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Try a true crime book!

June 4, 2019

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Even for the most reluctant reader, true crime always seems to be a big hit. Let’s face it; nearly everyone suffers from some curiosity when it comes to crime. How could a person cut a body completely in half and pose it in a vacant lot without anyone noticing?  What happened to this person to make him into someone who seems to enjoy abducting and killing people?  Personally, I like true crime for the mystery aspect as well as the details into the investigation. 

The following books highlight cases that inspired authors, such as “The Real Lolita,” where we learn that Nabokov was fascinated with the abduction of Sally Horner and that led directly to his famous novel, “Lolita.”  Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes about the abductions of journalists by Pablo Escobar to ensure the government of Columbia would not extradite him or other members of the Medina Cartel to the United States. Even famous crimes have some explanation or at least a chance to understand what happened, such as learning about the everyday lives of the two high school boys who perpetuated a mass shooting at their high school can help us learn about what’s really going on in our schools and how some of the students feel betrayed and alienated from their peers.

So take a chance on a true crime book. They are great way to get back into reading or if you just want something new.


In South Los Angeles, a young man is shot on the sidewalk. His killer runs down the block, gets into a SUV and drives away. Detective John Skaggs is assigned the case, and he works to make sure the killer doesn’t go free. More than just the story of a random murder, this book looks at the world of detectives working to solve these crimes and communities that are impacted by the violence.


One of the most recognizable and shocking novels, Nabokov’s "Lolita," was a source of scandal when it was first published in 1955. The novel, full of literary word play and allusions, has as its source the kidnapping of Sally Horner. Through the use of interviews, legal documents and public records, the author uncovers how much influence this case had on Nabokov and the lengths he went to, to hide this while writing and publishing "Lolita."


According to statistics, most of the crime in the United States is committed by a small 10% of the families. Butterfield examines one of these families to see how criminality is passed from one generation to the next. By using a white family, the Bogles, he also works to disentangle ideas about crime from assumptions about race in America.


When Derf Backderf was in high school, he hung out with a group of friends that included Jeffery Dahmer. While the two weren’t close, the tragedy of Dahmer’s life and eventual crimes motivated Backerf to search for answers to why Dahmer chose to kill. This graphic novel paints a picture of a disturbed young man, ignored by his family and unnoticed by school officials as he spirals out of control and rumors begin to swirl around Dahmer and his “activities.” Backderf paints a sympathetic picture of a young man being driven by internal forces he didn’t understand and couldn’t control.


In 1987, several members of the Kunz family were found by relative, dead in their home. Marathon County’s Sherriff’s Department eventually charged a suspect, who was later acquitted. Stephens, a reporter for the Milwaukee Sentinel, revisits the case, describing this strange family and their murder. Using information gathered via a Freedom of Information Act inquiry, Stephens gained access to police and autopsy reports in an attempt to solve the murder once and for all.


Using Long Island as a hunting ground, the Long Island Killer, has remained at large for 20 years. Targeting mostly “working girls” and escorts, the killer hides the remains in burlap sacks and leaves them off Ocean Parkway. Kolke explores the investigation and delves into the secret world of online call girls and escorts, seeking answers and possible suspects.


On a cold morning in January 1947, Mrs. Bersinger discovered the mutilated and dismembered body of Elizabeth Short, while out for a walk with her daughter. The investigation evolved into something like a plot from a noir movie: Corrupt cops, gangsters and reporters hungry for the next break. The mountain of speculation about the name of the killer has kept the murder alive for more than 50 years. Using newly released FBI reports, exclusive interviews and crime scene details culled from the LAPD reports, Eatwell attempts to resolve the case by looking at it with new eyes.


Nobel laureate, Marquez, turns to real life in this book about the kidnappings of journalists by Pablo Escobar and the Medina Cartel. Escobar used the kidnappings as a way to put pressure on the Columbian government to guarantee that he and other narcotics smugglers would not be extradited to the United States. Surrounded by the assassination of elected officials and the police killings, these kidnappings added to the stress of everyday life for people in Columbia.


Nearly everyone remembers Lizzie Borden, as the girl who “…took an axe/and gave her father forty whacks.” But what’s the real story? Starting with her father and step-mother’s murder and following the clues, this book delves not only into Lizzie’s story and her trial, but the much broader story of Gilded Age America.


Austin, Texas is home to a weird and wonderful mix of people, including the United States’ first serial killer. In 1884, the city was terrorized by a murderer that was compared to Jack the Ripper for his brashness and manner in which he killed women. Across Austin, women of every race and class were brutally torn apart by a variety of weapons. At least a dozen men would be accused of the murders and even Scotland Yard believed that Jack had traveled to a new home.


When LaVerne Stordock was found murdered it shook the whole community of Oregon, WI. What was even more shocking was his wife’s quick confession to the crime. It seemed like an open and shut case, except for Stordock’s niece, Dorothy Marcic. Setting out on a two year quest to discover the truth behind her uncle’s murder, Marcic discovered a trail of lies and secrets that even an insanity plea by Stordock’s wife couldn’t hide.


On April 20, 1999, the whole country was shocked by the news that two teens had brought firearms and explosives to school with the sole intent of killing their classmates. Cullen was one of the first reporters to arrive and has spent 10 years sifting through evidence and testimonials in order to uncover the truth about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, their plans and motivations and contrasts these with the resilience of the many survivors.


Known for his noir crime novels, James Ellroy turns to his own life as inspiration for this book. Starting with the murder and rape of his mother, Ellroy recounts how her death and the failed investigation changed his life. From moving in with his father to his obsession with the murder of Elizabeth Short aka the Black Dahlia, his mother’s murder had an undeniable impact on Ellroy’s life.


George and Willie Muse, were young sons of a sharecropping family. In 1899, the boys were kidnapped and forced to perform in a circus. Enacting caricatures of cannibals and other demeaning characters that highlighted the color of their skin, the boys became a worldwide sensation, performing everywhere from Madison Square Garden to Buckingham Palace. Back in Truevine, their mother refused to believe that they were gone and spent the next 28 years looking for her sons. Searching through the records and listening to testimony, Macy attempts to answer whether the boys were better off as circus performers or living the life of a hardworking sharecropper.


In 1978, Ron Stallsworth was the first black cop in Colorado. While looking through the paper, he found an ad, fishing for sympathizers for the KKK. Stallsworth responded with his real name, but posed as a white man. Later, he got a call, asking him if he was interested in joining. Stallsworth recruited his white partner and together they worked to interrupt or sabotage a variety of KKK actions.


Robert and Nattie Coombes told everyone their mother was away, causing their aunt to become suspicious. She forced the boys to let her into the house, where she discovered the decomposed remains of their mother. Both boys were arrested and charged with matricide. Robert confesses to stabbing his mother and his lawyer attempted to get him off on a plea of insanity. Nattie struck a deal and provided testimony that documented Robert’s debilitating headaches, his fascination with violent crimes and his passion for pulp magazines. Robert seemed to feel no remorse for killing his mother and was sentenced to Broadmoor, the most infamous criminal lunatic asylum in Britain. No one could predict that Broadmoor would become the place where Robert starts a new life.


Peking, 1937. The Japanese were circling the city, intent on invading when Pamela Warner’s body was discovered. With the population of Peking already on edge, her murder becomes the topic of discussion and gossip. Is there a madman in their midst? Could it have been a Japanese soldier? Or were the mischievous fox spirits responsible? With a growing list of suspects, but minimal clues, two police officer—one Chinese, the other white—race against time to solve the murder before the Japanese invade and destroy the Peking they know.

Reading Recommendations Books

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