How did you get interested in true crime?

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How did you get interested in true crime?

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1carminowe
ag. 20, 2006, 11:03pm

The first true crime book I read was Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. The next was Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter.

My favorite true crime -- although it strikes me as rather awful to say "favorite" -- is Serpentine by the late Thomas Thompson, a Texas journalist who also wrote the best treatment of the Joan Robinson Hill/John Hill/Ash Robinson case that stunned Houston, Texas in the 1970s. It is titled Blood and Money (but when I try to make a touchstone out of it, it gives another book with the same title).

I am actually most intrigued with historical true crimes, such as the Ratcliffe Highway murders (P.D. James & T.A. Critchley's The Maul and the Pear Tree), Jack the Ripper, Crippen, and famous Hollywood murders.

What was your first true crime? And what are your "favorites"?

2kageeh
Editat: ag. 21, 2006, 9:42am

Carminowe -- Are you the sister I never had? I believe my first true crime book was also In Cold Blood. I can still see myself picking it up off the dining room table where my mother had left it. Helter Skelter soon followed. I also LOVED Serpentine, one of the best-written, almost a classic, true crime. That would be my favorite true crime book. I've always been sad that Tommy Thompson died after writing just three books. Yes, Blood and Money was superb!

My mother turned me onto true crime. She easily read one or two books a day until macular degeneration took away her ability to read at age 93 (she's now 96 and as spry as ever). She also got me interested in fiction about medical doctors, more like romances or thrillers. I still (guiltily) like them.

As for favorites, I can name several authors with Ann Rule being the all-time Queen of true crime. I don't think she's ever written a dud. besides, she writes her own website, answers her own email, and when she came to my town for a book reading, dressed like a suburban hausfrau. How could I not love her? I also read anything by Carlton Stowers. Check him out if you haven't already. Also Facing the Wind by Julie Salamon. That one will really make you THINK.

3carminowe
ag. 21, 2006, 9:34pm

Heh! I suspect we are around the same age, kageeh.

I have several of Ann Rule's books and I like the way she relates the sad stories she tells, always keeping the victims in mind as well as the murderers. The one that hit me viscerally was Small Sacrifices. I recall seeing an Oprah show with Ann Rule that also had Diane Downs by remote from prison. Downs was still at it, talking about the "stranger" who killed one of her children and maimed the other two. Rule really didn't have to counter Downs at all: Rule just let her marinate in her own lies.

I'm not familiar with Carlton Stowers. I'll check out both him and Julie Salamon. Thanks!

I notice that you and I are the only holders, so far, of Principal Suspect. Have you read Joseph Wambaugh's Echoes in the Darkness and Loretta Schwartz-Nobel's Engaged to Murder? The Main Line murders still baffle me. I haven't heard or read any updates lately so I wonder if it will ever be known what happened to Karen and Michael Reinert, or for that matter, Jay Smith's daughter Stephanie and her husband Eddie Hunsberger.

4kageeh
ag. 22, 2006, 2:10pm

Take a look at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092945/usercomments for comments by family members after the movie "Echoes of Darkness" was shown on TV! I love it when I can read several books about the same murder because each has a different point of view.

Wambaugh has a new books coming out November 28 called Hollywood Station, his first in 20 years.

The problem being the age I am (actually, I've had this problem all my life) is that I rarely remember the details of a book after reading it unless it made such an impression on me that it took up residence in my head ever after. Ann Rule's books do that for me, and Tommy Thompson's, and Joe McGinniss.

I don't know many criminals first hand (good thing!) but I've been trying to get Ann Rule to write a book about Bobby Durst, the man who impersonated a woman and hacked his neighbor to death in Galveston, Texas a few years back (and then jumped bail only to be re-arrested trying to pilfer a sandwich at Wegman's in Pennsylvania). He was a sort-of friend of my brother's in high school and the woman he impersonated was our next-door neighbor. But more than that, it is believed by many people that he murdered his wife (a medical student in New York City) almost 30 years ago but no one ever found a body or any other evidence (a very botched investigation ala JonBenet Ramsey -- because the Dursts are fabulously wealthy). But Ann won't write about anyone until they are safely behind bars for many many years.

