The Brooklyn Thrill-Kill Gang and the Great Comic Book Scare of the 1950s
by Mariah Adin
December 2014, 167pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3372-4
$41, £31, 36€, A56
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3373-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

In 1954, American citizens were obsessed with the issue of juvenile delinquency.

What caused four recently bar mitzvahed middle-class youths to go on a crime spree of assault and murder in 1954? This book provides a compelling narrative retelling of the boys, their crimes, and a U.S. culture obsessed with juvenile delinquency.

After ongoing months of daily headlines about gang shootouts, stomp-killings, and millions of dollars worth of vandalism, by the summer of 1954, America had had enough of juvenile delinquency. It was in this environment that 18-year-old Jack Koslow and the other three teenage members of the Brooklyn Thrill Killers committed their heinous crimes and achieved notoriety. The Brooklyn Thrill-Kill Gang and the Great Comic Book Scare of the 1950s exposes the underbelly of America’s mid-century, the terrible price of assimilation, the uncomfortable bedfellows of comic books and juvenile delinquency, and the dystopia already in bloom amongst American youth well before the 1960s. Readers will be engrossed and horrified by the tale of the Brooklyn Thrill-Kill Gang whose shocking, front-page story could easily have been copy-pasted from today’s online news sites.

Author Mariah Adin takes readers along for a breathtaking moment-by-moment retelling of the crime spree, the subsequent interrogations, and the dramatic courtroom showdown, interspersed with expository chapters on juvenile delinquency, America’s Jewish community in the post-Holocaust period, and the anti-comics movement. This book serves to merge the history of juvenile delinquency with that of the Great Comic Book Scare, highlights the assimilation of immigrants into America’s white mainstream gone wrong, and complicates our understanding of America’s “Golden Age.”

Features

  • Tells a fascinating true crime story involving murder, juvenile delinquency, secret sexualities, and obscene comic books from a time in American history often portrayed as idyllic and innocent
  • Provides revealing insights into the anxieties of the post-Holocaust Jewish-American community
  • Supplies a new angle on the Great Comic Book Scare and the anti-comics movement
  • Based on original, archival research using materials that have never been published
Mariah Adin, PhD, is a Fulbright Scholar, historian, and writer specializing in juvenile delinquency and modern American history. She holds a doctorate in American history from the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY), and is currently the coordinator for the Pathways in Technology program for SUNY Orange.

Reviews

"The book's success centers on the author's ability to depict the incredibly multifaceted context of this particular case. . . . And all of this research is woven quite neatly into the narrative, making the read both informative and enjoyable. . . . Overall, Adin has produced a well-written narrative intended to engage readers through impressively extensive research into not only the legal history (the court case itself) but also—and perhaps to a greater extent—the cultural context of this case." —H-Net Book Review, February 8, 2016

"The book makes for lively reading. It reminds us that when it comes to child-rearing, no generation has all the answers."—American Jewish History, March 9, 2016

"Adin has produced a fascinating case study of the mass hysteria caused by comic books in the 1950s."—Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, March 9, 2016

"Adin's [book] makes valuable contributions to multiple literatures: the sociology of societal reaction, moral panics, studies of juvenile delinquency, etc. . . . In sum, [it] is a good and useful read. Its greatest appeal will likely be amongst people like myself—academics or professionals curious to learn more about a case that had nearly been lost to time." —Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books, March 9, 2016

"Adlin's revealing and well-written study is not only a rigorous work, but a great read; [she] should write crime fiction!"—Journal of Sexuality and Culture, June 22, 2016

"The spectral and ultimately unanswered question of Adin’s book is how could four middle-class boys from caring homes commit acts of violence so heinous that they spark national hysteria and the censorship of an entire industry. It is this question that both incites and compels the reader forward. . . . Adin skillfully sprinkles the text with many possibilities."—Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, November 7, 2016

"Mariah Adin's engrossing account about a crime spree by four Brooklyn adolescents, dubbed the 'Thrill Kill Gang,' belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in youth culture and the history of postwar America. Adin uses their first-degree murder trial to examine American anxiety about delinquency in the 1950s, questions about Jewish identity and assimilation in the aftermath of the Holocaust, and concerns about masculinity and its appropriate expression."—Eric C. Schneider, University of Pennsylvania, Assistant Dean and Associate Director for Academic Affairs, Adjunct Professor of History
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