Murder Stories

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I’ve been thinking a lot about why brutal crime stories are so compelling. Why are there so many excellently written and absolutely gripping murder stories? If you believe, as Harold Bloom does, that Shakespeare is the greatest writer of the Western Canon, you have to consider how many of his greatest, or really the greatest, plays involve atrocity.

It’s not just that these stories are popular, it’s that so many of them are truly great. If you believe, as Harold Bloom does, that Shakespeare is the greatest writer of the Western Canon, you have to consider how many of his greatest, or really the greatest, plays involve atrocity.

Some say Edgar Allen Poe was the first detective fiction writer. I’ve read their arguments and I’m innclined to agree. You also have Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood as a towering example of immersion journalism in the genre.

Silence of the Lambs took home seven oscars in 1992. Before that, there was Hitchcock’s auteur work. One of my favorite living directors, David Fincher, did Seven and Zodiac.

Television has been offering crime drama for as long as its been around. Love it or hate it, Law & Order is still going strong after something like 180,000 episodes. The first season of True Detective is, to my tastes, an absolute masterpiece. Netflix’s recently released Mindhunter  (produced by David Fincher and others) is decent as well, showing new media is a fertile ground for murder tales.

I haven’t explored crime novels much since high school, but since I like reading more than watching TV, I asked some friends online what their favorite crime/murder books  were. I got a lot of response I’ve posted the list below. The only one I’ve already read is Capote’s.

I’m going to work my way through most of it this year and will likely keep writing on this blog about this subject over the next few months. I figure this will be a nice compliment to the horror podcast I do, Scary Thoughts.
American Pain by John Temple

Lost Girls by Robert Kolker

The Onion Field by Joseph Wambaugh

In My Father’s Name by Mark Arax

The Innocent Man by John Grisham

The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen

Perfect Murder, Perfect Town by Lawrence Schiller

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell

Black Dahlia Avenger by Steve Hodel

Who Killed These Girls by Beverly Lowry

In His Garden by Leo Damore

The Dracula Killer by Lt. Ray Biondi

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Killer with a Badge by Charles Hustmyre

Practical Homicide Investigation by Vernon J. Gerbeth

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