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Summary

A series of brutal home invasions terrified Los Angeles in 1937. They ended in Chicago a year later with the arrest of African American teenager Robert Nixon, igniting racial tensions in an already appallingly divided city.

Tortured in custody and portrayed by the press in the most lurid and flagrantly racist terms, Nixon faced an all-white jury. It would be the fastest conviction in the history of Cook County. Used as inspiration for Richard Wright’s classic social protest novel, Native Son, the case against Nixon is a still-relevant examination of bigotry, suppressed rage, and the making of a murderer.

The Brick Slayer is part of Bloodlands, a chilling collection of short addictive historical narratives from bestselling true-crime master Harold Schechter. Spanning a century in our nation’s murderous past, Schechter resurrects nearly forgotten tales of madmen and thrill-killers that dominated the most sensational headlines of their day.

©2018 Harold Schechter (P)2018 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

What listeners say about The Brick Slayer

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Profile Image for BGDaddy
  • BGDaddy
  • 01-08-18

political

this book definitely has a political agenda. I didn't like the slant. the fact that we lived in a different time does not excuse these killings

7 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for MACXAVIER
  • MACXAVIER
  • 13-03-19

DIGUSTING EXCUSE FOR A RAPIST AND MURDERER

I am so disappointed in the direction this book took when describing the trial and execution of Nixon the brick slayer. He admitted to his crimes had blood from the scenes on him had no alibi and all the brick slayings stopped after his incarceration. This book however decides the real tradegy is that the murderer rapist alleges police brutality, not the despicable crimes this man committed. the book suggest that If you are not outraged by Nixons execution and alleged mistreatment than you must be a racist kkk "white suprmecist". Nixon deserved his execution and worse. His wretched memory deserves no sympathy, and honestly if he was abused by police he deserved it for the misery his existence and crimes inflicted upon innocents. shame on you if you choose to agree with this books outrageous premise.

9 people found this helpful

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  • HJLII
  • 27-09-21

The ending thoughts were unnecessary.

And they were not appreciated. People are capable of coming to their own conclusions. Stick to the story.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • SparkleMouse
  • 23-06-21

The most upsetting of the bloodlands collection

I agree with those reviewers who remarked upon the unusually sensationalist tone of this one. Schechter doubts the guilt of the person convicted in this case. Ok. Prove it. Prove it with evidence. Prove it some other way than retroactively accusing the litigators in the past of prejudice. I’m a liberal but I’m not stupid, and you can’t use accusations of racism to shut EVERYONE up all the time.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Fairbanks142
  • 26-02-21

Effective Storytelling, Masterful Narration

The treatment of Robert Nixon while in police custody, his mental deficiencies, the lack of diversity at trial, and the racism abounding throughout Nixon's life and course of justice administration are all factors that weigh heavily into this story. It is likely that he committed these crimes, but did he still not deserve a fair trial and treatment by police? Was his violent nature exacerbated by society?

I also thought highly of Schechter bringing Richard Wright's "Native Son" into the story as well.

This is a very well-researched and presented true crime story by a master, Harold Schechter.

2 people found this helpful

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  • T. Stephens
  • 11-08-19

Love Weber

This entire series is great. I love Weber's performance--I found these by searching for him after finishing King's It, and wish he would do more.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Lady Aristotle
  • 31-05-21

This Has To Stop

You should know that the Author supports the rapist-serial murderer in this story.
It seems that because the Killer is black, and his victims are not,
the Author felt (strangely) compelled to choose a side.

This is the only conclusion left after listening, carefully, to the end.

Some listeners might find it jarring to hear the disinterested tone of the material
as the Author has chosen to breezily breeze through a series of horrific attacks,
brutal rapes and pitiless, skull-crushing murders.

The main concern of the Author
is to get to the part where a witness or
an officer or a news article mentions
the race of the assailant.

As it is 1936-37, the words actually used in polite society, by blacks and whites alike,
are heard: “colored” and “Negro”

The Author is aware how shocking and possibly upsetting these old terms sound today. But, he does not clarify this for the (sadly today) many listeners too challenged to apply concepts like “historical context” and so unless otherwise alerted, do not.

Counting on this confusion, the Author affirmatively USES IT to manipulate the emotions of average listeners.
Proof?
LISTEN to how the Reader pronounces the words “colored” and “Negro” in the story.

The Reader accentuates and elongates these words, consistently giving them emphasis.
The sinister insinuation is that these words are Ssss-llll-ur-ur-urs.

This base, deceptive ploy relies on emotion and ignorance. The modern instinct that these words are wrong and bad is given support that “it was ever thus” —
which is not true, and the Author knows it and the Reader knows it.

Make no mistake, the Author is manipulating and pandering, with no regard for the collateral damage heaped upon the victims of brutal crimes, their survivors, and other innocent by-standers.

By the end this it is nauseatingly transparent: This story is NOT “for” the Killer (not effectively, anyway).
It is certainly not “for” all the victims abused in this recounting.

It IS “for” the Author, in service of his need
or desire to signal his virtue by showing how much of a better person HE is,
when compared to people who lived almost 100 years ago (slow clap).

