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Did Lizzie Borden Axe for It? [Paperback]

David Rehak
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2008
Lizzie was an average, unremarkable woman, and the most extraordinary criminal or criminal suspect in history. Before she was accused of murder, she was a tiny grain of sand, an absolute nobody who no one took much notice of. But after she was accused of murder, she became an unforgettable symbol and legend, an absolute somebody. The debate on whether Lizzie Borden was innocent or guilty brings out passionate feelings and disagreements in every sort of person. The divide between those who believe she did the crime and those who don't sometimes runs very deep. Did Lizzie Borden take an "axe" and kill her parents? "Did Lizzie Borden Axe For It?" has been the "best-selling" book on Lizzie Borden since its initial publication, and here it is again in print. This new improved re-edited edition is revised and abridged and streamlined with a focus on better, more interesting and more relevant information, including over 20 new photos. 70 photographs and illustrations in all.

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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 alternate Paperback edition.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
There have been many books written about Lizzie Borden, and David Rehak's Did Lizzie Borden Axe For It? makes for quite a unique entry in that list. It doesn't represent an attempt to prove that so-and-so did or did not commit the murders, nor does it delve deeply into the minutiae of all the evidence. It does, however, introduce you to a lot of ancillary yet quite interesting tidbits and speculations about the life of Lizzie Borden. If you just want to know all the gory details of the murders and see someone make a case for Lizzie or some other suspect, this isn't really where you want to start your journey back to the Fall River of 1892. This is a book for those already knowledgeable about the case and firmly in the camp of the fascinated. Of all the unsolved murders that have taken place over so many years, why does this case captivate us so much? What is it about Lizzie Borden that fascinates so many of us all these decades after her death? These are the kinds of questions David Rehak tries to answer here, and that is what makes this book unique.

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.
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Format:Paperback
I had the privilege of editing the first version of this book for author David Rehak. This is an excellent, updated version with a new cover that I find appropriate for the book's content.

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
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5.0 out of 5 stars book review April 15 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I totally enjoyed the book! The author took you on a fascinating tour of possibilities of who could have conducted this horrible crime.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Key ingredients for a great crime story" June 1 2008
By Linda Bulger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are many unsolved murders in history, but few hold the public interest like the 1892 slayings of Andrew and Abby Borden in Fall River, Massachusetts. Lizzie, 32 years old at the time, was tried for the murders and found innocent but as David Rehak points out, her acquittal was never fully endorsed by public opinion. He proposes that the story lives on in part because the public sees Lizzie as either (a) having acted out their own fantasy of retribution, or else (b) as a symbol of gross suspicion and injustice. There was family disharmony, a large inheritance under dispute, a suspect of unblemished reputation, and a mountain of fact and speculation that defied integration into a sound case.

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
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No axe for this book! Aug. 17 2008
By Claus J. Engel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Well written, great research and good photos. Anybody who appreciates
good documentation and entertainment will love this book.
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched, Poorly Written, Miserably Edited March 27 2006
By J. P. Richardson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In all my (many) years of reading, I've never come upon so haphazardly edited a volume as this one. It reads like the second draft of a work that required four or five. Large chunks of text will seem familiar as you read along--having appeared verbatim on earlier pages. It almost seems as though the publisher got tired of waiting for a completed manuscript and simply gathered up the author's notes on a work in progress and published them.

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.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique book for those already fascinated by Lizzie Borden Oct. 14 2005
By Daniel Jolley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There have been many books written about Lizzie Borden, and David Rehak's Did Lizzie Borden Axe For It? makes for quite a unique entry in that list. It doesn't represent an attempt to prove that so-and-so did or did not commit the murders, nor does it delve deeply into the minutiae of all the evidence. It does, however, introduce you to a lot of ancillary yet quite interesting tidbits and speculations about the life of Lizzie Borden. If you just want to know all the gory details of the murders and see someone make a case for Lizzie or some other suspect, this isn't really where you want to start your journey back to the Fall River of 1892. This is a book for those already knowledgeable about the case and firmly in the camp of the fascinated. Of all the unsolved murders that have taken place over so many years, why does this case captivate us so much? What is it about Lizzie Borden that fascinates so many of us all these decades after her death? These are the kinds of questions David Rehak tries to answer here, and that is what makes this book unique.

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.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Variable - in content and production March 2 2006
By Vaughan P. Birbeck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book doesn't serve as an introduction to the Borden case, it is definitely for those who are already familiar with the story, the people involved and the various theories about the crimes.

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.
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