review

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