It is not effective.
It is shadow-boxing with real people who can’t fight back while the Author merrily impugns their characters.
These are real people the Author never knew,
knows almost nothing about,
and there is reason to suspect bad faith because (as noted above)
the Author is delighted to perpetuate confusion and distort what little he DOES know about these people to support his sweeping depiction of all whites as racists
in this story.

The Author’s determination includes a farcical attempt to smear (in advance!)
those who might dare to take issue with his sympathetic tale of a rapist serial killer:

He oh-so-subtly notes that only
“white supremacists, Neo-Nazi or the KKK”
could fault his account of what we ALL know (what all GOOD PEOPLE know) are the correct “take-aways” of this tale! 🙄

The Author’s lack of concern or interest
for the victims of this brick-wielding,
brain-bashing, robber-rapist-killer
is repulsive.

These killings are of young (and one very old), vulnerable white (and one Hispanic) women. These women are set upon
in the middle of the night, while asleep in bed in their own homes and usually with their children nearby to eventually find them
and raise the alarm, in whatever way they were able (an infant, a 7-year-old).
It’s a ghastly story of the unimaginable suffering of women and children, and of all who loved and lost them.

Or NOT!
The Author is so consumed with explaining and excusing the violence of this killer, because of his race. There is no amount of irrefutable evidence he will not ignore,
no amount (hundreds) of white people
he will not instantly accuse of acting with racial bias and dismiss.

For example, the Prosecutor does a very effective, illuminating, just and legal
cross-examination of the defendant (which is the Prosecutor’s job)
is portrayed as suspect, unfair, and
going too far on “the lad” —
and all this happens, the Author is clear, because of the defendant’s race.

The Author outrageously criticizes
the Prosecutor’s closing argument for including a “HIGHLY MELODRAMATIC ACCOUNT of the crime” —
which, again, was going too far
against “the lad”

Why did this happen? Because the Prosecutor was racist!

NOTHING TO DO with the fact that
the story of a young woman being bludgeoned with a brick, murdered in her bed in the middle of the night, is, actually, inherently and legitimately “dramatic” —
even when she’s just white.

The Author depicts the jurors as “listening like children” —
can you imagine any other group of adults being referred to in this way?

“Listening like children” to the
“highly melodramatic account” of what was really just a plain vanilla, no muss no fuss, BRICK-BASHING MURDER of an insignificant white woman.

Shame on the Prosecutor for his melodrama! Shame on the jury for listening!
Listening like children, for shame!

It is obvious it never dawned on this Author to consider the race of the victims,
even for a minute.

Even after including the Closing Argument
of the Defense. This included a new version of the Killer’s remarkable origin story
and stressed that “the lad” is BLAMELESS
for anything he’s ever done, anything that anyone might (mistakenly) blame HIM for.

NOTHING is the fault of this 19-year-old “child” the Defense Lawyer
declared insistently, albeit with NO evidence
(and, one imagines, NO melodrama).

Homicide is overwhelmingly intra-racial.
The insignificance of the victims
to this Author screams out in his inability or refusal to even consider
the “anomaly of the victim focus”
in this case, by his Killer.

That is, in light of the Author’s obsession with attributing racial motivations to anyone he chooses for any reason he supposes,
his failure to apply this frame becomes
GLARING IN ITS ABSENCE
on very basic Qs:

Were the women specifically racially targeted?
And, oh yeah,
what were the Killer’s racial motivations?

I’m done
smh

1 person found this helpful

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Profile Image for Sarabi Eventide
  • Sarabi Eventide
  • 02-08-18

Same old story

This book is entertaining but not interesting. It's about a serial murder case in the early 1900s and goes on about racism and police brutalit. The account of the murders and the investigation was fun to listen to but most black people living today sill know and experience discriminatory treatment, we don't need to be told it exists. This books seems meant for a white audience, or whoever claims they thought racism ended after slavery. I don't recommend this to anyone with knowledge of black history.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Michelle Tackabery
  • 22-12-21

For fans of Richard Wright's Native Son!

This is a must-listen for an even better understanding of that landmark work. But also for anyone who thinks that the prosecution of children as adults is a recent phenomenon.

You will be astounded and dismayed as the "killer" is found.

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Profile Image for Nikolas P. Robinson
  • Nikolas P. Robinson
  • 07-11-21

Intriguing Case Study

The Brick Slayer provides us with an in-depth study of a series of home invasions and killings that transpired in Los Angeles and Chicago in the late 1930s. The title comes from the killer, Robert Nixon, using bricks to incapacitate the victims.
As interesting as the crime details might be, the vastly more interesting component of this particular narrative is the focus on the trial and the socioeconomic elements that contributed to the conditions of Robert Nixon's life. It's fascinating to think that Richard Wright's Native Son was largely inspired by the circumstances surrounding Robert Nixon's admittedly reprehensible acts and the reaction of those in law enforcement and the media to such horrific crimes committed by a young African American man. The barely suppressed racism of 1930s America seemed to be on full display throughout the investigation and subsequent trial, but it's the more subtle and insidious racism of American culture that may very well have set Nixon down the path he ultimately found himself traveling.
Schechter's insightful case studies are always profoundly interesting, but this one perhaps more so than many others, simply because of the tangential aspects of the society and culture at large during the years when these things took place.
Steven Weber's narration is superb and well-suited to the Style of Schechter's writing.