A less than perfect murder

higdonHow to get away with the perfect murder is one of those bull session perennials, a topic of unending fascination. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, a pair of University of Chicago students, took the matter a little too seriously. Convinced their intellectual superiority as Nietzschean supermen gave them not just the means but the right to commit murder, the pair killed Robert Franks, a friend of Loeb’s in the Kenwood neighborhood. The crime was planned in great detail, with a cover-up as intricate as the murder itself.

Except Leopold left his eyeglasses at the crime scene.

The Leopold and Loeb case remains a much-studied piece of criminal and Chicago history. Tony-award winning playwright John Logan penned Never the Sinner, a courtroom drama about the case that’s playing right now at Victory Gardens in Chicago. Tonight, PBS’s series The American Experience airs an episode on the case.

UIP publishes one of the more acclaimed examinations of the Leopold and Loeb crime and trial. Hal Higdon‘s Leopold and Loeb: The Crime of the Century digs up secret testimony and a host of unanswered questions surrounding Franks’ murder. Separating fact from myth, Higdon unravels the crime, the investigation, and the trial—a media spectacle that saw Leopold and Loeb defended by none other than Clarence Darrow, the era’s most famous attorney. Higdon’s razor sharp account of their chilling act, their subsequent celebrity, and their ultimate emergence as folk heroes resonates unnervingly in our own violent time.