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