A sweeping narrative history of a terrifying serial killer--America's first--who stalked Austin, Texas in 1885
In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London's infamous Jack the Ripper. For almost exactly one year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the entire city, striking on moonlit nights, using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women from every race and class. At the time the concept of a serial killer was unthinkable, but the murders continued, the killer became more brazen, and the citizens' panic reached a fever pitch.
Before it was all over, at least a dozen men would be arrested in connection with the murders, and the crimes would expose what a newspaper described as "the most extensive and profound scandal ever known in Austin." And yes, when Jack the Ripper began his attacks in 1888, London police investigators did wonder if the killer from Austin had crossed the ocean to terrorize their own city.
With vivid historical detail and novelistic flair, Texas Monthly journalist Skip Hollandsworth brings this terrifying saga to life.
Winner of the Texas Institute of Letters's Carr P. Collins Award
One of Book Riot's Best Books of 2016
“Skip Hollandsworth knows his way around a crime scene…Fans of Erik Larson’s 2003 hit, The Devil in the White City…will find similar pleasures here. This is true crime of high quality. . . Mr. Hollandsworth handles gruesome details with a smart, restrained touch…Chilling."—The New York Times
"Gripping and atmospheric...This true crime page-turner is a balanced and insightful examination of one of the most stirring serial killing sprees in American history, and certainly one of the least well-known."—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Readers who loved The Devil in the White City now have the pleasure of reading The Midnight Assassin. It paints a compelling portrait of a culture at a turning point – that is, the capitol of Texas at the end of the 19th Century, when the barbarism of the frontier was giving way to the savagery of urban life.”—Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author The Looming Towerand Thirteen Days in September
“As a magazine journalist, Skip Hollandsworth has forged a reputation as one of the best storytellers in the country. The Midnight Assassin takes his singular narrative skills to a thrilling new level. Reading this book is like cracking open a time capsule and breathing the air of a vanished era. In Hollandsworth's hands, one of the ghastliest and most inscrutable crimes in American history becomes hair-raisingly immediate, and the mystery at its center grows ever more mysterious with every page.”—Stephen Harrigan, author of The Gates of the Alamo and A Friend of Mr. Lincoln
"Skip Hollandsworth has achieved a literary miracle with The Midnight Assassin. With haunting granularity, Hollandsworth breathes vivid life into a forgotten, century-old tale of the hunt for America's first diabolical serial murderer—set in, of all places, the quaint but upwardly mobile town of Austin, Texas. To read The Midnight Assassin is to experience the lost innocence of a 19th-century capital city set on edge by the unseen monster in its midst."—Robert Draper, The New York Times Magazine and author of Dead Certain
"Skip Hollandsworth, one of the great true-crime writers of our era, has brought his remarkable talent to bear on one of the most fascinating untold criminal stories in American history. The Midnight Assassin captures a time, a place, and a feeling—booming Texas in the latter 19th century—in a way no nonfiction account I have read has done. A jewel of a book."—S.C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell
“Skip Hollandsworth has a bloodhound's nose for a great tale. With The Midnight Assassin, he's found the perfect subject for his many talents. Through scrupulous research and a finely tuned sense of the gothic, Hollandsworth has brought this Texas-sized true-crime story, more than a century old, to vivid, chilling life on the page.”—Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound On His Trail and In the Kingdom of Ice
"As the state of Texas's best-known magazine writer, Skip Hollandsworth is not just a Lone Star treasure, but a national treasure. In this, his first book, he uncovers the amazing untold story of America's first serial killer, a phantom who stalked the streets of Austin in 1885, three years before Jack the Ripper. Whether you love true crime, history or Texana, The Midnight Assassin is bursting at the seams with everything you want in a great book; a spellbinding mix of mystery, horror and historical detective work. It's the book Hollandsworth was born to write.''—Bryan Burrough, Vanity Fair special correspondent and author of Barbarians at the Gate, Days of Rage and The Big Rich