Interesting Pitch Newly published true crime author James Renner is taking an interesting approach to marketing his true crime/memoir, Amy: My Search for Her Killer. He's asking for help to solve the killing of a 10-year-old girl. Says the author, "Hopefully, one clever reader will figure out how all the clues fit together and finally solve Cleveland's coldest case."
The book tells of the kidnapping and murder of Amy Mihaljevic in 1989 from Bay Village, Ohio, a suburb where the author also lived, a place already cursed by the legacy of the Sam Sheppard case 35 years before Amy's murder.
You can watch a video about the Mihaljevic case and book from local Fox Channel 8). The first chapter is available from the publisher. The author also has a blog, joining the growing ranks of true crime authors on the blogroll.
Letters from a Mad Bomber Author Maryanne Vollers, a National Book Award nominee (for Ghosts of Mississippi), found a penpal in Eric Rudolph. She has now written a book about his criminal career that earned high praise from the New York Times:
Whatever prompted his communiqués, they could easily have been parlayed into melodrama. But Ms. Vollers’s “Lone Wolf” does not exploit this access to a stellar criminal.
Instead it offers a cool, gripping investigation of the bomber’s mind, methods and stereotype-busting traits. It also carefully tracks the missteps that brought him down.
A standout in the true crime genre, Ms. Vollers’s book is consistently astute. “A homemade bomb is more than a weapon,” she writes at the outset. “It is a statement.”
She devotes her book to deciphering Mr. Rudolph’s statement as keenly as she can.
For the Fans of Roughead, the True Crime Legend Google's free book collection includes The Letters of Henry James, and the page I linked includes the correspondence between the famous man of letters and William Roughead, the world’s most famous true crime writer of all time, in which the international fiction phenomenon asked the dean of murder to stop writing stories about witchcraft and get back to blood and guts! (Though that James was much more elegant in his appeal than your correspondent from the James clan.)
Getting Local I was intrigued by the title of this true crime book: Murder and Malice: Crimes of Passion from Victoria County, Texas (1891-1913). It goes on sale today and was recently featured in the local newspaper. Author Gary Hall, an English professor, spent some time in local historic archives and found photos and amazing stories worth retelling. "A lot of people like true crime," Hall said. "I am just mixing true crime with history." Methinks the residents of Victoria County are spoiled by the presence of a local crime historian.
Gilles de Rais, coming to fiction I wish someone would get around to publishing Jeri Westerson’s terrific historical mysteries pretty soon, because I can’t wait ! to read the book she’s writing now – a fictional treatment based loosely on Gilles de Rais, one of the most notorious serial killers of European history. Jeri shares some juicy bits here.
A Snarky Review of Thunderstruck I guess the New York Times wasn't satisfied with the first review of Thunderstruck, the Crippen story from Erik Larson, or the second one, or the third one, so it published a bad review to boot. This one is by Janet Maslin:
Erik Larson’s “Thunderstruck” is about murder, invention and distraction. Even though these matters are unrelated, Mr. Larson has made it his business to cobble them together. And although he may seem to have more than enough material, some of it is laughably skimpy. This is a book from which to learn that when Scotland Yard moved its London headquarters in the 1890s, 14,212 umbrellas were left behind.
With this book and his much more effective “Devil in the White City,” Mr. Larson has made himself a writer with a formula: pair a true-crime story with an interesting moment in history and pretend that they are indisputably connected. In the earlier book this method was disarming; this time it’s predictable, and the strain shows.
“Thunderstruck” would be a far better book if it conveyed a clearer sense of how the Crippen marriage reached this unfortunate state of affairs.
I hate reviews like that -- "You should've revealed their deepest secrets!" Anyone writing about events in the past is limited to his material -- the principal failing of selecting as subjects people who are dead. They're dead, lady, and they're not talking. Whaddaya want, fiction? That's a different department. Usually. Read on.
Spoon River, Scotland? A Scottish true crime writer, Alexander McGregor of Dundee, formerly a journalist on the court beat, wrote his first true crime book, The Law Killers, a bestseller in Scotland. It details the criminal history of Dundee. Now he’s done what is thought to be a world first -- he’s taken the real characters and used them in a fiction sequel to his true crime story; the title is Lawless.
The non-fiction version of Dundee’s criminal history is available from Amazon.co.uk and the fiction version is still coming off the presses. As far as I’m aware, this is truly a novel approach, though I am reminded of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, poems in which dozens of fictional residents of a fictional town give a full confession to all their misdeeds. Do you remember reading some of those poems in a high school English Lit class? I bet your teacher didn't share the most shocking ones with you. From Masters’ masterpiece:
THE VERY fall my sister Nancy Knapp
Set fire to the house
They were trying Dr. Duval
For the murder of Zora Clemens,
And I sat in the court two weeks
Listening to every witness.
It was clear he had got her in a family way;
And to let the child be born
Would not do.
Well, how about me with eight children,
And one coming, and the farm
Mortgaged to Thomas Rhodes?
And when I got home that night,
(After listening to the story of the buggy ride,
And the finding of Zora in the ditch,)
The first thing I saw, right there by the steps,
Where the boys had hacked for angle worms,
Was the hatchet!
And just as I entered there was my wife,
Standing before me, big with child.
She started the talk of the mortgaged farm,
And I killed her.