Any other suggestions?

5carminowe
ag. 22, 2006, 10:35pm

I followed the link. I knew that Bill Bradfield died in the 1990s, but I didn't know that Ken Reinert had died. It's sad, but the family seems to take comfort that Ken is now "with" Karen and Michael. Some readers of Echoes in the Darkness take issue with Wambaugh's flippant tone, I know, but I have to admit that it's the humor he used that made the players in the drama so real to me. I just reread Echoes recently so that's why I am conversant about it, but I'm like you: I tend to forget a lot about certain true crime books I've read, perhaps self-protectively.

I remember the news of Durst murdering his neighbor (I lived in Houston so it was all over television there). You're right; it would make an interesting book.

Looking through your catalog, kageeh, I notice that you primarily have contemporary, or late 20th-century, true-crime cases. And most of them seem to be American. I have some of those as well, but I need to let some time pass before I feel comfortable enough to read about most crimes. I guess that's why I favor the historical variety, with a good portion of them happening outside of the U.S.

I now live in Hawai'i for much of the year and I've gotten interested in this state's crime history, particularly the infamous Massie Case. My favorite is still the first one I read, The Massie Case by Peter Packer. The touchstone came up with David E. Stannard's book and that's a good one too.

Do you have a favorite locale? California really has had some doozies, thus many of the books I find most interesting are about that state. Internationally...well, it's hard to beat England.

6kageeh
ag. 23, 2006, 8:41am

Carminowe -- I can't explain why (because I don't know) but I really avoid British crime, even Scottish crime (although Scotland itself is the only place outside the US that I enjoy visiting). I suppose it's because I'm so unfamiliar with the milieu and the lifestyles and so on that I find it difficult to insert myself into the story and relate to it. Thus, I stick with American crime and there's enough of that to keep me deeply embedded for the next century; funny how it keeps reproducing itself.

On the other hand, a psychopath is a psychopath so it shouldn't matter from whence he or she comes. But 20th-century crime is significantly more fulfilling because so much more is known about the forensics of crime scenes and criminal behaviors, the law is more complex, and general investigatory techniques are more sophisticated. Reading about older crimes, even those in America, is somewhat frustrating when I can't help but think how much better it would be were the crimes committed in more modern times.

7carminowe
ag. 23, 2006, 10:17pm

Yes, if Jack had done his ripping in the late-twentieth century instead of the nineteenth, we already would have forgotten about him, probably. Maybe we would know positively if Lizzie did or didn't do it. But part of the charm, for me, is reading how things once were culturewise, and how they did things before fingerprinting, DNA analysis, psychological profiles, etc. We can't fault the investigators for not knowing what hadn't been invented yet. I do enjoy speculating, though, what could have been discerned using modern techniques.

It's not true crime, exactly (or maybe it was), but have you read Arno Karlen's Napoleon's Glands? I like biomedical speculations, and I'm also fascinated with anthropological/archaeological reconstructions, such as in Making Faces: Using Forensic and Archaeological Evidence by John Prag.

Actually, I really like best to mix up the old and the new. When the new stuff gets too gruesome for me, I can retreat to the clinical and technical, or to the somewhat muted horrors of the past, simply because I can't -- lifting your words -- "insert myself into the story and relate to it."

Is there a particular recent, say, 21st-century case that has captured your interest? Is there a book about it yet?

8carminowe
ag. 23, 2006, 10:29pm

Aquest missatge ha estat suprimit pel seu autor.

9carminowe
ag. 23, 2006, 10:33pm

Aquest missatge ha estat suprimit pel seu autor.

10carminowe
ag. 23, 2006, 11:27pm

Argh! Sorry for the deleted messages. They were repeats because I thought the first post today didn't submit with the first click, so I clicked again, twice.

Kageeh, I want to respond to your other question about psychopaths, but I will wait until things are a little more stable. I hope others will join in this conversation, too, and add their insight.

