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The Interpretation of Murder



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Cast of Characters

Detective Jimmy Littlemore

At twenty-five, Jimmy Littlemore is one of the newest and youngest detectives in the New York City Police Department.  An average looking, freckle-faced young man, Littlemore's trademarks are a red bow tie and a straw boater hat.  Coroner Hugel asks the mayor to assign Littlemore to the murder case of Elizabeth Riverford "because he can't be bought, at least not yet."

Coroner Charles Hugel

Charles Hugel has spent more than thirty years in municipal service, most of it in city morgues.  An excitable man, Coroner Hugel has little but scorn for the Police Department which he regards as largely inept and thoroughly crooked.  Hugel reports directly to the Mayor and it is to Hugel that the Mayor turns when he learns that the body of Elizabeth Riverford has been discovered.

George Banwell

As one of the wealthiest, most powerful business men in New York, George Banwell has direct access to the halls of political power in the city.  Banwell owns New York's first high rise, luxury apartment building, the Balmoral, where Elizabeth Riverford's body is discovered hanging from a chandelier.  He and his wife, Clara, became close friends with the Acton family when Banwell's company renovated the Acton home.

Stratham Younger

Casting aside an early ambition to become the foremost Shakespearean scholar of his generation, Stratham Younger attended Harvard Medical School where he first learned of Dr. Freud's "sexual theory" of hysteria and neurosis.  A lecturer at Clark University where Freud is set to deliver a series of talks in 1909, Dr. Younger finds himself drawn into the investigation of a string of sadistic assaults on young Manhattan socialites when he is brought in to psychoanalyze one of the victims, Nora Acton.

Nora Acton

A lithe, blue-eyed, "heart-stopping beauty", on the verge of her eighteenth birthday, Nora Acton plans to attend Barnard college rather than consent to a life as a socialite and wife.  After suffering a brutal attack similar to the one that left Elizabeth Riverford dead, Nora Acton develops crypto-amnesia and submits to psychoanalytic treatments from Stratham Younger in an effort to identify the killer.

Clara Banwell

Twenty years younger than her husband George, Clara Banwell loves him for his single minded, ruthless pursuit of success, but she understands that his ambition will always take precedence over her.  With her porcelain skin, perfect figure, dark hair, and unwillingness to ever offer more than the hint of a smile, Clara Banwell has a hypnotic effect on every man she encounters.  After Nora Acton is attacked, she turns to Clara for friendship and guidance.

Carl Jung (1875-1961)

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist is credited as the founder of Analytical Psychology.  Jung was born in 1875 and grew up as a very solitary and introverted boy.  His shyness began to recede during his years at the University of Basel where he specialized in psychiatric medicine.  An admirer of Sigmund Freud, Jung sent some of his research findings to Freud in 1905.  Six months later, Freud responded with a copy of his most recently published essays.  This correspondence marked the beginning of an intense six year collaboration and friendship.  Ultimately Jung and Freud came to disagree on the nature of the unconscious mind.  While Freud believed that the unconscious held repressed emotions and desires, Jung thought that the unconscious served a more creative and positive role.  This divergence in thinking created an irrevocable rift and the two never saw each other again after Jung resigned from the International Psychoanalytical Association in 1914.

Sandor Ferenczi (1873-1933)

Hungarian Sandor Ferenczi, a graduate of medicine in Vienna, became a neurologist before obtaining the title of psychiatrist at the royal court.  In 1908 he met Freud through a colleague and later became accepted into the group of psychoanalytical pioneers.  Some of the most difficult cases that the group dealt with were often addressed by Ferenczi.  His text on The Confusion of the Languages between Adults and Children (the language of passion versus that of tenderness) is probably the most frequently quoted of Ferenczi's works.  As opposed to other psychoanalysts, he believe that the child is more or less pure and innocent.  In his work he came to believe that his patients' accounts with other patients in the same family.  This, and other reason, led to a break with Sigmund Freud and disgrace in the psychoanalytical community.

