Did Lizzie Borden Axe for It? Paperback – Feb 1 2008
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About the Author
DAVID REHAK is a Lizzie Borden researcher whose primary interest is in trying to uncover new, rare, and overlooked Bordenia. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Naturally, Rehak first lays out the facts of the crime that left Lizzie Borden's father and step-mother hacked to death inside their seemingly sedate Victorian home. The chronology is crucial to this case, as the murders took place over an hour apart, so Rehak naturally takes us through the timeline. Then he offers arguments as to why Lizzie did or did not commit the crime. This is what makes the case so fascinating. When you read all of the circumstantial evidence pointing to Lizzie, you think she had to be guilty; then you read the reasons why she could not have done it, and you would swear she had to be innocent. Rehak goes on to mention possible suspects and comment upon the solutions offered by a few Borden "experts.Read more ›
Did Lizzie Borden Axe For It? is Rehak's first nonfiction book, for which he did extensive research. Rehak discovered many new facts about Lizzie Borden, and to lighten the serious nature of the book, he also wrote some humorous skits. At first thought, one would tend to think humor wouldn't work in a book like this, but he pulls it off ... somehow. I found the break from gore to humor to be a welcome relief. (Well, it works in the best horror movies, doesn't it?)
Even if you're not into "Bordenia," which I'm not, you will be intrigued by this book. It's different, to say the least. I learned new things about Lizzie Borden that haven't been brought to light before, and the previously unpublished photos add more mystery to the content.
Someone once wrote of Rehak: "He dares to go where most authors fear to tread." And I agree: In his fictitious works, he writes about many taboo subjects. This nonfiction book about Lizzie Borden seems natural for his unique skills.
Reviewed by: Betty Dravis, 2008
Author of: Millennium Babe: The Prophecy
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Did Lizzie Borden Axe for It? is a compendium of Bordenia that is sure to enlighten all with an interest in this mystifying case. David Rehak, known for his works of fiction, developed an interest in the case and researched meticulously before presenting this book. The current edition has been amplified and re-issued, and there are a few editing flaws in this new version that could have been addressed to bump my rank up to five stars. In spite of this, I found it an absorbing and extremely thorough canvass of the facts and speculations about the case. There are many photographs included, some of them previously unpublished.
Starting with a thorough chronology of the fateful day in August 1892, Rehak goes on to examine the sometimes-confusing facts from the public record. Next he covers the speculation and rumor that emerged in his research. The suggestion of a never-revealed diary, theories about Lizzie's relationships and sexuality, and stories from her later life are detailed fastidiously. The sites and "shrines" associated with Lizzie's life and the murders are covered--the house where the Bordens lived and died is now a bed-and-breakfast hotel.
The final section of the book is the most unusual. Rehak discusses a number of articles in print that relate to the case. He details the non-disclosure of case-related documents held by Lizzie's trial attorney which are protected by legal privilege. There is a challenge to this status from a number of parties, with the argument being made that historical interest trumps privilege in this case, with all participants being long dead. Will we ever see the contents of the five file drawers secured in a law firm in Springfield, Massachusetts?
As a final serving of Bordenia, the book finishes with some fictional writings featuring Lizzie and the case. Here the speculations are given free rein! It's an entertaining finish to a sad story. Our desire to know what actually happened to Andrew and Abby Borden may never be satisfied, but Did Lizzie Borden Axe for It? takes the discussion forward in a most entertaining fashion.
Linda Bulger, 2008
good documentation and entertainment will love this book.
The writing itself is ungrammatical, unendingly in need of the rewrites which clearly never came, and guaranteed to make any literate reader wince.
The author has also somehow decided to include numerous short, quirky, entirely fictional writings of his own on the subject. These make a pointless and uncomfortable addition to what purports to be a scholarly work.
All that having been said, there are indeed a few points of interest here. You'll occasionally find a revelation or a statement that may indeed shed new light on the Fall River murders. The book is also loaded with pictures and drawings--a good many of which I enjoyed seeing for the first time. Clearly, a lot of time was spent in research and the gathering of materials.
