In the early 1700s, lawlessness ruled England, and highwaymen, thieves, and prostitutes thrived. When notorious burglar Jack Sheppard finally met the hangman, street singers warbled ballads about the housebreaker whom no prison could hold. Before his execution, he told his story to a writer in the crowd. Daniel Defoe had done hard time himself for sedition and bankruptcy and saw how prison corrupted the poor. They came out thieves, but he came out a journalist. Six months later, Defoe covered another death at the hanging tree. Jonathan Wild had all but invented the double-cross. He cultivated thieves and then betrayed them for his reward and their executions. Jack Sheppard hadn’t taken orders from this self-proclaimed “thief-taker general,” and the two-faced bounty hunter took it personally, helping to bring the burglar’s life to an end. But Wild’s duplicity soon came to light, and he became the most despised man in the land. When he swung, a mob hurled rocks, rotten food, and even dead animals at him. Defoe once again got the scoop, and tabloid journalism had begun.