11kageeh
ag. 24, 2006, 7:39am

Napoleon's Glands has just gone on my Wishist (or whatever they decide to call it here). It sounds a lot like Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Klawans Defending the Cavewoman. I have 15 books tagged in my library as Medical Curiousities, true stories (mostly in essay form) of weird things that happen to real people. Take a look and see what you think. I am fascinated by that kind of stuff -- and True Crime of course. It's hard for fiction to compete with reality.

12dara85 Primer missatge
set. 4, 2006, 9:25pm

Dear Kageeh,

I have read all the books you mentioned. I too love Ann Rule and have read a lot of Carlton Stowers also.
I read In Cold Blood when I was in high school. The book I think that got me hooked was The Shoemaker.

I also like Jack Olsen and Jerry Bledsoe.

Some of the best true crime I have read lately have been Cold Storage by Don Lasseter, To Kill and Kill Again by John Coston.

You should also try Robert Graysmith's Sleeping Lady: The Trailside Murders Above the Golden Gate Bridge.

13kageeh
set. 5, 2006, 7:24am

dara85
I love your library and have printed out a lot of book titles to read. We seem to have a lot in common!

14readalot Primer missatge
set. 19, 2006, 5:29pm

I am so excited to find Library Thing, and this group of True Crime devotees. You guys are talking my language when you speak of Tommy Thompson, Carlon Stowers, and of course, Ann Rule. Your favorites are also fav's of mine. I think Helter Skelter was my first true crime book, but I originally found Non fiction to be my niche when I read The Three Faces of Eve when I was 12. I haven't heard it mentioned and although I do have this book, it is not included in my Library Thing list is Until The Twelfth of Never by Bella Stumbo. It's a book about Betty Broderick who murdered her ex-husband and his new younger wife. It is a great book, right up there with Blood and Money. Stumbo is (I guess that she still is) a journalist that reported on the California case, and you can tell that she really put a lot of heart into the writing of the story. As far as I know that is the only true crime book she has written, and I wish she'd werite more. I have read all of T. Thompson's books, and I loved his last book, a work of fiction called Celebrity. He graduated from the same high school I did, although he was older than I. In Celebrity, he gives fictious names to places that I easily recognize in our home town. I look forward to chatting with you more.

15alans
abr. 16, 2008, 11:23am

I haven't read a true crime story since I was a
teenager and read with great fear, In Cold Blood.
I appreciate your discussion of Ann Rule and have
now added her to the list of books I want to read.
Can someone suggest a great true crime book to
read to begin with?

16biloquist
juny 28, 2008, 9:55pm

If you want to start with Ann Rule, I suggest you start with The Stranger Beside Me. If you want to start elsewhere, I think ... hmm ... if your interests are more literary, either Gordon Burn's Happy Like Murderers or Gary Indiana's Three-Month Fever; if they are more procedural, Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter or Joseph Wambaugh's The Blooding.

17Richard.
Editat: oct. 15, 2008, 10:50am

I know this thread is rather old, but I'll post anyway. To answer message 1 (what is your favorite?):
Well actually my favorite is not a book but the internet. You can get much more view points then. For example:
I read Helter Skelter (the book) but also visited web sites about Manson. There is so much information out there. And on YouTube you can see videos of him and his followers. Reading only a book doesn't give the full picture.

18alans
oct. 20, 2008, 3:41pm

I am currently reading Michael Connelly'sjournalistic crime pieces compiled in Crime Beat. The book is a mixed bag and the reviews on Amazon are pretty accurate. One of the problems with the book is that the same material is repeatedly told through different articles. Once you get the gist of something,it is time to move onto something else. Some of the true crime stories are pretty horrific, it reminds me of how sad a state this world can be and how evil sometimes operates.

19Moomin_Mama
Editat: abr. 11, 2010, 6:40pm

I came across a book when visiting a friend of my mum's (when you are a bookish kid in a non-reading family, you seemed to be allowed to read anything). It was some sort of true crime book, full of photos, of gangland killings, vietnam atrocities, the Jonestown suicides, etc. Not really suitable considering I was 6 or 7 at the time, but I've been hooked since then.