In sum, this book is not entirely devoid of merit. But be prepared for a rough ride. The writing and the editing are, throughout, in keeping with the title--awkward and embarrassingly amateurish.
Naturally, Rehak first lays out the facts of the crime that left Lizzie Borden's father and step-mother hacked to death inside their seemingly sedate Victorian home. The chronology is crucial to this case, as the murders took place over an hour apart, so Rehak naturally takes us through the timeline. Then he offers arguments as to why Lizzie did or did not commit the crime. This is what makes the case so fascinating. When you read all of the circumstantial evidence pointing to Lizzie, you think she had to be guilty; then you read the reasons why she could not have done it, and you would swear she had to be innocent. Rehak goes on to mention possible suspects and comment upon the solutions offered by a few Borden "experts."
The focus of the book then shifts from the murders squarely onto Lizzie herself. Guilty or not, who was this woman? Rehak looks at the years she lived after her acquittal and tries to penetrate the mysteries of her personal life. He examines Lizzie as a romantic, addresses speculation that she had been a victim of incest, that she was a lesbian, that she was a kleptomaniac. He refers to rumors and speculation (one woman claimed she stole the underwear off a dead body, for instance) that you won't find in other Lizzie books because they are outside the bounds of fact. To really know Lizzie, though, you have to look at the image others had of her because image and identity do intersect at some point. The most intriguing thing in this section of the book is reference to a possible collection of Lizzie's personal diary, poems, and letters - although there's no proof that the person making the claim is telling the truth. He later follows this up with a section of miscellaneous articles he has written about the subject - a look at Nance O'Neil, the flamboyant actress who was rumored to enjoy a romantic relationship with Lizzie; speculation about some of the witnesses; a look at the likelihood that someone from outside the home could have committed the murders; a refutation of Arnold Browne's identification of Billy Borden as the killer; etc.
Those fascinated by the murders naturally have a great desire to visit the scene of the crime (which is a bed and breakfast now), and Rehak turns travel guide temporarily and points out all the Lizzie shrines you can visit in Fall River. In the final sections, he offers us a hodgepodge of material - fiction, poetry, and humorous musings written about Lizzie. These truly tangential sections proved less than interesting to me, but they certainly bear the mark of the author's obsession with Lizzie Borden. Rehak is trying to get at the real Lizzie Borden every way he can, and that's something I can certainly understand and appreciate. That's also why I would recommend the book to those who are already familiar with the murders and the trial and remain fascinated by the woman at the center of all the controversy and speculation.
While never coming down on the side on guilt or innocence, Mr Rehak seems quite sympathetic to Lizzie, particularly in her lonely later life. He may, in fact, be too sympathetic. As charitable and generous as Lizzie could be, it is generally noted that she found it diffcult to sustain long-term friendships and even as a schoolgirl was known to have an abrasive and sarcastic manner.
There is useful information here about Lizzie's life apart from the major event that defined it, and some informed speculation about her sexuality and the source of her kleptomania.
Unfortunately at about the half way point we are plunged first into a series of fantasies where Mr Rehak imagines himself meeting Lizzie at the theatre and at her home, then fictionalised scenes from Lizzie's life (including a scene with an imagined lover - I don't want to read about Lizzie's hungrily probing tongue, thank-you). This seems to be an attempt to make bricks without straw.
Some of the chapter headings also topple into tabloid-ese: "Was Lizzie a Lezzie?" is not exactly politically correct.
There are even errors of fact. Mr Rehak has Lizzie calling the Borden housemaid Bridget Sullivan 'Bridget', when one of her most noted quirks was calling her 'Maggie'.
The production of the book itself is rather slipshod, with at least two paragraphs repeated and one important paragraph (a description of Andrew's body) missing. Whatever happened to proof-reading and editing? Reproduction of the illustrations could also have been better, particularly as some have not been published before.
I would not dimiss this book, however I would not make any great claims for it either.