Carpenter, Teresa (Suzanne) 1948-
CARPENTER, Teresa (Suzanne) 1948-
PERSONAL: Born August 1, 1948, in Independence, MO; daughter of Rawlin Mack and Gloria Lee Harvey (Thompson) Carpenter. Education: Graceland College, B.A., 1970; University of Missouri, M.A., 1975. Politics: Democrat.
ADDRESSES: Office—Village Voice, 842 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fairchild fellowship, University of Missouri, 1975-76; Pulitzer Prize, 1981, for feature articles; Page One Award, New York Newspaper Guild, 1981; Clarion Award, Women in Communications, 1982, 1986; Front Page Award, New York Newspaperwomen's Club, 1981.
Missing Beauty: A True Story of Murder and Obsession, Norton (New York, NY), 1988.
Mob Girl: A Woman's Life in the Underworld, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Marcia Clark) Without a Doubt, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.
The Miss Stone Affair: America's First Modern Hostage Crisis, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
ADAPTATIONS: Without a Doubt was adapted as an audiocassette.
SIDELIGHTS: While a staff writer for New York City's Village Voice, Teresa Carpenter became obsessed with an account that the journalist stumbled across in the New York Times in 1983 about a Boston murder case involving a noted college professor and a young artist-turned-prostitute. Carpenter used her skills as a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist to do hundreds of interviews regarding the professor and his victim over the following four years before writing her first book, Missing Beauty: A True Story of Murder and Obsession. In subsequent books, Carpenter has continued to focus on women subjects, including in Playboy, which is about Playmate Dorothy Stratten, and 1992's Mob Girl: A Woman's Life in the Underworld, in which the author details the life of Mafia moll Arlyne Brickman. More recently, Carpenter delved into history to write about a hostage crisis that occurred back in 1901 in The Miss Stone Affair: America's First Modern Hostage Crisis.
In tackling Missing Beauty, Carpenter admits "that the lubricous world of the Combat Zone, the porno district not far from Boston Common, was 'foreign and not a little frightening,' but she avoided the temptation to shield herself—or her readers—from the sordid facts necessary to describe the murder case," according to David Black in his review of the work for the New York Times Book Review. The murder on which Carpenter based her book is considered bizarre by many experts. Professor William Douglas, a former head of Tufts University Medical School's cell culture research unit, apparently wanted more than sexual relations with Robin Benedict, an intelligent and attractive graphic artist and prostitute. Benedict, described by Sally G. Waters in Library Journal as the "dutiful, loving daughter of a middle-class family," was evidently looking for more than money in her relations with Douglas. The basis for anything more than a one-night sexual encounter between Douglas and Benedict is what first intrigued Carpenter, yet she leaves the mystery of the relationship intact for her readers. Wrote David Black in the New York Times Book Review: "Together—according to the evidence—they created a third reality that presumably gave both something each lacked." In an interview with Michael Freitag in the New York Times Book Review, Carpenter revealed that after the book was completed she was hesitant to tackle a second full-length book: "Four years immersed in one story was brutalizing in some respects, so I don't know if I want to stay in the water that long again. But I wouldn't rule it out."
In 1992 Carpenter again took the plunge into troubled waters with Mob Girl: A Woman's Life in the Underworld. The book's subject, Arlyne Brickman, was a Jewish racketeer's daughter raised on New York's Lower East Side in the days of mobsters Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. In her teens, Brickman developed an admiration for Siegel's glamorous girl-friend Virginia Hill and kept a scrapbook full of news-clippings related to her. Brickman attempted to emulate Hill's lifestyle as an adult, but never achieved the other woman's status. Instead, Brickman ran numbers games, dealt narcotics, engaged in bookmaking and loan-sharking, and eventually became a mob informant for the government. She never found the respect or admiration of her mob peers as Hill had, and instead found herself the victim of a brutal gang rape and several beatings.
New York Times reviewer Amy Pagnozzi was disgusted, not with the skill of the biography's author, but with Brickman, whom Pagnozzi described as having "the instincts of a hyena—toting her infant daughter, Leslie, on errands because a woman with a baby is less likely to be hurt, later keeping the child home from school for company, ultimately allowing her own hood boyfriend to sell her grown daughter heroin and cocaine that would lead to her addiction and death from AIDS." Pagnozzi added, "This is the story not so much of a mob girl as of a mob groupie, who like any other groupie performed for flunky after flunky to get near the stars." Reviewer Diane Cole assessed Mob Girl similarly in the Chicago Tribune Book World, maintaining that "Carpenter's complexly detailed characterization of Brickman is powerful, leaving the reader by turns sickened, sad and ultimately drained." "With an individual like Brickman," the critic added, "that is as it should be."
