The Leopold and Loeb Files
The Leopold and Loeb Files: An Intimate Look at One of America’s Most Infamous Crimes
by Nina Barrett
Air Date/Time: August 14, 3 pm (Central)
302 pages, hardcover, Agate Midway
In 1924, University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were young, rich, and looking for a thrill. The crime that came next—the brutal, cold-blood murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks—would come to captivate the country and unfold into what many dubbed the crime of the century. As the decades passed, the mythology surrounding the unlikely killers continued to capture the interest of new generations, spawning numerous books, fictionalizations, and dramatizations.
In The Leopold and Loeb Files, author Nina Barrett returns to the primary sources—confessions, interrogation transcripts, psychological reports, and more—the kind of rare, pre-computer court documents that were usually destroyed as a matter of course. Until now, these documents have not been part of the murder’s central narrative. This first-of-its-kind approach allows readers to view the case through a keyhole and look past all of the stories that have been spun in the last 90 years to focus on the heart of the crime.
Carefully curated and steeped in historical context from Barrett, this book allows the surviving Leopold and Loeb documents, most of which are in the form of either transcripts or narrative, to function as both artifact and literature, recounting the moves of the murder and sentencing hearing as well as addressing the questions that continue to fascinate—issues of morality, sanity, sexuality, religious assimilation, parental grief and responsibility, remorse, and the use of the death penalty.
This comprehensive, ephemera-driven history allows the reader to act as a fly on the wall and speaks powerfully to the unsolved mysteries of this distinct crime, in which the guilt of the perpetrators is unambiguous but almost everything else is open to interpretation.