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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

True Crime

With the recent publication of Jennifer Dugan’s Stolen Life, true crime books are in the news again. Dugan, who was kidnapped at the age of 11 and imprisoned for 18 years, has written an account of her experience that is receiving high praise for her refusal to be seen as a victim.

I admit (with a bit of guilt) to have been a true crime aficionado in my past. I have probably read most of Ann Rule’s books, as well as others, such as Joe McGinniss’ Fatal Vision about the murder conviction of Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald.

There are many theories as to why people read true crime. It has been theorized as self-indulgence – the need to know the whole story. (Plato wrote: “the virtuous man is content to dream what the wicked man really does.” Others suggest it teaches moral lessons and still others feel it helps maintain a society’s norms.

Whatever the reasons, here are some lesser-known titles that are considered the best of the genre:

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank by Steve Oney

The Poet and the Murderer by Mark Hofmann

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz

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