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Strange Days, Dangerous Nights

Strange Days, Dangerous Nights

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Photos from the Speed Graphic Era

Author Larry Millett, Foreword by John Sandford

Minnesota Historical Society Press (October 15, 2004)


Fat men's races and fall-out shelters, murder victims and loose women, cheerleaders and immigrants, celebrities and children in distress were just some of the urban curiosities splashed across the pages of city newspapers during the Speed Graphic era (1930s–1950s). Championed by acclaimed news photographers like Arthur Fellig (a.k.a. Weegee), the Speed Graphic camera produced a new visual style that was as blunt, powerful, and immediate as a left hook.

Driven by the desire to fill newspaper pages with sensational images, press photographers shot everything, day and night: automobile accidents, fires, murders, all the cop news that fought for a hot spot on the Front Page. And they covered uncounted numbers of social affairs—pictures called “grip-and-grins” in the trade: school events, sports, celebrities, oddities both of nature and humanity.

Veteran journalist and mystery writer Larry Millett has unearthed over 200 of the best photos from the archives of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the St. Paul Dispatch for Strange Days, Dangerous Nights. Included are the sensational stories behind the photos and biographies of some of the top press photographers of the day.

An evocative look at another time, this is a visual history like no other, a feast for fans of photography and photojournalism, crime buffs, and urban historians—and a testament to the craft of those photographers who documented their era one shot at a time.

Author information

Larry Millett worked for three decades as a reporter, editor, and architectural critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press before retiring in 2002. His books include Lost Twin Cities (awarded an AIA International Architecture Book Award), Twin Cities Then and Now, and five mysteries including The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes. He is currently at work on a comprehensive guide to the architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul, to be published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

John Sandford is the pen name of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, New York Times bestselling novelist, and amateur photographer John Camp. His books include The Hanged Man’s Song, Hidden Prey, and Naked Prey.

Reviews and news

“A collection of vivid and sometimes spectacular photographs that throw new light on the not-so-distant past, a place that is a bit like home, a bit like a movie, and a bit like another planet. It is heartening to find such stuff so well preserved and so expertly annotated.”
Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, Evidence, and The Factory of Facts

“The photographs in this book are endlessly fascinating . . . we get a taste of almost everything, from the hilarious to the tragic, from the silly to the murderously bloody.” —
From the foreword by John Sandford

“Today, [these images] still speak to us through their vivid immediacy, their graphic exploration of the dark side of urban life, and their sometimes appalling richness of detail. Stolen from lost moments in the history of the city, they have the power to pull us back through time to a world at once intimately familiar and surprisingly strange.” —
From the introduction by Larry Millett

  • 224 pages
  • 11.25 x 11.25 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873515047

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