august 1942

Two British warriors that didn’t see combat - the A38 Valiant (left) and the A33 Excelsior (right).

The A38 was possibly the worst tank the Brits ever conceived during the war. By the end of its development, the War Board deemed it to an abject failure in all categories. The A38 was supposed to meet the specification for a lightweight but heavily armored tank for use in the war in the Far East, but it proved to be an ergonomic failure. The sole A38 produced was retained by the School of Tank Technology, where students were treated to an inspection of it at the end of their course and invited to find fault. David Fletcher wrote of this: “One hopes they started early in the morning.”

The A33 was produced after the disastrous Dieppe Raid in August 1942. Looking back on the operation, there was concern that the Churchill infantry tank was slow and too unreliable and it was suggested that production of the Churchill stop in 1943 in order to manufacture more of the A27 Cromwell design which was performing well in trials. However the kinks in the Churchill were worked out before more than two experimental variants of the A33 were produced and the project was dropped.

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February 2nd 1943: Battle of Stalingrad ends

On this day in 19423 during the Second World War, German troops surrendered to the Soviet Red Army in Stalingrad, thus ending five months of fighting. The battle began in August 1942 during the Nazi invasion of Russia - codenamed Operation Barbarossa - and Adolf Hitler ordered an attack on the major city of Stalingrad. Stalingrad became a major playing field of the war, as Soviet leader Stalin was determined to save the city which bore his name. Under the leadership of General Paulus, German bombing destroyed much of the city and troops captured areas through hand-to-hand urban warfare. In November, Marshal Zhukov assembled six Russian armies to surround Stalingrad and trap the Germans in the city, barring provisions and troops from reaching them. Many German soldiers died of starvation and frostbite following the onset of the harsh Russian winter, with temperatures down to -30°C, but Hitler insisted they fight until the last man. After five months, the Russian Red Army claimed victory when the remaining German troops surrendered in February 1943. 91,000 Germans were taken prisoner, including twenty-two generals; this was all that remained of the 330,000 strong German force who arrived at Stalingrad. The Battle of Stalingrad is among the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, causing nearly two million casualties. The disaster depleted the German army’s supply of men and equipment, allowing the Allies to gain the advantage, which enabled them to invade Germany and win the war.

“The God of war has gone over to the other side”
- Adolf Hitler upon hearing of the German surrender at Stalingrad

4

Built in 1910 in Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom, Severalls Hospital was a psychiatric hospital which housed 2000 plus patients. The patients, who were separated by gender, were guinea pigs for new experiments. A number of female patients were sectioned here for bearing illegitimate children or even because they had been raped. Some of the treatments that took place at Severalls Hospital was lobotomies and ECT. Eventually, the hospital moved with the times and social acceptance and eventually got rid of these barbaric forms of treatment and introduced art and music therapy programs, along with medication and drugs. In August 1942, the hospital was bombed by the Luftwaffe, killing 38 patients. Severalls Hospital was eventually closed in 2013.

In-depth: the Lanchester & Sten

After the British Expeditionary Force’s retreat from Dunkirk in June 1940, Germany was expected to attempt a full-scale invasion of Britain. In order to accomplish this, they would need to eliminate the Royal Air Force, and as such, the RAF’s airfields were at serious risk. The RAF wanted a Schmeisser-type submachine gun issued to their personnel in the event of an attack from German paratroopers. The Navy had already ordered 2000 Smith & Wesson 9mm carbines and the Army, who by now had realized that they had vastly underestimated the military effectiveness of the submachine gun, began buying Thompsons from the United States.


The Biwarip machine carbine, an early precursor to the Sten made in 1938 and tested by the Small Arms Committee. Remarkably modern for its time.


The RAF initially examined captured MP-38s and ordered 10,000 British-made copies, but there were complications that resulted not only in the weapons being changed from copies of the MP-38 to the MP-28, but also the order being increased to 50,000 to satisfy the Navy as well, who had been forced to abandon the S&W carbines due to serious malfunctions. Sterling Armaments Co. was contracted to produce the initial prototypes of the MP-28 copy. The resultant weapon was finished, in the form of two pilot guns, in late 1940 and demonstrated on the 8th of November. The pilot guns were designed by George Lanchester and thus were named after him.


