22 Oct 2014 No Comments
Meet Grady Stiles Jr., a carnival “freak show” character known as The Lobster Boy and his offbeat colleagues–The World’s Only Living Half Girl, Midget Man, The Electrified Girl, and the Human Blockhead. And then look beneath the carnival tent flaps at the dark underworld and personal life of The Lobster Boy and the events leading up to his brutal murder. Learn how and why author Fred Rosen risked his own life in the pursuit of justice in this revised and updated WildBlue Press True Crime Classic!
This book is, unfortunately, one of those instances where the writing doesn’t live up to the story.
Willette noticed something else. Not only were the man’s legs stunted with pointed extremities in place of feet, but his hands appeared to be claw-like, with what might have been fingers deformed into two large digits.
Later, Willette would discover that Grady Stiles, Jr., was known on the carny circuit as Lobster Boy.
Let’s begin with the good stuff. The content is fascinating and the author obviously put a lot of time into the research. We’re taken through three generations of a dysfunctional family. We’re shown what life is like for families who are part of traveling carnivals, particularly back when physical disabilities were considered human oddities that people would pay to see – and mock.
Now on to the bad stuff. The writing is truly terrible. We have constant misused tenses, with inappropriate shifts between present and past. The sentence structure is often awkward and uncomfortable to read. Much of the story, particularly during the cover of the trial, is nothing more than a recitation of facts. This quickly becomes repetitive and dull, as if we’re reading a trial transcript.
There is a certain amount of subjectivity in Rosen’s account of this story. He clearly has a vested stake in the trial, as he proudly injects himself into the center. This is done with a sense of self-righteousness, in the name of justice. He also makes several statements that show his ignorance and prejudice on certain topics.
In the media room, the reporters were scrambling. I’d thrown them a curve and they had to figure out how to play it.
I read a lot of true crime and, while the facts of this case are disturbing, that’s to be expected. The details, though, felt chosen for effect. I couldn’t help but think we were missing something. We were shown a kind of one-sided view. For one thing, I think the author missed an important opportunity to explore the issue of battered wife syndrome. Sadly, this was one of those areas where the author was closed off and showed a bit of ignorance.
In the end, this is a fascinating case and that is the only reason I got through the entire book. With a talented editor, or maybe a ghostwriter with a good sense of storytelling, this would be a riveting story.
It was on a warm May day in Trenton, New Jersey in 1959, that the charming Lobster Boy and the incest victim from New England met and fell in love.
** I was provided with a copy of this book by WildBlue Press in exchange for an honest review. **
Thanks for reading.