Never the Sinner

ISBN: 0879519304
ISBN 13: 9780879519308
By: John Logan

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About this book

In 1924, two young millionaires -- Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb -- abducted and killed fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks, horrifying a nation. Never the Sinner is John Logan's brilliant documentary play about the infamous Leopold and Loeb case, known in its time as the "crime of the century" and still one of the most notorious.Leopold and Loeb were richer than most, and smarter. They knew every hot topic of the day, from Freud to Nietzsche; they were also lovers. Considering themselves Nietzsche's "supermen, " they decided to commit the "perfect murder, " just for the thrill of it. But they proved to be considerably less than supermen, and within a matter of hours police questioners cracked their alibis. In the ensuing sensational trial, they were defended by the legendary Clarence Darrow, who got them life sentences rather than the expected execution.

Reader's Thoughts


This was a very interesting play about a true story that I have a particular interest in: that of Leopold and Loeb, the brilliant and wealthy cold-blooded murderers from the 1920s. Believing themselves to be Nietzschian supermen, they decided to exercise their superiority by murdering a young boy for kicks. Of course, they got caught and saw that perhaps they were not quite as far above the rest of humanity as they thought. They were very interesting people, and I find the whole story fascinating. They play was good; rather well-written and interesting, but it approached the story as a love story between Leopold and Loeb. While this is certainly a big part of their story, it misses what I think of as the most interesting part: the darkness of human nature. Leopold and Loeb were exercising their power over another human being in the most brutal and direct way possible, whether they did that partially out of love for each other or not. It was well done, but missed an important part of the story. Unless you already know the story and have a particular interest in it, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. But if you know some of the story and are interested in more, it's certainly worth a read (or a watch if you see it being produced).

Earl Jones

One of my favorite plays. Amazing documentary/play on a true crime story.


I think about this play all the time.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this play. It moves quickly and smoothly, and I could see a lot of options for staging.

Clara L.

Stage-managed this show, it was fantastic!! :)

Dave Logghe

This fantastic play is about the trial of Leopold and Loeb, two 19/20 year old boys who plead guilty to murder. It's something of a companion piece to "Thrill Me," which I have not yet read, but after seeing a selection of music performed from it, I'm fascinated by the story and I want to devour anything I can find on it. The characters are fascinating, partially due to the fact that they are based on real people. There's always something intriguing about delving into the mind of a sociopath, if only to see what life looks like through the eyes of a madman. Definitely recommended.


Quite interesting. These two young men are great characters. Worth reading just for their dynamic.


"I could look at them like you do, Bob. I could damn these boys for what they did. For the madness, for the brutality ... I can see the sin in all the world. And I may well hate that sin, but never the sinner."So go the words of defense attorney Clarence Darrow, to state attorney Crowe. The scene is jazz-era Chicago, 1924, and two 19-year-olds, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, are on trial for the heinous, seemingly unrepentant murder of an acquaintance, a 14-year-old boy.It's a true story. Leopold and Loeb harbored intellectual prowess for their years, as well as massive hubris, both, that blinded them to the fact that they were actually not Nietzsche's "ubermensch" as they fancied. Turns out they weren't so above the law, weren't perfect.That alone is obvious by the fact that they were caught. They did not intend to be but were, and stood trial for the killing. The playbook by John Logan does well to not announce the verdict in some melodramatic courtroom scene within his pages.Exchanges both in and outside the court between Darrow and Crowe are the benchmark addresses or monologues in this play. They get a bit talky, even for a play that at times seems to feign serving as a discourse on capital punishment, but that grandstanding is just what lawyers do, and in Chicago, and in the '20s (see: the musical Chicago, et al). The dialogue here is crisp, staccaco, but for Leopold's strangely loping opening monologue. In the hands of a top-notch director and the throats of polished performers, this show could be brought to life in a riveting way. A local production to be staged soon will do just that, with hope.Leopold and Loeb fascinate even as they repulse. The attractive, charming Loeb seems soulless but then is let down when his mother won't have anything to do with him as Chicagoans call for his hanging; she seems to be the one person on the earth who he doesn't want to disappoint. Leopold's mother died when he was younger, and he's painted as a ruthlessly academic, learned young man with a fierce romantic bent to boot.That the two had a sexual pact on the side of their criminal co-conspiring is intriguing, and of course given prominence. Sensational headlines delivered by adult-Newsies-styled reporters canvassing the court and interviewing the players involved tout the affair behind the crime. This was the '20s, after all, and, anyway, sex has always ruled the media."This is a love story," say the notes appearing ahead of the two acts. That may be, but if so, it's a rather painfully one-sided one. One of these two seems incapable of ever loving another more than himself. The murder aside, that itself is a real tragedy.

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