Lanchester Pilot Gun 3. For whatever reason, this model appears to have no rear sights. It was tested in November 1940.


Lanchester Pilot Gun 4. This is the model used for endurance trials and was essentially the finished product. Tested on the 28th of November 1940.


The Lanchester pilot guns were tested again on the 13th of November 1940 and were tested with a variety of 9x19mm catridges, including Winchester flat-nose, ICI, Bergmann, Beretta, and German military issue. The first pilot gun failed to discharge the Winchester and ICI ammunition, but the second did not run into any major issues and was considered on-par with the German MP-38.

On November 28th, further trials of the Lanchester pilot guns took place in the presence of both George Lanchester and Major Reginald V. Shepherd of the Design Department at RSAF Enfield. The Lanchester was now in its fourth pilot gun form and fired 5204 rounds with 26 stoppages. It passed all the mandatory tests but did not function when loaded with Beretta-made ammunition. Otherwise it was considered good to go and production rights were handed over to the Royal Navy for immediate manufacture as the Lanchester Mk.I. This weapon was issued to the Air Force and Navy until 1941, when it was simplified as the Mk.I*, which had no fire selector and fixed iron sights.


The Lanchester Mk.I. Known as the “British Schmeisser”. It was heavy, sturdy, and solidly built - typical of Naval manufacture.


The Lanchester Mk.I*. Fully-automatic only with fixed iron sights. Many Mk.I*s were simply modified Mk.Is, but were not marked as such.


The Lanchester was good but production costs were too high to equip the army. Something cheaper and quicker to manufacture was sought. In January 1941, an extremely simplified model was designed by George Lanchester and demonstrated at Enfield on the 10th of January 1941, and at Hythe on the 21st. The prototype was essentially a Lanchester stripped down to the bare minimum. It consisted of a simple tubular body made from steel and grips made from Tufnel. It was supposed to have a folding buttstock but for whatever reason this was never fitted. The only real change to the base design was the inclusion of a fire selector just in front of the trigger grouping. Otherwise it was internally the same as the Lanchester Mk.I.

A second simplified prototype was also conceived by George Lanchester and differed in that the cocking slot was now on the left side of the gun and had a much lighter bolt which was about an inch shorter than the original. The grips were redesigned to be more ergonomic, and a simple single-strut stock was fitted to the rear of the pistol grip.


The first simplified Lanchester prototype. Essentially the forerunner to the Sten. The cocking slot has a safety recess.


The second simplified Lanchester prototype. This version had left-hand cocking and a three-position fire selector.


Both simplified prototypes of the Lanchester were tested but rejected. But from this concept, the Sten was born. It was developed in early 1941 by Major Shepherd and Harold J. Turpin, who worked at the Design Department at Enfield. Thus the weapon was christened the STEN (Shepherd, Turpin, ENfield). The design was an incredibly simple blowback system based on the Lanchester with a fixed firing pin and simple cylindrical bolt. The first version of the Sten, the Mk.I, had wooden furniture, a conical flash hider, and a hinged fore grip, a feature not seen on any of the subsequent models. The Mk.I was cheaper than the Lanchester but still too expensive; it was simplified further as the Mk.I* in late 1941. The Mk.I* ditched the wooden embellishments, the flash hider and the fore grip feature. Throughout 1941, over 100,000 Mk.I and Mk.I* Stens were produced and issued to the army.


The Sten Mk.I. The original model of the Sten, with features such as a folding fore grip and a flash hider that were not seen in later models.


The Sten Mk.I*. The first of many steps to simplifying an already very basic gun. Although production was somewhat brief, thousands were made.


In mid-1941, the Mk.II Sten was designed. It was a bare-bones version of a gun which was already very basic. The main difference between the Mk.I and the Mk.II Stens was that the Mk.II had a new barrel that could not be interchanged with the original Mk.I barrel. The Mk.II barrel had only two grooves whereas the Mk.I had six. Externally, the Mk.II was incredibly minimalist. There were two main versions of the Mk.II produced: one with a wireframe stock and one with a single-strut stock. Neither were particularly pleasant to shoot, owing to the poor ergonomics. The upshot of all this was that the Mk.II Sten was incredibly cheap to produce en masse for the army and, as an added bonus, proved very easy for anti-Nazi partisans to copy in workshops.

