Fred Rosen is the author of Lobster Boy and other true-crime books. His next book, The Historical Atlas of American Crime, will be published in 2004.
Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal by Stuart N. Lake (out of print). This 1931 pseudo-biography is the mother of all true-crime books. Earp himself co-authored it, which explains why the famed marshal emerges as the cold-eyed Western lawman of legend, and why his own criminal tendencies are overlooked.
Hollywood Kryptonite by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger (out of print). This biography masquerading as a true-crime book looks into the alleged suicide of George Reeves, best known as the actor who played Superman. The authors conclude that Reeves was murdered. I disagree, but it’s still a great read.
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In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Vintage, $13). This is the best true-crime book ever written, and meets all of Tom Wolfe’s criteria for “new journalism”—detail, dialogue, scene-setting—to produce a provocative and disturbing vision that even the damned have a soul.
My Dark Places by James Ellroy (Vintage, $15). The noir novelist’s descent to the basement of his soul, where he tries to solve the murder of his own mother. I am not a fan of Ellroy’s fiction, but after reading this account of his harrowing quest, I wish he wrote more nonfiction.
Outrage: The Story Behind the Tawana Brawley Hoax by Robert D. McFadden, Ralph Blumenthal, M.A. Farber, E.R. Shipp, Charles Strum, and Craig Wolf (out of print). This is a brilliantly researched and written account of the Tawana Brawley case, in which an African-American teenager claimed she was raped by a group of white men in upstate New York. Her claim was later proven to be a hoax.
Kill Grandma for Me
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