Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Amazing Life And Times Of James McParland

Muriel Dobbin offers a review of Beau Riffenburgh's Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland for the Washington Times.

In the West, there was the Hole in the Wall Gang, including members Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In the Pennsylvania coalfields, there were the murderous Molly Maguires, and on the heels of them all pounded the legendary early American detectives from Pinkerton's National Detective Agency.

The best known Pinkerton detective was James MvParland, who launched his career when he was hired as a lawman by Allan Pinkerton in 1873. So widespread was his reputation that he became a character in a Sherlock Holmes story written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Beau Riffenburgh, who dug deep into archives and libraries to chronicle the history of the agency, relates that Pinkerton himself was annoyed that Conan Doyle did not obtain his permission to fictionalize the facts of the story he heard in a train dining car, especially since the chief character was unmistakably Mcparland.

McParland, at 29, was hired to infiltrate the Molly Maguires, a brutal Irish-American group responsible for at least 16 murders in the Pennsylvania coalfields of the late 19th century. He worked undercover for two years and eventually testified in 19 trials that broke the Maguires’ brotherhood and resulted in 20 hangings.

For McParland, it was the beginning of a career that lasted more than three decades and took him from the investigation of the assassination of former Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg to the nation’s first case of “murder by mail.” That involved the slaying of Josephine Barnaby, a Rhode Island socialite who, in 1891, was sent a bottle of liquor with a mysterious message attached.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

James McParland was also featured in Arthur H. Lewis' true crime book, Lament for the Molly Maguires. The film The Molly Maguires with Sean Connery and Richard Harris was based on Lewis' book and Harris portrayed McParland.

You can read my Crime Beat column on Arthur H. Lewis and Lament for the Molly Maguires via the below link:

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