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Murder Has a Public Face

Murder Has a Public Face

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Crime and Punishment in the Speed Graphic Era

Author Larry Millett, Foreword by William Swanson

Minnesota Historical Society Press (October 15, 2008)

Four brutal mid-century murder cases that first attracted photographers and the public spotlight now draw the practiced storytelling of acclaimed writer Larry Millett.


In his popular Strange Days, Dangerous Nights, Larry Millett delivered Weegee-style images of midwestern noir from the photo files of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He returns in this new volume with a focus on the “dangerous”murder cases from the forties and fifties, memorialized in intimate and telling photographs.

There is Arthur DeZeler, accused of bludgeoning his wife, Grace, and sinking her body in a northern lake. Laura Miller, single and pregnant, ran for help after gunshots killed her married lover. Arnold Axilrod, a mild-mannered dentist with a penchant for over-sedating his female patients, was arrested when the lifeless body of one of those patients was discovered in a Minneapolis alley. And, finally, there is Arnold Larson, the personable salesman with a winning smile and a bad temper.

Millett traces these four sensational crimes from the moment the victim was found, through the search for the killer, to the court trial and resulting imprisonment or acquittal—there are two of each. All are copiously illustrated with shots from the bulky Speed Graphic camera, which yielded rich, textured views in an era when photographers enjoyed unrestricted access to police matters ranging from found bodies to jail cells. The images dramatically evoke these crimes of passion now more than a half-century old, offering a thrilling immersion into Minnesota noir.

Author information

Larry Millett is the author of numerous books, including Strange Days, Dangerous Nights, the AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, Lost Twin Cities, and Twin Cities Then and Now.

William Swanson is the author of Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson.

  • 128 pages
  • 125 b&w illus
  • 10.25 x 11.25 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873516273

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