Book Recommendations
December 6, 2015 6:58 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy some true crime/legal history books, help me find some new ones!

Mr. Trotsky really enjoys true crime, criminal law in general and unique history books. Past successes include: Courtroom 302, People's History of the United States, and Tulia. He enjoys the compelling facts of some exoneration cases, but I think Courtroom 302 was his favorite because of the exploration of bigger picture, systemic issues.

I'm thinking about getting him the Samantha Power book about the age of genocide and Brian Stevenson's Just Mercy, but would also like to get a third. Suggestions?
posted by emmatrotsky to Education (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
It's old, but Helter Skelter was very well done.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:11 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another old one, but Jeffrey Toobin's The Run of His Life, on the OJ Simpson trial was fascinating. Interesting discussions of jury selection, the emerging role of DNA, and prosecution strategy.
posted by thenormshow at 7:17 PM on December 6, 2015

I recently read and was really impressed by Jill Leovy's Ghettoside.
posted by ferret branca at 7:32 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Innocent Man by John Grisham.

My review.
posted by COD at 7:48 PM on December 6, 2015

The Corpse Had a Familiar Face is getting lots of good reviews. Errol Morris' Wilderness of Error is an interesting meta-analysis of how people perceive evidence and crimes.

You might find good suggestions in this earlier question about trials/cases.. This is Good Reads list of recommended if you liked Courtroom 302.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:49 PM on December 6, 2015

My wife has been reading The Invention of Murder, and is enjoying it greatly. It's about the Victorian-era fascination with murder and what we would now think of as "true crime".
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:51 PM on December 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Low Life, about crime in Manhattan in the 1800s and early 1900s, is pretty entertaining.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:17 PM on December 6, 2015

Redrum the Innocent is about the wrongful conviction and eventual exoneration of Guy Paul Morin.

That Lonely Section of Hell by Lori Shenher deals extensively with the systemic issues that delayed the investigation into the abduction and murder of literally dozens of women by Robert Pickton. Here's my post about it if you want more background on what it's about. Shenher was a journalist before becoming a police officer - as a result, the book is rather well written.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:53 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Story of Jane Doe, story of Jane Doe, who not only represented herself in the trial of her rapist but launched a ground breaking case against the Toronto Police after learning through the trial she was raped by a serial rapist while the police had her on a list of his likely victims.

It's a pretty wild book, known for being shocking as well as funny.... it even includes her own doodles of various people from the trial.
posted by chapps at 11:06 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Iphigenia in Forest Hills by Janet Malcolm
posted by Gin and Broadband at 11:43 PM on December 6, 2015

I recommend Cannibalism and the Common Law: A Victorian Yachting Tragedy by Brian Simpson. It's about the case of Dudley and Stephens, shipwrecked sailors who ate one of the crew, and it's compulsive reading as well as really great as a piece of legal history and social history.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:02 AM on December 7, 2015

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.
posted by mmiddle at 7:35 AM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Now that I see what Tulia is about, I'd recommend Methland by Nick Reding, which is about Olewien, Iowa. From the WaPo review:
Reding tracks the decline -- and, ultimately, the limited resurgence -- of Oelwein, while also examining the larger forces that have contributed to its problems. He links meth to the gathering power of unregulated capitalism beginning in the 1980s. It was then, he argues, that one-time union employees earning good wages and protected by solid benefits, like Roland Jarvis, began to see their earnings cut and their benefits disappear. Undocumented migrants began taking jobs at extraordinarily low wages, thereby depressing the cost of labor. Meth, with its opportunity for quick profit and its power to make the most abject and despondent person feel suddenly alive and vibrant, found fertile ground. Meanwhile, in Washington, pharmaceutical lobbyists were working hard to keep DEA agents from attempting to limit access to the raw ingredients; ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, meth's core precursors, were simply too vital to the lucrative allergy-remedy market. Though he avoids making the argument in such stark terms, Reding positions the meth epidemic as the triumph of profits over the safety and prosperity of America's small-town inhabitants.
Interview with the author here, which is how I came to end up reading the book.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:43 AM on December 7, 2015

I found Newjack an excellent complement to Courtroom 302. Ted Conover, the author, wanted to write about prisons but couldn't get access. So he worked at Sing Sing for a year and wrote about his experience and the prisoners and guards he met, along with a bit about the sociology and history of prison and imprisonment. (Other people liked it too; it won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction in 2000.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2015

1L for legal and In Cold Blood are the old-school genre classics here.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:42 PM on December 7, 2015

The Medical Detective* and The Inheritor's Powder, both by Sandra Hempel.

The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath and The Curious Habits of Dr Adams, both by Jane Robins.

Damn His Blood by Peter Moore.

* This one falls under "unique history" rather than "true crime".

Recently recommended all these in AskMe, so apologies if you've already seen my previous comments!
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 1:25 PM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

All of these are superbly entertaining and illuminating:

Hellhound on His Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History. The story of MLK's assassin, told in the style of a thriller. Excellent material on late-MLK's values and associates, too.

A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination. A history of the Warren Commission, told to a large extent from the perspective of Arlen Spector (I think), who was a member of the Commission's staff, and including Pulitzer-Prize winning research based on recently declassified documents.

Enemies: A History of the FBI.
posted by Coventry at 1:29 PM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

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