Mark Twain at the Gallows

Crime and Justice in His Western Writing, 1861–1873


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About the Book

This book is a literary exploration of Mark Twain’s writings on crime in the American West and its intersection with morality, gender and justice. Writing from his office at the Enterprise newspaper in the Nevada Territory, Twain employed a distinct style of crime writing—one that sensationalized facts and included Twain’s personal philosophies and observations. Covering Twain’s journalism, fictional works and his own personal letters, this book contextualizes the writer’s coverage of crime through his anxieties about westward expansion and the promise of a utopian West. Twain’s observations on the West often reflected common perceptions of the day, positioning him as a “voice of the people” on issues like crime, punishment and gender.

About the Author(s)

Jarrod D. Roark researches crime, punishment and gender performance in nineteenth-century American literature and culture, specifically in the works of Mark Twain and antebellum writers. He teaches literature and writing at St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City, Missouri.

Bibliographic Details

Jarrod D. Roark
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: 11 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7973-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3805-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Abbreviations Used xiii
Introduction: Mark Twain’s Periodical Murders 1
1. “We Pine for Murder”: Mark Twain’s Sensational Journalism and “Philosophic Observation,” 1862–1866 13
2. The Space Betwixt the Garden and the Devil: Mark Twain’s “Personal” and “Public” Reports on Stages and Coaches, 1862–1864 51
3. Exposing Hackmen and Demoralizers: Mark Twain’s Punishment of Metropolitan Beasts, 1864 80
4. Between Law and Outlaw: Mark Twain’s ­Anti-Gallows Sentiment, 1861–1872 109
5. Laura: Mark Twain’s Conflation of Gender Performance and Judgment, 1863–1873 146
Afterword: Mark Twain’s Contradictory “Messiness”: Murderer, Judge and Hangman 180
Chapter Notes 189
Bibliography 205
Index 213

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Roark does an excellent job of showing the development of Twain’s style and attitudes, as well as insights into frontier journalism.”—Mystery Scene

• “An absolute ‘must read’…an extraordinary work of meticulous and seminal scholarship…critically important…recommended”—Midwest Book Review