Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

I am amazed by how many coworkers are familiar with Stephen Crane. Most of us have read The Red Badge of Courage at one point. I am surprised that several have read his book Maggie Child of the Streets. The book was allegedly inspired by Crane's watching a beating of a prostitute by a hulking police officer named Becker.

Years later becker was involved and sentenced to die in the assasination of notorious gambler Arnold Rothstein who is said to have fixed the World Series. Lt Charles Becker was sentenced by a zealous prosecutor named Whitman. Whitman prosecuted the case and rode the publicity into the NY Govenorship as a reformer.

Interestingly, the odd spectacle of an appeal carried to the Govenor who was also prosecutor did happen in this case. The matter should have caused an appeal to the Supreme Court due to a conflict of interest. However, Lt Charles Becker was executed for his crime one of the few cops to ever get the death penalty for his crime in the USA.

If you are familiar with the work of Crane he died at a very young age due to tuberculosis. I do not remember when the book Maggie girl of the Streets was assigned but it wasn't memorable. I have no recolection of many of those books but for reasons unknown 1984, Animal Farm, The Hairy Ape and most of Shakespeare are remembered and Two Years before the Mast, A Doll's House and the Jungle are mostly forgotten.

It is unusual that a chance encounter led to a book that is still with us. However, in his day Becker and Whitman were more well known than Crane's book.


Urban Infidel said...

Actually 'Schindler's List' was published because of a chance encounter between author and publisher in an airport, LAX, if I recall correctly.

beakerkin said...

I wonder how many other great works of Art were inspired by random encounters and events. This shouldn't be surprising because life is like that and Art is a part of life.

Always On Watch said...

Lots of the assigned classics in school are forgotten later. Perhaps not the lessons learned from those books, though.