This post is dedicated to the people who write noir fiction in all it's gloriously hideous forms, because they certainly have made my world a little stranger and a little darker because of it. Thanks.
My mind wanders a lot. Usually when I'm bored, and especially if I"m bored AND at work.
So the other day my mind was wandering, as its apt to do at work, when I came up with the brilliant idea of writing a blog post. Problem was, I didn't have clue on what to write.
Enter Elaine Ash's blog. The other day, she made a post about the Museum of Death located in Hollywood. That post led me to make a rather strange comment about myself, which in turn led in a roundabout way, to the general topic of this post: Books, specialized topic: Genres, sub-topic: True Crime.
Note: the comment was about perusing old coroner reports while working off site at the library.
One of the genres that I got hooked into at an early age was true crime. I believe the first thing I read was "Helter Skelter" (didn't everyone read that when they were young?). I think was intrigued me the most, was the censored crime scene photos, because it was the first book that I could recall that had those kinds of photos.
In any event, I was hooked. I read what I could, when I could. As I got older, my tastes got a little more mundane. I never really got into the sensationalized true crime stuff, but preferred to keep with the seldom known and the historical.
In that vein, here is a sample of what I have in my bookcase from that time period of my life (1970's to about 1995):
True Crime Series by Time Life Books (defunct); How to try a murder by Michael Korland; The Encyclopedia of Modern Murder by Colin Wilson & Donald Seamans; New York Notorious by Paul Schwartzman & R. Polmer and Death in the Priory by James Rudchuck.
As you can see, most of this is PG-13 at best, and I have no problem in actually letting my 16 year old son read this. However, the stuff that I bought in the last five years, is something I keep tucked away in my room, because quite frankly, the stuff would give him nightmares.
I also haven't, until now, told anybody about them, simply because I don't want people to get the wrong impression about me. So, like I do with my music, I'll do with my books. I'll give you a brief description about them, tell you why I bought them and any other tidbits I can dig up about them.
1} Scene of the Crime: Photographs from the LAPD Archive by James Ellroy. This one I found while I was perusing Border's one day, trying to decide on how to spend some lottery winnings. This one is pretty decent. It has a nice intro by Michael Bratton, a nice essay by James Ellroy and a slew (no pun intended) of crime scene photos. All are captionless, but there is a fine epilogue and a lengthy detailed case description for the crime scenes. Published in 2004.
2} Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective's Scrapbook text by Katherine Dunn. Some of you may have seen a glimpse of this through a link from David Cranmer's excellent blog, The Education of a Pulp Writer. I found this one, again wandering through Border's. This is put out by Feral House Publishers, and if you go to their website, you can purchase an autographed copy for about $150. They specialize in this type of graphic stuff (one particular title covers the Mexican gore tabloids. You actually have to sign an age consent form in order to buy it). Anyways, this is definitely one of the more creepier ones out there. An excellent research aid covering California crime in the early 20th century. Not for the faint of heart. Published 1996
3} Killers by George Grant. Once again, found it going through Border's (see a pattern here?). I was always fascinated by serial killers, and this book covers over 200 of the most notorious gangsters, serial killers and murderers on both sides of the ocean. Pretty tame stuff, as the photos are PG-13 as well as the captions. Published 2006.
4} Texas Death Row by Bill Crawford. This I found in the aforementioned place. I got this one, simply because I'm pro-death penalty. It covers every single execution in Texas from 1977-2007, in chronological order. It's somewhat dry reading, as it's presented as an effective analytical research tool. Basically, a typical entry reads like this: name of prisoner, crime he/she was convicted of, how long they spent on death row, any last statement, and any last meal. Published 2008.
5} Shots In The Dark by Gail Buckland and Harold Evans. See previous titles as how I found. This one like the others, appealed to me simply because it was about crime scene photography. This book gives a very good overview of the history of crime scene photography, with a heavy focus on New York. The book is very balanced throughout and is broken down in chapters such as: Looking Crime Squarely in the Disturbing Eye; Crime Scenes; Killers and Sensational Cases, just to name a few. Published 2001.
I enjoy reading most genres, but true crime has always been my favorite to read. Haven't read much of it lately, since most of it nowadays is stuff that has been squeezed drier that a rock.
That said, I do hope that this small glimpse into what I like to read, doesn't change your opinion about me.