Press kit for Death in a Prairie House
Death in a Prairie House press kit | Blurbs | Reviews | Author's bio | Author's photo | Cover image | Excerpt | Imprint
Death in a Prairie House
Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders
William R. Drennan
Publication date March 2007
LC: 2006031765 NA
232 pages 6 x 9 11 b/w photos
ISBN: 0-299-22210-1 Cloth $29.95 t
"Death in a Prairie House is a compelling argument in support of the theory that the Taliesin tragedy profoundly affected not only the future lives of those directly involved (not the least of whom was considered to be the most influential and gifted architect of the time), but likely, the whole course and development of modern architecture."Craig Jacobsen, Taliesin Preservation, Inc.
Chicago Reader: Readings & Lectures
On August 15,1914 Julian Carlton hacked seven people to death in rural Wisconsin and tried to conceal the deed by setting fire to the house. Caught on the scene, he drank acid and died before trial. It was big news then, and it's still news 93 years later because Carlton's victims included the paramour of 47-year-old starchetict Frank Lloyd Wright, and the burned building was Wright's controversial studio/love nest, Taliesin. In Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders (University of Wisconsin Press), William Drennan retells the story, sparing no details and judiciously placing them in the context of Wright's legendary career and tangled personal life. (Drennan doesn't worship the shrine of Wright and picks apart his lame excuses for deserting a wife and six children for married neighbor Mamah Borthwick Cheney.) Memorable crime books are about revealing character, and this one's best when plumbing the psyches of the murderer (a paranoid West Indian servant with plenty to be paranoid about) and the self-absorbed genius who buried his grief in 45 more years of work.Harold Henderson
Book Reviews by Larry Cox
'Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders'
By William R. Drennan (Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press, $29.95)
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of this country's most famous architects. He was born in Richland Center, Wisc., in 1869. He worked for a brief time with Louis Sullivan before setting up a practice in Chicago. An early innovator of open planning, he was one of the first American architects to design modern private dwellings that confirmed with the natural influences of the land. Among his most important projects are the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
He met and married Catherine Lee Tobin, a red-haired Chicago woman and local beauty who was a veritable Gibson Girl in the flesh. They build a home in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb. After having several children, Wright became bored with his family and abandoned them in 1909 for Mamah Cheney, the wife of neighbor Edwin Cheney. The scandal grew even more intense when Wright built Taliesin, a landmark home near Spring Green, Wisc., which he used as both a refuge and a secluded love cottage.
The scandal came to a head during the summer of 1914. One afternoon while Wright was away on business, Julian Carlton, a handyman, went a rampage. Within minutes he had murdered seven adults and children and torched the residential wing of the house.
Drennan, a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/ Sauk County, documents the scandal and its aftermath in a fascinating new book. This is a gripping mystery story in addition to being the authoritative portrait of Wright as a young man. Crisply written, this highly readable account sorts out that triggered this senseless tragedy.
William R. Drennan is professor of English at the University of WisconsinBaraboo/Sauk County.
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