Have a spare buck in your pocket? Allow me to recommend Matthew Pearl’s dramatization of “The Shocking Campus Shooting in Virginia You Never Heard Of”. This long short story/short novella (you can argue which it is among yourselves) is set in 1840, on the grounds of the University of Virginia. On November 12 of that year, the dean of the faculty was shot—and later died—after attempting to quell a student-led disturbance on the Lawn (it’s true). The true story itself is interesting, but as usual with Pearl’s books both his characterizations and the locale are richly described and the tale told well.
I thoroughly enjoyed Pearl’s work, despite being in the perfect position to nitpick it to death since I work on Grounds and have held in my hands and read original accounts of the shooting and John Davis’s death courtesy of the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library. But there’s no nitpicking from me—just praise, and the fervent desire that you all go take that dollar that’s been burning a hole in your pocket and spend it on this story.
While reading “The Professor’s Assassin” (available as a download from Amazon and numerous other outlets) you’ll be introduced to one William Barton Rogers, the future founder of MIT. This tidbit is important, as the novella is a prequel to The Technologists, a novel that focuses on the first class of students at MIT and, well, a fictional, yet historically-grounded, mystery. Intrigued? The book has its own trailer…and it’s about science and technology…in the nineteenth century. What’s not to love?
sort of interesting note: Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club was one of the only books I read for pleasure during my PhD work in c19 American Lit.