Annal: 2005 Gold Dagger Award for Nonfiction

Results of the Dagger Award in the year 2005.

Book:On the Run

On the Run: A Mafia Childhood

Gregg Hill, Gina Hill

In the 1970s, Henry Hill pulled off heists and busted heads with the Mob. In the ‘80s, he became famous-as the antihero of the bestselling book Wiseguy and blockbuster movie Goodfellas. But there was one story he couldn’t tell. Now his children, Gregg and Gina, tell it for him.

On the Run is the extraordinary true account of what it’s like to grow up in the federal witness protection program. Just as Gregg was celebrating his bar mitzvah and his sister, Gina, was buying her first bra, Henry Hill was informing on his former cronies. Henry, his wife, and children were swept into protective custody. And Gregg and Gina, who’d already been exposed to their father’s wild side, were about to be ripped from their home and lose the only normalcy they’d ever known.

Taking only what they could fit in a bag, the Hill children began a nightmarish life on the run: constantly moving from…[more]

Book:The Last Duel

The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France

Eric Jager

In 1386, a few days after Christmas, a huge crowd gathers at a Paris monastery to watch the two men fight a duel to the death meant to “prove” which man’s cause is right in God’s sight. The dramatic true story of the knight, the squire, and the lady unfolds during the devastating Hundred Years War between France and England, as enemy troops pillage the land, madness haunts the French court, the Great Schism splits the Church, Muslim armies threaten Christendom, and rebellion, treachery, and plague turn the lives of all into toys of Fortune.

At the heart of the tale is Jean de Carrouges, a Norman knight who returns from combat in Scotland to find his wife, Marguerite, accusing Jacques LeGris, her husband’s old friend and fellow courtier, of brutally raping her. The knight takes his cause before the teenage King Charles VI, the highest judge in France. Amid LeGris’s vociferous claims of innocence and doubts about…[more]

Book:A Serpent in Eden

A Serpent in Eden: The Greatest Murder Mystery of All Time

James Owen

Night comes quickly to the Bahamas.

That of July 7 1943 was unpleasantly close and humid, for though the rains were nearing their end, the air was heavy with an approaching storm. It struck Nassau soon after midnight. By the time it had blown itself out, one of the world’s richest men, Sir Harry Oakes, had been murdered in his own bedroom. He had been burned alive, then had his skull broken by four blows to the head. When the body was found at daybreak, bloody handprints marked the walls of the room, while a fan stirred small white feathers that clung to the charred corpse on the bed. Beyond it, the window stood wide open.

Even in the middle of wartime, Oakes’s death commanded front-page headlines in the world’s newspapers, and began a series of events whose protagonists included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ernest Hemingway, two French aristocrats, a suspected…[more]

Book:The Trial

The Trial: A History, from Socrates to O. J. Simpson

Sadakat Kadri

For as long as accuser and accused have faced each other in public, criminal trials have been establishing far more than who did what to whom—and in this fascinating book, Sadakat Kadri surveys four thousand years of courtroom drama.

A brilliantly engaging writer, Kadri journeys from the silence of ancient Egypt’s Hall of the Dead to the clamor of twenty-first-century Hollywood to show how emotion and fear have inspired Western notions of justice–and the extent to which they still riddle its trials today. He explains, for example, how the jury emerged in medieval England from trials by fire and water, in which validations of vengeance were presumed to be divinely supervised, and how delusions identical to those that once sent witches to the stake were revived as accusations of Satanic child abuse during the 1980s.

Lifting the lid on a particularly bizarre niche of legal history, Kadri tells how European lawyers once prosecuted animals,…[more]

Book:The Wreckers: A Story of Killing Seas and Plundered Shipwrecks

The Wreckers: A Story of Killing Seas and Plundered Shipwrecks

Bella Bathurst

Bella Bathurst’s first book, the acclaimed The Lighthouse Stevensons,told the story of Scottish lighthouse construction by the ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson. Now she returns to the sea to search out the darker side of those lights, detailing the secret history of shipwrecks and the predatory scavengers who live off the spoils.

Even today, Britain’s coastline remains a dangerous place. An island soaked by four separate seas, with shifting sand banks to the east, veiled reefs to the west, powerful currents above, and the world’s busiest shipping channel below, the country’s offshore waters are strewn with shipwrecks. For villagers scratching out an existence along Britain’s shores, those wrecks have been more than simply an act of God; in many cases, they have been the difference between living well and just getting by. Though Daphne Du Maurier made Cornwall Britain’s most notorious region for wrecking, many other coastal communities regarded the…[more]

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