The Klondike Bake-Oven Deaths
by Allen M. Hornblum
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 24 Feb 2021 | Archive Date 12 Jul 2021
Sunbury Press, Inc., Milford House
A CRIME OF UNIMAGINABLE HORROR
As the world spirals toward war during the Great Depression, a diabolical atrocity would occur in Philadelphia that presages the shocking devastation and inhumanity that is about to spread across the globe.
Over the course of a late summer weekend in 1938, inmates perceived as leaders of a prison food strike are celled in a punishment block known as “Klondike,” and cooked alive as payback for their incorrigible behavior. The event will receive front page headlines throughout the nation, and be described as “the most extreme example of prison abuse in American history.”
For Heshel Glass, the county coroner - and the city he represents - the deadly event will prove an unprecedented moral and political challenge. From his first steps inside Holmesburg Prison when he comes upon the shocking spectacle of two alien-like blue corpses, Glass will be thrust in a personal and ethical crucible no one could have anticipated.
Determining the cause of death for eight bizarrely discolored cadavers only becomes more difficult when police investigators inform the press that inmates fought among themselves and killed each other. Glass is astounded by the claim, especially after visiting the punishment cellblock where he learns the unit’s windows and air vents had been shuttered, the water turned off, and the building’s huge bank of radiators turned on full throttle causing temperatures inside the tiny structure to reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Complicating matters is a political power structure that demands total subservience. Controlled by a corrupt and conniving mayor determined to bury the truth with the victims, Coroner Glass is confronted with the dilemma of whether to fall in line with other city officials or carry out his oath of office? Choosing the latter, he is warned, will end his political career and possibly his life.
“A major contribution to understanding the sordid and hidden history of criminal justice in America. Hornblum’s vivid style is more engrossing than a Hollywood thriller. Like his earlier exposes, Hornblum is one of the keenest observers of the consequences that have long plagued our penal systems.” - Selwyn Raab, Long time New York Times crime reporter, author of the classic work, Five Families
“Again, Allen Hornblum has exposed the barbarity and rancid underbelly of America’s extensive carceral system. He not only illuminates one of the worst examples of criminal mistreatment of prisoners, but also shows how one man dedicated to doing the right thing can stand up to authority and re-establish justice as well as law and order in one of the nation’s largest cities. - Frederick T. Martens, Executive Director (Ret.), Pennsylvania Crime Commission
“On my first bit inside Holmesburg Prison back in the early 60s I heard inmates occasionally warn each other of guards throwing someone in Klondike as punishment for some perceived infraction. At the time I didn’t know what it meant, but I instinctively knew it was bad news. Thanks to Hornblum, I and others now know about the Klondike Bake-Oven Murders." - Charles “Chicky” Goodroe, K & A Gang Burglar