SSN – Saving Sin City – A Book by Mary Cummings

Starred Review from Booklist

“This work of narrative nonfiction offers a richly detailed plunge into the excesses of the Gilded Age, as revealed in one infamous love triangle. Journalist Cummings adds a new dimension to a case that’s often been written about, that of the murder of famed New York society architect Stanford White by Harry K. Thaw, a psychopathic millionaire playboy. The murder of White by Thaw in 1906 at the Madison Square Garden’s rooftop theater was the culmination of years of festering jealousy over White’s relationship with the woman both men loved, showgirl Evelyn Nesbit. Cummings expands what is already a great story (including the fact that Thaw was acquitted, despite having committed murder in front of dozens of witnesses) by setting a counterpoint to the lavishly appointed sins of this age. She shows the other side, the doomed campaigns of the antivice reformers and, especially, the effort of district attorney William Travers Jerome to investigate and prosecute Thaw. Cummings’ gift for the odd detail (John Barrymore got his start as a newspaper sketch artist, for example) and for describing physical settings (she uses newspaper accounts of the time to peer into Fifth Avenue homes filled with marble and artworks plundered from Europe by White) make this latest account of the Stanford White murder a standout.”

— Connie Fletcher


About the Author

Mary Cummings is a writer, historian, and an award-winning journalist whose work has been recognized by the New York Press Association. She was a regular contributor to the New York Times for ten years, writing feature stories for its Long Island coverage. She has also written for TimeOut New York, Newsday, Columbia Today and numerous other publications. She was the arts editor and principal feature writer at The Southampton Press for seven years and has written three books on local history: “Southampton,” “Hurricane, 1938,” and “One Hundred Years of Healing,” a study of the role of Southampton Hospital in the social history of the Hamptons. In recent years, she has been a staff member at the Southampton History Museum, managing its Research Center and using her free time to indulge her fascination with Gilded Age New York, gathering the material and writing the story that became “Saving Sin City.” Raised in Southampton, New York, she is a graduate of Smith College and holds a master’s degree in liberal studies from Stony Brook University. She lived in France for two years, and after her marriage, she and her husband lived in several American cities, as well as in Ethiopia, before returning to the States to raise their two sons. She currently lives in Southampton.