Cover image for Dictionary of culprits and criminals
Dictionary of culprits and criminals
Kohn, George C.
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, [1995]

Physical Description:
viii, 384 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV6245 .K64 1995 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



This updated and enlarged reference book provides concise biographical accounts of more than 1,200 villainous persons who gained notoriety in the Western world during the last five hundred years. Intended for use by general adult readers, students, and scholars, the book presents valuable information about past and present lawbreakers and villains of all kinds--murderers, terrorists, robbers, assassins, gangsters, racketeers, spies, traitors, smugglers, forgers, impostors, pirates, gunfighters, prostitutes, pimps, cannibals, con artists, swindlers, conspirators, Western outlaws, war criminals, and many others. These offenders--male and female, young and old, rich and poor--committed transgressions that society was prepared to punish by process of law or custom at the time. Americans predominate, but many Europeans have been included. Entries, with cross references, are arranged alphabetically. There is an appendix classifying all entries according to "law-breaking occupational categories" (e.g., assassin, burglar, forger, gambler, murderer, spy, and so forth), as well as a general index and a selected bibliography. Crisply written and thoroughly readable.

Author Notes

George C. Kohn specializes in the development of general-interest and historical reference books.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This biographical dictionary of unsavory characters would be better titled ``Dictionary of the Notorious'' because of the wide range of people covered Emma Goldman, for example, or Huey Long, and others who were never charged with or convicted of a crime. In the preface, the compiler says his criterion for inclusion has been someone who has ``committed or been accused of committing an offense or crime that society at the time'' felt was punishable by law. He says he has excluded heroes convicted as criminals, such as Nathan Hale, but has included the more notorious, such as Charlotte Corday. This results in rather capricious and unpredictable coverage. The almost 1,200 entries range from the fifteenth century to the present and from many Western countries, though Americans predominate. Each entry gives the name, birth and death dates (when known), and a phrase categorizing the crime for which the subject is known. Following is a well-written sketch that describes eccentricities, peculiar life-styles, and sometimes gory details, as well as some biographical information. Cross-references from aliases are given as well as references from accomplices. There is an appendix classifying all entries according to ``law breaking occupational categories.'' Here, alternate terms are given under headings; for example, Gambler ``see also Con Artist . . . Swindler.'' Beginning with Agitator, Arsonist, and Assassin, through Cannibal and Spy, and ending with War criminal and Western outlaw, this litany of crime gathers together such strange bedfellows as Bluebeard, Hitler, Winnie Ruth Judd, Polly Adler, Clifford Irving, Billy the Kid, the Bird Man of Alcatraz, Jack Abbott, Jean Harris, Moll Cutpurse, and others. The book concludes with an index that lists all pages where an individual is mentioned. Writers, particularly mystery writers, and other browsers will find this collection fascinating. For trivia buffs and the libraries that serve them.

Library Journal Review

This unillustrated compilation consists of brief biographies, averaging 100-200 words each, of some 1150 criminals from the Western world throughout the past five centuries. On the whole, the summaries are accurate, although controversial figures tend to be portrayed one-sidedly. This type of work purposely eschews depth, but its main drawback as a reference work is the lack of bibliographical citations. Kohn does not mention his sources and readers interested in more information must look elsewhere. Nonetheless, there may be a place for this dictionary in libraries desiring broad subject coverage. For biographies of American criminals, Carl Sifakis's Encyclopedia of American Crime ( LJ 7/82) is preferable. Gregor A. Preston, Univ. of California Lib., Davis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.