20kageeh
abr. 13, 2010, 10:42am

My introduction to true crime was Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. I haven't stop buying and borrowing and reading them since. My mother was my book-adviser until she died at age 97. She had two pretty hard and fast rules -- the pages had to be dense with print (no seedy efforts to just fill pages with large print and huge margins) and she shunned almost all female authors. I've had to advise myself for the past 2 1/2 years so I'm open to any and all recommendations.

21bertyboy
maig 30, 2010, 8:31am

One of the best books I've read is Helter Skelter by Vincent Bulgiosi. Have loads of Anne Rule books. Will need to start in on them.

22PatBrooks
abr. 13, 2011, 5:39pm

I have been a Jack the Ripper "fan" since I was in my early teens. I'm interested in unsolved murders, and in the psychology of what makes men like Ed Geins tick. I'm also fascinated by diverse cultures and how they contribute to crime, such as motorcycle gangs or boxcar tramps.

23LoLo72
abr. 15, 2011, 7:24pm

my Grandmother always had True Crime magazines in the 70's. I was fascinated & scared of them at the same time. Then I read Helter Skelter in 1986 when I was 14 & that turned me on to that genre. I have read over 300 True Crime books. I love biographies too. I cannot read fiction, it does nothing for me.

24imsodion
Editat: abr. 22, 2012, 3:23pm

Is this group dormant? These posts are a year old. My first true crime book was In Cold Blood like so many others. The next was The Onion Field and I was hooked. Thirty years ago, I was so enthralled by true murders that I had completely exhausted the collection of our local public library. Over the years, my book reading has wandered into fiction - crime mystery novels of course. Recently, I've rediscovered my fascination with the subject and am back at it again.
Last week, I finally gave up on Popular Crime, having read about 2/3rds of the book. Initially, Bill James unconventional style was fresh and interesting, but, for me, his ego became prohibitive and I put the book down. This morning, I finished reading A Rose For Mary. I spent two hours yesterday sifting through WorldCat and now have a list of fresh material to explore.

25Moomin_Mama
abr. 26, 2012, 5:23pm

Hi imsodion. Yeah, the group is pretty dormant. Came across it myself about a year ago but then got too busy with real life to check into LT too often :(

Your comment about an author's ego getting in the way struck a chord. I find that's quite common in the genre. So many writers seem to have 'THE ANSWER' when it comes to violent crime and criminals. If only!

Haven't read any true crime for a while but recently picked up Thomas Thompson's Serpentine. It's not a subject that would usually hold my interest (Charles Sobhraj was as much a con-man as a killer, with a very exotic, jet-setting lifestyle) but it is very well written so I'm getting along with it.

26zachfortier
jul. 11, 2012, 6:51pm

I have a question for the members of this group. Would you be interested in a True crime novel about Cops gone bad? I am currently writing a book based on several cops I worked with that went "hero to zero". I spent 30 years as a cop and the frequency which this happened was amazing. Looking for feedback on the idea. Thanks in advance. Z

27kaitomono
maig 11, 2013, 1:38pm

Well Zach, you may have already finished writing your book but I would be interested in your topic of cops gone bad. As an avid true crime reader, I have noticed that many killers and serial killers have had some law enforcement experience. Most have had some wish to be a cop and some applied and didn't make it, others served as auxiliary officers or civilian employees at cop shops.

So how did you make out with your project? :)

28kaitomono
maig 11, 2013, 1:40pm

My first true crime book was The Boston Strangler, it was so scary that one night I was almost frozen to the chair thinking, oh my gosh my bathroom window was open (with a staircase leading up to it as a fire escape!) I finally got up the nerve to go shut and lock it and went back and continued reading, I couldn't put that book down. My first true crime book!

29alans
març 11, 2014, 4:42pm

I really enjoyed the movie version of The Boston Strangler which I believe is on dvd now.

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