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A Peep Into the 20th Century, by Christoper Davis

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First published by Harper & Row in 1971 Now available through


This fact-based novel concerns the execution by electricity of William Kemmler (Rupert Weber in the book) on August 6, 1890. Public revulsion against hanging had led to the consideration of other methods for taking human life. Experiments with cattle and sheep were conducted at Edison's New Jersey laboratories using Westinghouse's alternating current dynamo, not only for its efficiency in killing but to show its danger to the public, since sales of Edison's own method of supplying power to the cities were in an irreversible decline.

The focus of this war between business titans in the dawn of America's industrial and technological coming of age is Rupert Weber waiting in his death cell. Told that he is leading the march to the scientific glories of the century to come, Rupert must find out how to conquer his terror of the dynamo, make human contact through love, and take responsibility for who he is and what he has done.

A Peep Into the 20th Century, adapted by the author for the stage, was produced by the Seattle Repertory Company in 1987 and by the Philadelphia Festival of New Plays in 1988.

Click here to read about Waiting For It, a book which concerns the life and death of Troy Gregg on death row in Georgia.

Click here to read an excerpt from A Peep Into The 20TH Century.

Click here to read an excerpt from the 2007 book Working Words, Creative Reading, Writing, and Teaching by Christopher Davis.

Selected Comments and Review Quotes:

"Davis has constructed an extraordinary book...the characters elevate the novel to favorable comparison with both Capote's In Cold Blood and Richard Wright's Native Son."

—Nelson Algren, author

"I know of no other novelist who can so masterfully reduce the perspectives and bring the reader so close in to the passionate and psychic core of his struggles out of the maelstrom of involvement feeling he has been changed..."

—R.V.Cassill, author

"A brawny, hard, enlightening book—truthful and sad."

—D. Keith Mano, New York Times Book Review

"His characters are real far beyond the strict necessity of their roles, and he has used them to build a brilliant conundrum around the idea of death. When, with the prison doctor, we watch Weber's dissected body being dumped into the lime pit, we feel that we've learned quite a lot about how men are put together and how they come apart."

—Anatole Broyard, The New York Times