Awwwright. Time for another dose of True-ish crime and mystery for to tickle your incurable curiosity. You know the old Dick Wolf 'ripped from the headlines' phrase - used to describe how Law & Order got its story-lines? Well, they ain't the only ones liberally borrowing from the faction in the papers, nets and tabloid news. Probably all your favorite mystery and crime writers do it - historical, contemporary, personal - accurate, composite, mythologized and bastardized - there's no greater muse than the world outside your door.
In previous True Crime Ransom Notes posts, I've mentioned In the Wake of the Butcher by James Badal - about the mad butcher of Kingsbury Run who terrorized Cleveland in the 1930s (and tormented Eliot Ness the rest of his life - hey, I think Craig McDonald's got a novel 'bout the butcher coming soon!) - and if the butcher's wicked-spiritual-step-father spent his nights in Whitechapel, then his demon seed spent the occupation in Paris. I dunno how I missed the hardcover of this one, but David King's Death in the City of Light is now available in paperback and it's one of the best historical serial killer stories you're likely to ever hear. I mean, you got Nazis in Paris, bits in the river, murky motives, the unlikeliest suspect and a circus of a trial - what's not to like? (For more True-Parisian-oddities check out Rat Man of Paris by Paul West).
What it doesn't have? Super hot, pill-popping, celebrity, sex-symbol found Beautiful, Naked and Dead at the height of her fame. But what's got that? The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker. This one's fiction, but a good time for insistent conspiracy types. The mystery shrouding Marilyn Monroe's final days and fateful affiliations envelop a coroner and won't let him go. You either. More on the celebrity front? Certainly. How 'bout Cemetery John by Robert Zorn? New evidence and perspective on the Lindbergh kidnapping discrediting the theory of the lone perpetrator and re-opening the 'Crime of the Century.' But for another, less sensational - no celebrities - stripped down and chilling true account of the kidnapping and murder of a Missouri boy named Bobby Greenlease, may I humbly suggest Zero at the Bone by John Heidenry - it will give you nightmares.
So, we've covered the sensationally bloody and sexy-celebrity angles, what about investigating the secrets of small rural community? Get you a copy of Growing Up Dead in Texas by Stephen Graham Jones who revisits the farming community of his West Texas childhood for a sorta-memoir novel about the year the town's entire cotton harvest was burned. Credit/blame was never publicly assigned for the crime that divided and defined the community for decades. As an adult - semi-fictional Jones goes back to ask the questions that have bothered him for the last twenty-five years and finds out much more than he set out to. (This one's got me uh, jonsing for The Maid's Version - the next, I hope, novel from a certain Ozark scribe I dig - about the explosion that literally rocked his family's community in the early years of the 20th century. Everybody had a story about the crime and tensions ran - and run - high. This won't be a well-rounded view of the events surrounding the arson, it will only be The Maid's Version.)
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