Please recommen true crime books in the style of Ann Rule
October 12, 2004 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend some true crime books. I've read through most of Ann Rule's stuff, In Cold Blood, Under the Banner of Heaven. What other writers would I like?
posted by dydecker to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i enjoyed the black dahlia avenger (depsite its tawdry name). he makes a plausible case, tosses around some lurid details without getting too over-the-top. mailer's executioner's song is a classic, although (like gideon's trumpet) it's more about the case afterwards than about the crime.

oh, and i remember thinking sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra was good, but i don't remember much about it.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:09 AM on October 12, 2004

-- James Ellroy's My Dark Places.
-- Mind Hunter and other books by John Douglas (not really well written but fasinating nonetheless)
-- Peter Matthiessen's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse
-- David Thibodeau's A Place Called Waco
-- Education of a Felon and The Animal Factory by Edward Bunker (crime/prison books--not really "true crime", though both true and crime)
-- Jimmy Lerner's You Got Nothing Coming: Notes From a Prison Fish (prison memoir)
-- A book called "The Stopwatch Gang", which I can't seem to find a listing for
-- Robin Moore's two French Connection books
-- Snowblind: A Brief Career in the Cocaine Trade by Robert Sabbag
-- Mr. Nice: An Autobiography by Howard Marks.

And I'll second the Mailer book.

Note: of the books you listed, I've only read In Cold Blood.
posted by dobbs at 9:18 AM on October 12, 2004

I second all of the above except Sleepers.


Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore

Mailer's Oswald Ghost

David Simon's Homicide

Hand-carved Coffins by Truman Capote. it's inside Music for the Chameleons
posted by matteo at 9:24 AM on October 12, 2004

Mailer's book is "Oswald's Tale". sorry, my bad.
posted by matteo at 9:26 AM on October 12, 2004

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith was an interesting look at the Zodiac killer in the 1970's. He followed it up with Zodiac Unmasked in 2003.

I'll also second Homicide.
posted by karmaville at 9:56 AM on October 12, 2004

Serpentine by Thomas Thompson
posted by joaquim at 9:59 AM on October 12, 2004

Underboss by Peter Maas, Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, and Black Mass by Dick Lehr. But these don't focus on a single event, rather tracking the lives of their subjects over time. I really digged them when I was on my True Crime binge.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:20 AM on October 12, 2004

Noting that the word "good " does not appear between some and true:

Bugliosi's "And the Sea Will Tell" is a prime example of how to (probably) get away with murder. "Helter Skelter" is another.

Say You Love Satan by David St Clair is a fairly bizzare true crime story.
posted by m@ at 10:31 AM on October 12, 2004

dobbs beat me to Ellroy and Douglas and robocop beat me to Black Mass (consider them all seconded). And I can't think of the name of the book by a WSJ reporter about a doctor who moved from the US to Africa to continue murdering people in peace. If I can find it at home tonight, I'll repost.
posted by yerfatma at 10:33 AM on October 12, 2004

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is quite wonderful. It's the story of (among other things) America's first famous serial killer.
posted by grumblebee at 10:34 AM on October 12, 2004

Woo! Another true-crime fan signing in here. Ann Rule is the best, as you know, but another good TC author is Jack Olsen, who recently died. "Cold Kill" is my favorite by him.

Joe McGinniss stirred controversy with "Fatal Vision", about an army doctor who murdered his wife and two daughters. But "Blind Faith" and "Cruel Doubt" are also excellent. "Blind Faith" is about a man who had his wife murdered, and has a weird modern coda: In the making of the movie, actress Tracey Gold met one of the man and murdered woman's sons, Roby Marshall, and they are now married and have 3 kids.

And if you find the case in McGinniss's "Cruel Doubt" interesting, you can read another take on it, Jerry Bledsoe's "Blood Games." The case, of a college student who wanted his family inheritance and convinced two friends to kill his mom and stepdad (his mom survived), was made into a TV movie with Gwyneth Paltrow as the sister.

I could go on and on, but I'll just throw out a couple more. Don't miss "Until the Twelfth of Never" by Bella Stumbo about the Betty Broderick case. My absolute favorite true-crime book ever, so well done.

Carlton Stowers is another TC author whose works I try not to miss. All his books are good, but "Sins of the Son" is the most personal -- Stowers own son killed his ex-wife, and the book is the story of Stowers trying to deal with it.
posted by GaelFC at 10:37 AM on October 12, 2004 [1 favorite]

I love true crime, but I guess I'm in the minority since I don't much like Ann Rule, so take my suggestions with that in mind. Since almost everything I'd have recommended has already been mentioned, I'll say that The Search for the Green River Killer by Carlton Smith is a very interesting read, especially now that it's been updated. Also Senatorial Privilege by Leo Damore.

I'll also recommend Serial Killers by Joel Norris as an interesting overview. And A Criminal History of Mankind by Colin Wilson, which is fascinating.

Among others, I'll second Mindhunter, Zodiac and Helter Skelter, which was the first true crime book I read. And the Mikal Gilmore book is just heartbreaking.
posted by biscotti at 11:05 AM on October 12, 2004

I'll fall right in line and also recommend The Search for the Green River Killer and Zodiac. Almost forgot In the Belly of the Beast, by Jack Henry Abbott, one of my all time favorites. Not true crime per se, but letters from prison.
posted by anathema at 2:07 PM on October 12, 2004

On the strength of Abbott's book, Norman Mailer was able to secure Abbott's parole. If I remember correctly, it was only a matter of days after his release that he killed again.
posted by anathema at 2:12 PM on October 12, 2004

Our Guys by Bernard Lefkowitz was one of the best books I read last year. It is a factual account of the rape of a retarded girl (with a baseball bat) by a group of middle-class, white, suburban high school athletes. What makes this book an incredible page-turner is the recounting of the boys' "antics" prior to the rape. These football players got away with unbelievable stuff (like masturbating in class behind the teacher's back) but they were always forgiven because they were the football stars.

Also, Murder in America by Ronald M. Holmes is one of the best books I've read in the last 10 years. Part true crime, part sociological study.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:49 PM on October 12, 2004

Bones by Douglas Ubelaker and Henry Scammell, and Mortal Remains by Henry Scammell.
Also, Stiff: The curious lives of human cadavers by Mary Roach. Not true crime but really good.
posted by oflinkey at 6:52 PM on October 12, 2004

Before this slips off the front page--thank you all for your suggestions!
posted by dydecker at 8:49 PM on October 12, 2004

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