Jane Campbell

  • The Death of Old Man Rice: A Story of Criminal Justice in America by Martin Friedland
    New York, 423 pp, $29.95, October 1994, ISBN 0 8147 2627 5

At first it was supposed that William Marsh Rice, millionaire and founder of Rice University in Texas, had died from eating bananas; nine bananas, in fact, five baked and four raw. He had invited his valet Charlie Jones to join him. The valet, who later confessed that he had Chloroformed his employer, refused: ‘I told him that I was afraid of bananas and wouldn’t try any.’ Dr Curry, who attended the body, found that the 84-year-old man had died of natural causes. Worry about the Galveston hurricane, which had taken place a fortnight before, in August 1900, had exacerbated his decline, but eating bananas had been the major cause of death.

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in