A friend’s birthday is coming up and he’s big into true crime books. I’m not a fan myself, so I’m not sure what are the good ones out there. I remember the last one he read the he really liked was Ice Man: Confessions of a Contract Killer. He likes the mafia, but I know he prefers more modern stories, so nothing about gangsters of 20’s or anything like that.
You can’t go wrong with Ann Rule, especially The Stranger Beside Me (she knew Ted Bundy), and Small Sacrifices, the story of Diane Downs, the woman who shot her children because her boyfriend didn’t want kids.
If your friend appreciates good writing as much as the crime aspect, I’d recommend In Cold Blood, The Executioner’s Song, Helter Skelter and the one about that serial rapist in Spokane whose mother put a hit out on a judge, but I can’t remember the name of the criminal or the author. I think the title had “Son” in the title.
I like the books by John Douglas & Robert Ressler. They are FBI profilers and write about their encounters with various serial killers. I also read a really fascinating book about people who clean up crime scenes after the police are done, Aftermath, Inc.
The Body Farm books by Bill Bass & Jon Jefferson are pretty cool too. (They also have a series of fiction stories, based on their real life cases, under the pseudonym Jefferson Bass.)
Underboss by Sam Gravano and Wiseguys by Henry Hill are both good mafia books and relatively modern.
If he enjoys great prose too, then get Capote’s In Cold Blood. It’s the most well-written one I’ve read.
I prefer “white collar” true crime, so Kurt Eichenwald’s books are top of my recommendations. The Informant and Conspiracy of Fools are excellent. The former is much better than the movie that was made from it.
Rites of Burial about serial killer Robert Berdella.
Berdella kept a written journal and took photographs of the acts he performed on his victims.
The Misbegotten Son by Jack Olsen about serial killer Arthur Shawcross,and Doc about serial rapist Dr. John Story, also by Olsen.
Perfect Victim: The True Story of “The Girl in the Box”
The Last Victim by Jason Moss is a different slant on the usual dry, arid account of serial killer histories. As a college student he became a pen pal of John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez and Jeffrey Dahmer.
I just finished John Douglas’s The Cases That Haunt Us and enjoyed it. I was particularly taken with how much of my memory of the JonBenet Ramsey case was shaped by total BS media coverage.
Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore is a great read. Rolling Stone writer Gilmore is the brother of murderer Gary Gilmore who, in 1977, was the first person executed in the US for many years. The start of the book is enough to make you read it:
I have a story to tell. It is a story of murder told from inside the house where murder is born. It is the house where I grew up, a house that, in some ways, I have never been able to leave.
Definitely seconding Ann Rule, John Douglas and Robert Ressler.
While most people know that Rule knew Bundy, it’s less common knowledge that Ressler grew up in the same neighborhood as everyone’s favorite real-life killer clown, John Wayne Gacy. When Ressler went to interview him, Gacy told him “Yes, we grew up in the same neighborhood,” and Ressler thought he was bullshiting him. Gacy them said he remembered delivering groceries to Gacy’s house and described some unusual flowerpots his mother had on the front porch, the local roller skating rink, and the church where the boy scout meetings were held.
I neglected to mention earlier A Gathering of Saints by Robert Lindsey, the first true crime I ever read* and still one of my favorites.
- Well, I heard it on Radio Reader back in the late '80s. I was rivted and so so happy that I had a boom box with a timer record function.
Someone who is big into true crime reading should be very familiar with Ann Rule already.
For a gift, you’re safer with something brand new - or maybe a classic he missed out on the first go-around, something like “The Boston Strangler” by Gerald Frank.
Newcomers just getting into the genre would appreciate most anything by Ann Rule or Jack Olsen (the latter’s “Doc” is a terrific study of authority figure betrayal and religious tensions in a small town).
i just finished Freed to Kill by Gera-Lind Kolarik. it’s fabulous. couldn’t put it down.
Anything by Joseph Wambaugh, my personal favorites are “Lines and Shadows” and “Echoes In The Darkness” although there seems to be some controversy about the accuracy of whether or not Jay C. Smith was actually guilty of the murders. I also recommend “Little Lost Angel”; “The Dungeon Master”; “Please Don’t Kill Me”; “Serpentine”; “Til Death Us Do Part” and “Night Stalker” If your friend is interested in espionage then “Family Of Spies” is interesting. Don’t forget “Careless Whispers” or “The Onion Field” either,
2nd The Onion Field.
My suggestion, Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, about the Manson family.
Books about Jeffrey Dahmer would be good. He was trying to turn some of his victims into zombies to keep them around forever.
Much like this thread.