The Mk.II Sten was tested at Pendine on from the 7th to the 25th of August 1941 and a glaring fault was discovered. The magazines were made from stamped sheet metal, which meant that the feed lips were prone to failure. If the magazine feed lips were misaligned even slightly with the magazine well, the gun would jam. The magazines were also highly susceptible to dirt and sand. All of this basically meant that the Mk.II Sten was highly unreliable if not handled with care, and even then it was probably inevitable that it would fail at some point during the heat of battle. But the army was faced with a choice between a mass of unreliable Mk.IIs, or a handful of Thompsons, Lanchesters and Mk.I Stens. They opted for the former.


The Sten Mk.II. The most successful version of the Sten, with several millions being manufactured during the war and used by various countries.


The Sten Mk.II with bayonet and single-strut stock.


Prototype T42 submachine gun, based on the Sten Mk.II. It had a single-column magazine and a redesigned trigger group.



Sten Mk.II with SMLE stock. This was made as an experimental model only and never issued.


Sten Mk.II with wireframe pistol grip, designed for paratroopers.


Copy of the Sten Mk.II made in a workshop by Danish partisans.


The Mk.II Sten was by far the most successful model of the Sten gun, with over 2,000,000 being produced throughout World War II. It was first issued to British and Canadian troops during the raid on Dieppe on the 19th of August 1942 and continued to be issued until 1945. It was also issued in considerable numbers to the Free French Forces, including the French Resistance.

In 1943, the toy manufacturer Line Brothers Ltd. were contracted to produce the Mk.III Sten, which was made from a single, riveted sheet metal tube that was welded at the top. The ejection also had an extra safety precaution that consisted of a simple finger guard. The barrel was fixed inside the tubular body, which could not be disassembled. In Canada, the Mk.III was manufactured by Long Branch Arsenal.


The Sten Mk.III. Manufactured by Line Bros. Yet another simplification to lower the cost of manufacture.


On the other hand, this prototype Mk.III with a wooden SMLE-style stock would have been substantially more expensive to manufacture.


An experimental Mk.III made at Enfield. The trigger grouping is level with the ejection and the cocking handle is on top.


The Mk.IV was the only one of the Sten “marks” not to be issued to the army. In fact, it never evolved past the prototype stage. It was designed in 1943 with paratroopers in mind, with a shorter barrel and folding stock. The first version of the Mk.IV had a conical flash hider and a very unusual pistol grip and trigger guard arrangement that was designed to facilitate for thick winter gloves. It was a mere 27 inches in length. After it was trialed at Pendine at rejected for improvements, a second version known as the Mk.IVB was developed which was designed to be fired with one hand. To achieve this, the balance of the weapon was changed by moving the trigger grouping forward to the middle of the gun. The trigger mechanism had to be completely redesigned to allow this. It was 24 inches in length but uncomfortable to fire. Besides its flaws, there was no immediate requirement for the Mk.IV model so it was never developed any further.


The Sten Mk.IV. Produced as a prototype only. It was designed for paratroopers and soldiers operating in cold weather conditions.


The Sten Mk.IVB. Designed to be fired one-handed. The shortest version of the Sten by far, it was more a machine pistol than a submachine gun.


The Sten Mk.IVS. A silenced prototype of which only one was ever made.


In 1944, the Mk.V Sten appeared. It was a much more presentable weapon and a far cry from the crude Mk.II  The Mk.V featured a wooden butt, pistol grip and fore grip. The fore grip was ditched in later models. The front sights were also redesigned and lifted from the No.4 SMLE service rifle. Internally, the bolt was improved with a cutaway that cleared the trigger disconnector when the bolt came over the sear. The resultant weapon was of excellent quality and made to a much higher standard than its precursors. Unfortunately, cheaply-made magazine were still being issued and consequently the Mk.V was still just as liable to failure as the earlier models, although this was not the fault of the gun itself.

The Mk.V Sten was issued extensively to paratroopers after D-Day and saw considerable use during Operation Market Garden in Arnhem, and issue of the Mk.V continued until the war in Europe ended in May 1945.


An early model Mk.V. This version had a fore grip which was not seen on later models. The stock could be detached for paratroopers.


The Sten Mk.V. The most polished version of the Sten manufactured during the war. It was much more reliable than the Mk.II and was issued in 1944.


