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The "true crime" genre

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. Was looking for David Simon's "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets" today at Borders, and came upon the "true crime" section of the store. I have some cop friends and I'm heading into law, so I found some of the stuff very interesting, though it also felt kind of ... exploitive?

    What's the deal with this genre? Is it journalism? Are they cop reporters-turned-author? Seems sort of trashy but, on the other hand, wildly compelling. Any of it worth a read? I've dabbled in crime fiction before.
  2. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Depending on the crime story, authors can be just as varied as any other genre. I just got finished reading the Leopold-Loeb book, "For The Thrill of It." It's written in a style that's somewhat academic, but also narrative.

    There's no one-size-fits-all. True crime can be written by a journalist, by a historian, by a hack, etc.
  3. Shaggy

    Shaggy Guest

    I read a lot of true crime. I don't see it as trashy at all. I see it as a nonfiction book about an interesting event in history.

    I've read about BTK, Manson, Zodiac and several other high-profile crimes over the years (I'm getting ready to read one on the Tupac and Biggie murders). "Helter Skelter" was written by the Manson prosecutor. "Zodiac" was written by a SF Chronicle cartoonist with an obsession with the case. A lot are written by cops reporters and nonfiction authors in general. The Wichita Eagle book on BTK was outstanding.

    I've never thought of it as anything but interesting.
  4. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    I think you can trace true crime's uber popularity to Ann Rule whose book on Ted Bundy "The Stranger Beside Me', published in the 1980 remains the benchmark. It was a huge best-seller.

    If you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend it. She revised it back in 2000.

    Rule's also the author of a couple of dozen true crime books--she's kinda the Stephen King of the genre
  5. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    I think the best lesson in true crime writing is that, to my taste, the best is nearly transparent, so focused on the narrative unfolding of the event and the reporting that you really don't notice the writing, but the only the unveiling.
  6. I think the "trashy" part came from the packaging - very tabloidy.
  7. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    She just updated it again actually. Just saw the newest issue in the bookstore; her note was from, I think, September 2008. It was interesting because she talks about the letters she receives from women who think they may have been near-victims of Bundy. Some she believes are legitimate, some not.
  8. scottb

    scottb New Member

    having written one, along with a colleague alan cairns, i think for us it was basically an extension of our daily news coverage. the story, following the case of a canadian couple paul bernardo and his wife karla homolka, was compelling and the reporting for the book project bled into the daily coverage and vise versa. was it a work of art? hardly but an interesting project with which to be involved. not sure i'd do another one, though. lots of work even if it was work we would have been doing on a daily basis anyway. it was a project that actually was a catalyst to moving to sports for better or worse.
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