Combining science, forgotten periods of history, and philosophy, Johnson documents the rise of dynamite-driven political terrorism, the emergence of modern forensic sciences, and the formation of the modern detective in the twentieth century.
A True Story of Dynamite, Terror, and the Rise of the Modern Detective
by Steven Johnson
Crown, May 2024
When Arthur Woods took command of the NYPD in April of 1914, the institution was still largely corrupt and low-tech. Determined to change that, he couldn’t have anticipated the maelstrom of violence that would test his science-based approach to policing. Within weeks of his tenure, New York City was engulfed in a period of relentless bombings, many of them perpetrated by the anarchists movement led by the radicals Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman.
Steven Johnson’s engrossing account of the struggle between the anarchist movement and the emerging surveillance goes back to Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite, to the development of forensic science in France, and to the assassination of Czar Alexander II. As the forces of anarchy and policing clash in New York City, we meet Inspector Joseph Faurot, a science-first detective who works closely with Woods in reforming the police force; Hans Schmidt, the psychotic killer priest whose capture turns Faurot into a household name; and Amadeo Polignani, the young Italian undercover detective who infiltrates the notorious Bresci Circle.
Steven Johnson is the author of seven books including the bestseller Ghost Map. His writings have influenced everything from the way political campaigns use the Internet, to cutting-edge ideas in urban planning, to the battle against 21st-century terrorism.