Many variations of silenced Sten guns were also developed. British interest in silenced weapons began in 1940 when British Commandos demanded a quiet gun for eliminating lone sentries during covert raids. Initially they were issued silenced Thompsons made by RSAF Enfield, but these were too heavy and expensive to deploy in any numbers. When the Sten Mk.II appeared, Enfield developed a suppressed model called the Mk.IIS. It was designed by a Polish exile who was now serving with the Special Operations Executive, Lt. Kulikowski. The suppressor consisted of a series of metal cups wrapped around and in front of the barrel, with a rubber plug at the end. When the weapon was fired, the gases seeped out the sidewall of the barrel and their energy dissipated. The bullet traveled through the metal cups and penetrated the plug, which prevented the gases from escaping. These metal cups were encased in a perforated jacket which was surrounded by an additional jacket.


Prototype Mk.IIS. The silencer contained 24 baffles. With so much weight at the front end and so little in the stock, it would have been awkward to handle.


The Sten Mk.IIS. The most successful silenced weapon of World War II.


The Mk.IIS was issued to Commandos, the SOE, and other British special forces units, as well as resistance fighters across Europe. It was designed to be fired in single shots. Reportedly, the sound of the bolt was louder than the gunshot itself. The main drawback of the Mk.IIS was that it had an effective range of only 100 meters.


Sten Mk.II with an SOE-made silencer and basic wooden stock, issued to special agents in France.


The Sten Mk.VI. Basically the Mk.IIS principle applied to the Sten Mk.V. It replaced the Mk.IIS late in the war.


Late in the war, the Mk.V Sten was successfully silenced using a similar principle and this model was called the Mk.VI. It did not see as much use as the Mk.IIS but was probably, all factors considered, the best silenced weapon of the war. It was succeeded by the Sterling L34A1 silent submachine gun.

Messerschmitt Bf.109F-4/trop (W.Nr 10074) Gelbe 5 of 6 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 27, piloted by Leutnant Gerhard Mix, Western Desert, Egypt. 14 August 1942

It had made a forced landing in the rear of the Australian lines near El Alamein and was loaded on to a transport to be taken to RAF workshops to be examined by experts.
Other German planes had tried to destroy it after it had landed, in order to prevent disclosing any secret technical developments.
Lt. Gerhard Mix was uninjured and taken POW.

This Bf.109 is camouflaged in RLM 78/79 with atypically undefined colour demarcation line in the middle of the fuselage (but slightly lower than per standard).
Markings include white spinner and collar, white fuselage band and wing tips, and yellow lower cowling.
Number ‘5’ and the horizontal bar are yellow outlined in black.
The squadrons emblem of the 'Berlin Bear’ is painted on either side of the cowling.

(Photo source -Australian War Memorial)

(Colourised by Richard James Molloy from the UK)

2

The Ghost Blimp

The L class blimps were used as training airships by the United States Navy during WWII. Lt. Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams were manning their L-8 Blimp when they disappeared on 16 August, 1942. The blimp was seen by a number of different ships and airplanes before it crashed to earth on a street in Daly City, near San Francisco. When the wreckage was searched, the two men were nowhere to be found. The case still remains shrouded in mystery, with many opting to believe they had been abducted by aliens.

“Ordnancemen of Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6) load a 500 pound demolition bomb on an SBD scout bomber on the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CV-6), during the first day of strikes on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, 7 August 1942. Note aircraft’s landing gear and bomb crutch; also bomb cart and hoist.”

(NHHC: 80-G-10458)

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True Crime Books Master Post

I received some asks recently asking me about my favorite true crime books so I decided to put together a list, not including any Ted Bundy books as I already made a list here. All the following books are available on Amazon.

The Texarkana Moonlight Murders : The Unsolved Case of the 1946 Phantom Killer by Michael Newton

In 1946, years before the phrase “serial murder” was coined, a masked killer terrorized the town of Texarkana on the Texas-Arkansas border. Striking five times within a ten-week period, always at night, the prowler claimed six lives and left three other victims wounded. Survivors told police that their assailant was a man, but could supply little else. A local newspaper dubbed him the Phantom Killer, and it stuck. Other reporters called the faceless predator the “Moonlight Murderer,” though the lunar cycle had nothing to do with the crimes. Texarkana’s phantom was not America’s first serial slayer; he certainly was not the worst, either in body count or sheer brutality. But he has left a crimson mark on history as one of those who got away. Like the elusive Axeman of New Orleans, Cleveland’s Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, and San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer, the Phantom Killer left a haunting mystery behind. This is the definitive story of that mystery.

