William R. Drennan | Lit Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

William R. Drennan 

On August 15, 1914, Julian Carlton hacked seven people to death in rural Wisconsin and tried to conceal the deed by setting fire to the house. Caught on the scene, he drank acid and died before trial. It was big news then, and it's still news 93 years later, because Carlton's victims included the paramour of 47-year-old starchitect Frank Lloyd Wright, and the burned building was Wright's controversial studio/love nest, Taliesin. In Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders (University of Wisconsin Press), William R. Drennan retells the story, sparing no details and judiciously placing them in the context of Wright's legendary career and tangled personal life. (Drennan doesn't worship at the shrine of Wright, and picks apart his lame excuses for deserting a wife and six children for married neighbor Mamah Borthwick Cheney.) Memorable crime books are about revealing character, and this one's best when plumbing the psyches of the murderer (a paranoid West Indian servant with plenty to be paranoid about) and the self-absorbed genius who buried his grief in 45 more years of work. a Sat 4/28, 10 AM-noon, Robie House, 5757 S. Woodlawn, and Sat 4/28, 1:30-3:30 PM, Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 951 Chicago, Oak Park, 708-848-1976.

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