Abraham Arden Brill (1874-1938)

Born in Austria, Abraham Arden Brill immigrated to the United States alone at the age of thirteen.  He graduated from New York University in 1901 and received his M.D. from Columbia in 1903.  Following medical school, he studied with Carl Jung in Switzerland and then returned to the United States in 1908 to become one of the earliest practitioners and most active proponents of psychoanalysis.  He taught at New York University and Columbia and was the first to translate into English most of the major works of Freud as well as books by Jung.

Mayor George McClellan (1865-1940)

George Brinton McClellan, Jr., son of the general-in-chief of the Union Army during the civil war, served as a U.S. congressman from 1895-1903.  In 1903 McClellan was recalled to New York by Charles Murphy, leader of the Democratic political machine known at the time as Tammany Hall, to run against Republican incumbent Seth Low for Mayor of New York City.  He easily defeated Low and two years later defeated Republican candidate William M. Ivins and Municipal Ownership candidate William Randolph Hearst in one of the closest Mayoral election in New York City's history.  Following his defeat, William Randolph Hearst used his newspapers to continually disparage McClellan's actions in office.  After the election in 1905, McClellan had a falling out with Charles Murphy over patronage.  His second term was characterized as independent from the Democratic Party which angered Tammany Hall and ended his political career.  After his term had concluded he became a professor of economic history Princeton University.

Harry K. Thaw (1871-1947)

Harry K. Thaw, son of Pittsburgh coal and railroad baron William Thaw, is best known for the 1906 murder of Stanford White at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  Since birth he was extremely paranoid and very violent.  His mother claimed that these problems had even started in her womb.  Thaw and White both had been courting the same woman, Evelyn Nesbit, who was a chorus girl in a popular show at the time.  Thaw eventually won Evelyn's hand in marriage but soon lost interest and often disappeared to Europe.  On June 26th, 1906 while in New York, Thaw learned that he and Evelyn would be attending the premier of a show that Stanford White would also be attending.  During the finale, Thaw approached White and shot him three times in the face at close range, killing him instantly.  A jury found Thaw not guilty by reason of insanity, and he was incarcerated at the Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

Considered the founder of the Psychoanalytic School of Psychology, Sigmund Freud was born May 6, 1856 in Freiburg, Moravia (the Czech Republic).  The oldest of eight children, Freud was the favorite son of his mother who referred to him as "my golden Sigi".  Following the collapse of his father's business, Freud and his family moved to Vienna where he grew up in a crowded apartment in a Jewish neighborhood.  Freud encountered open anti-Semitism during his early years including his time studying at the University of Vienna where he received his degree in medicine in 1881.  Over the next fifteen years, in private practice and research, Freud experimented with hypnosis in the treatment of hysteria and neurosis, but ultimately developed the talk therapy that became the tenet of psychoanalytic treatment.

At the turn of the twentieth century Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams  (1899), Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1903), and other seminal works that laid the foundation for the psychoanalytic school.  The theory that underlies this school is the notion that the human psyche throughout the childhood developmental stages represses desires, often of a sexual nature, in the unconscious mind.  These repressed wishes create conflicts in the unconscious mind that manifest themselves in dreams and form the basis for neurosis.  The psychoanalytic school proposes that these neuroses can be treated by bringing the repressed desires and memories to the conscious mind and acknowledging them.  This theory, particularly regarding the sexual desires of children, immediately drew fire with camps of ardent proponents and detractors forming quickly.  Early acolytes of Freudian theory included Carl Jung and Sandor Ferenczi.  Both accompanied Freud during his only trip to the United States during 1909 when he delivered a series of lectures at Clark University in Worcester, MA.  Both also later broke away from Freud's inner circle when the disagreed with some of his key hypotheses. 

Freud continued to refine his theories and write and speak through the mid 1930's.  After Germany annexed Austria in 1938, he emigrated to Great Britain.  A longtime cigar smoker, Freud had contracted cancer of the jaw in 1923.  On September 23, 1939, after enduring years of painful treatments and surgeries for his cancer, he had a physician inject a fatal overdose of morphine.