If you’re anywhere near West Hollywood, California, you can take a class on how to write a true crime book.
Or if you have a computer, you can teach yourself to write true crime by reading tips from the insiders offering loads of free advice for covering true crime stories.
Or if you are interested in forensic education, check out a new magazine called The Forensic Teacher. It is aimed at forensic educators, featuring lesson plans, interviews, tips from other teachers, hints to make labs easier, a directory of resources, and more. Subscriptions are free and they have a writer’s guide as well.
If you’re the kind who likes to enjoy the fruits of another’s labor, there are the university courses in true crime. Alright, they’re not called that, they have pretty names like The Literature of Crime and Punishment, a course taught at John Jay College, CUNY, wherein the required reading list is:
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
Albert Camus, The Stranger
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
And if that list is a bit too modern for your tastes, there’s a class in Nineteenth-Century Crime Fiction: From the Newgate Calendar to Sherlock Holmes over at The University of Cardiff. The course description alone might teach a few people to appreciate the impact of “populist” true crime stories:
Course Description: Stories concerned with crime have circulated, in oral and then in written form, throughout Western society since its inception, but it was in the nineteenth century that what we recognise as the literary genre of crime fiction came into being. Criminal narratives owe their longevity in part to their perennial popularity: all levels of society, it seems, are fascinated by crime.
Responding to this popularity, much criminography was, and is, to be found in the contemporary popular and populist literature, the literature of the streets. Over time, elements of this mass of material were appropriated and refined by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle and made into the accounts of crime that are now recognised as the canon of crime fiction.
This course explores the early, non-canonical material as well as the well-known masters-and mistresses-of mystery in the nineteenth century, tracing the development of the genre from the criminal confessions of the Newgate Calendars and Ordinary's Accounts, via the gory execution broadsides and the sensational periodical press to the fully-formed and archetypal detective stories featuring Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.
The reading list includes: Newgate Celandars; The Ordinary’s Accounts; Memoirs of Vidocq; William Godwin's Caleb Williams; Samuel Warren's Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician; 'My First Circuit: Law and Facts from the North' from Experiences of a Barrister (Anon); 'The Murderess' (Anon); Edgar Allen Poe; 'Waters's' Recollections of a Police Officer; Charles Dickens's 'Detective Police'; Hayward's The Experiences of a Lady Detective; Mary E. Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret; Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone; The Master Detective: Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet.
....to think that people get paid to write this stuff... college credit for reading it… an income from teaching it… I guess I’m not unusually morbid after all. Now if this ticket here has all my numbers on it, I'm headed to Wales.