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Book Review: ‘Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues’ by Paul Martin

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Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues, by Paul Martin, takes readers through a journey of history. While most of the people profiled are not famous, their exploits have made them so. More or less, anyway. Movies as well as books have used Martin’s characters as the jump off points for some of the biggest blockbusters and bestsellers ever.

Obviously, nobody in this book would be considered nice or even good. However, perhaps one should not be judged by actions alone. No matter who the actual person is, there just might be room for debate regarding whether or not the choices made are entirely by personal decision.

Ed Gein, for example, is “Hitchcock’s Hideous Inspiration.” He is the reason why Alfred Hitchcock creates Norman Bates. The movie magic is part fact and part artistic license. Gein’s mother does play a large role. This being said, her effect goes well beyond simply distrusting women. In fact, readers should find the actions of Gein most telling right after Mom dies.

Out of all the stories, one is familiar to just about everyone. Issac Harris and Max Blanck are “Partners in Perfidy.” They are the owners of the Triangle Factory, known far and wide for making blouses with long sleeves. Does shirtwaist ring a bell? It should, since the fire the factory is most remembered with is legendary. Harris and Blanck come off as greedy penny pinchers who completely ignored employee safety standards.

Martin has clearly done his homework in regards to how much research goes into each individual story. When one considers just how few people probably know who the characters are, the attention to detail is appreciated. Readers can form their own opinions as to what the takeaway should be. Likeable or not, these characters are memorable. Each in his or her own way leaves an image behind of just who the person is that readers will judge good, bad, or otherwise.

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