After the infamous O. J. Simpson murder trial, a plethora of books were released by many of the principal players in this drama in which former football star Simpson was acquitted of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Marcia Clark, a former Los Angeles County district attorney who was one of the prosecutors in the case, wrote her take on this sordid affair with the help of Carpenter in Without a Doubt. Although the book focuses on the Simpson trial, it is also a memoir that includes intimate details of Clark's life before and after the court case, including her divorce, child custody battle, and the fact that she was raped at age seventeen. But because the story of the trial has been written about by so many—not to mention that millions of people watched the trial on television—many reviewers of the book shared the opinion of Elizabeth Gleick, who said in her Time review that Clark "is not telling us something we did not already know" when she complains about incompetent police work, the inflated egos of the defense team and judge Lance Ito, and the annoying media coverage that intruded into Clark's life. Billboard critic Trudi Miller Rosenblum added that the book "offers little but a finger-pointing exercise."
Despite such criticisms, though, some reviewers felt that Without a Doubt was one of the better accounts of the Simpson trial. Bill Russell, writing in Library Journal, for example, asserted, "This may be one of the best books on the Simpson case available." Gleick, who felt Clark was very sympathetic even though attesting that the book offers no illuminations, declared that Without a Doubt "is well written, sometimes moving and occasionally amusing," thanks for the most part to coauthor Teresa Carpenter.
With the concern about terrorism and the dangers Americans face living in political hot spots abroad, Carpenter's 2003 book, The Miss Stone Affair: America's First Modern Hostage Crisis, is relevant to today's concerns even though it involves a 1901 hostage case. Ellen Stone, a Congregationalist missionary working in the Balkans, was kidnapped by Macedonian guerillas seeking ransom money to help their cause against the Bulgarian government that ruled them. Although Stone was treated well by her captors, she was still under threat of death if the money was not delivered. Enter the United States government, which Carpenter wastes no time lambasting for incompetence in the situation. The author details how poorly qualified translators and diplomats who knew little about the political situation in the Balkans were of little help in the situation. Were it not for Stone's ability to sympathize with her captors and the fund-raising drive back home, she might have died, especially since the U.S. government hesitated on paying the ransom and was sluggish to respond to any crises after the then-recent assassination of President William McKinley.
Carpenter was praised by critics for her ability to write about the "negotiations [that] involved murky, back-channel dealings and hidden subtexts," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer described it. Some critics, however, faulted the author for not better explaining the historical circumstances of the times, which would have helped to put the hostage crisis in perspective. "She might even have indulged the melodramatic potential of the tale more," added the Publishers Weekly contributor, who nevertheless declared the book "a gripping yarn." In Women's Review of Books, Erika Munk observed that "Carpenter's narrative jumps back and forth without ever shaping a coherent point of view … nor does Carpenter examine the obvious questions of gender and patriarchy that leap from the page." Booklist writer Roland Green complained of Carpenter's "condescension toward the U.S. Navy and … failing to track Stone after 1908," but concluded that the book is "generally well done." In the New York Times Book Review, Ben Macintyre called The Miss Stone Affair a "worthy account of politics and diplomacy, with a more emotional tale beneath it, itching to break free."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Spectator, July, 1997, Joe Queenan, review of Without a Doubt, p. 66.
Austin American-Statesman (Austin, Tx), June 15, 2003, Michele Chan Santos, "Hostages and Headlines," p. K5.
Billboard, June 14, 1997, Trudi Miller Rosenblum, review of Without a Doubt (sound recording), p. 75.
Booklist, June 15, 1988, p. 1690; January 15, 1992, p. 881; May 1, 2003, Roland Green, review of The Miss Stone Affair: America's First Modern Hostage Crisis, p. 1567.
Chicago Tribune Book World, June 12, 1988, p. 6; December 29, 1991, p. 1; March 22, 1992, p. 5.
Esquire, November, 1994, pp. 84-96.
Harper's Bazaar, June, 1994, pp. 62-64.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1988, p. 662; January 15, 1992, p. 87.
Library Journal, October 1, 1988, p. 95; March 1, 1992, pp. 98-99; April 15, 1992, Jodi L. Israel, review of Mob Girl: A Woman's Life in the Underworld, p. 138; July, 1997, Bill Russell, review of Without a Doubt (sound recording), p. 141.
London Review of Books, January 11, 1990, p. 14.
National Review, July 10, 1981, pp. 764-765.
New Yorker, November 28, 1983, pp. 176-177.
New York Times Book Review, June 26, 1988, p. 9; September 3, 1989, p. 20; July 21, 1991, p. 24; March 15, 1992, pp. 9-10; April 10, 1994, p. 10; January 22, 1995, p. 10; October 13, 1996, p. 10; September 21, 2003, Ben Macintyre, "The Ransom of Battle-Ax," p. 34.
People, November 21, 1983, pp. 12-13.
Publishers Weekly, May 13, 1988, p. 261; January 27, 1992, p. 84; May 31, 1993, p. 47; November 15, 1999, John F. Baker, "Hostage Crisis, 1901," p. 15; April 7, 2003, review of The Miss Stone Affair, p. 55.
Redbook, April, 1994, pp. 124-29.
Time, May 12, 1997, Elizabeth Gleick, review of Without a Doubt, p. 95.
U.S. News & World Report, April 27, 1981, p. 11.
Vogue, July, 1988, p. 68.
Women's Review of Books, October, 1988, p. 7; June, 2003, Erika Munk, "The Balkans' Balkans," p. 11.*