Great research, vivid writing, historical context – the best true crime can give compelling insight into the kind of personalities that commit notorious crimes. In no particular order, here are 10 true-crime books that I particularly admire… Oswald’s Tale by Norman Mailer 1995 Forget the grassy knoll, mafia hitmen, Castro malcontents, CIA plotters – it…
ITV’s Hatton Garden drama has been engrossing. The language is ripe and the cast – including Timothy Spall and Kenneth Cranham – is excellent. The Diamond Wheezers who burgled the underground safe-deposit company in London’s jewellery district in 2015 is a fascinating true-crime story. While pulling off this shocking theft, the veteran lags are also…
Just finished Miles Goslett’s account of the Dr David Kelly affair and it is a disconcerting read. Dr Kelly was the British scientist and weapons expert who was caught up in the controversy over whether Iraq really had missiles that could threaten Britain with mass destruction in 45 minutes. This claim was used to help…
I started watching the Netflix true-crime series, but decided to switch to John Grisham’s book to better absorb these events. The author says in the series that you could not write this story as fiction because no one would believe it.
It’s a really shocking tale of a vicious miscarriage of justice. It involves a rotten police investigation, lamentable courtroom failures and a prosecutor apparently hellbent on enacting his own prejudices.
The town you probably want to avoid in Oklahoma where these events occurred was Ada. The case was the murder of waitress Debra Carter in 1982. Former hometown baseball hero Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz are the two innocents railroaded to jail. Williamson ended up on death row while Fritz got life.
Grisham can’t maintain authorial dispassion while relaying this events, his prose occasionally dripping with sarcasm at the callousness and malignancy of the authorities.
As Fritz states in these pages, ‘When you don’t have any money to defend yourself, you’re at the mercy of the judicial system. Once in the system, it’s almost impossible to get out, even if you’re innocent.’
A powerful book full of villains and wonderful ordinary people fighting for justice. Sadly, Williamson and Fritz lost more than they could ever get back – and the true killer roamed free for years.
Joseph Wambaugh, former LA cop, has had an interesting writing career, spanning fiction and non-fiction. I’ve read several of his books and just finished this true-crime title from 1973. It recounts events from 1963 when two LAPD officers stopped a pair of small-time but dangerous characters. Greg Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith pulled a gun…
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‘The story is told with compassion for the victims and does not cross the line of thrill seeking. The author has quite obviously researched this crime well and taken time to tell this very sad story. The book is well written and a pleasure to read’
***** Breakaway Reviewers
‘A fascinating piece of work… His writing is fluid and engaging, providing page after page of detail, analysis and understanding on this intriguing case’
‘This book is meticulously researched’
‘… achieves what all great non-fiction crime books set out to do: be impeccably researched, highly readable and show sensitivity towards the victims. Highly recommended’
Real Crime Magazine
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Book projects, writing, London history, music, journalism. I'm a freelance writer and editor, and these are a few of my favourite things…
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