The Vanishing Hitchhiker - American Legends and their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand (maybe not really tc but truly interesting!)

The Vanishing Hitchhiker was Professor Brunvand’s first popular book on urban legends, and it remains a classic. The culmination of twenty years of collection and research, this book is a must-have for urban legend lovers.

Inside Alcatraz : My Time on the Rock by Jim Quillen

Jim Quillen, AZ586—a runaway, problem child, and petty thief—was jailed several times before his 20th birthday. In August 1942, after escaping from San Quentin, he was arrested on the run and sentenced to 45 years in prison, and later transferred to Alcatraz. This is the true story of life inside America’s most notorious prison—from terrifying times in solitary confinement to daily encounters with “the Birdman,” and what really happened during the desperate and deadly 1946 escape attempt.

Escape from Alcatraz : The True Crime Classic by Bruce J. Campbell

In 1963, just weeks before the original publication of this book, the last prisoner was escorted off Devil’s Island and Alcatraz ceased to be a prison. Author J. Campbell Bruce chronicles in spellbinding detail the Rock’s transition from a Spanish fort to the maximum-security penitentiary that housed such infamous inmates as Robert Stroud, aka the Birdman of Alcatraz, and mobster Al “Scarface” Capone. The chapters describing the daring escape attempts by Frank Morris and two accomplices from this “inescapable” prison became the basis for the 1979 Clint Eastwood movie. Discover the intriguing and absorbing saga of Alcatraz, whose name is still synonymous with punitive isolation and deprivation, where America’s most violent and notorious prisoners resided in tortuous proximity to one of the world’s favorite cities.

The Hot House : Life Inside Leavenworth Prison by Pete Earley

The most dreaded facility in the prison system because of its fierce population, Leavenworth is governed by ruthless clans competing for dominance. Among the “star” players in these pages: Carl Cletus Bowles, the sexual predator with a talent for murder; Dallas Scott, a gang member who has spent almost thirty of his forty-two years behind bars; indomitable Warden Robert Matthews, who put his shoulder against his prison’s grim reality; Thomas Silverstein, a sociopath confined in “no human contact” status since 1983; “tough cop” guard Eddie Geouge, the only officer in the penitentiary with the authority to sentence an inmate to “the Hole”; and William Post, a bank robber with a criminal record going back to when he was eight years old—and known as the “Catman” for his devoted care of the cats who live inside the prison walls.

Pete Earley, celebrated reporter and author of Family of Spies, all but lived for nearly two years inside the primordial world of Leavenworth, where he conducted hundreds of interviews. Out of this unique, extraordinary access comes the riveting story of what life is actually like in the oldest maximum-security prison in the country.

The Death of a President : November 20-November 25, 1963 by William Manchester

As the world still reeled from the tragic and historic events of November 22, 1963, William Manchester set out, at the request of the Kennedy family, to create a detailed, authoritative record of the days immediately preceding and following President John F. Kennedy’s death. Through hundreds of interviews, abundant travel and firsthand observation, and with unique access to the proceedings of the Warren Commission, Manchester conducted an exhaustive historical investigation, accumulating forty-five volumes of documents, exhibits, and transcribed tapes. His ultimate objective – to set down as a whole the national and personal tragedy that was JFK’s assassination – is brilliantly achieved in this galvanizing narrative, a book universally acclaimed as a landmark work of modern history. 

In Broad Daylight by Harry N. MacLean

Edgar-Award winning author Harry MacLean is bringing the New York Times bestseller “In Broad Daylight” back to print in a keepsake trade paper edition that also includes “The Story Behind ‘In Broad Daylight.’”  “In Broad Daylight” tells the story of the killing of Ken Rex McElroy on the main street of Skidmore, Missouri in July 1981. McElroy, an illiterate hog farmer, had terrorized all of northwest Missouri for over 20 years, until the town, and even law enforcement, was terrified of him. McElroy was shot as he sat in his truck in front of the tavern. Over 45 men witnessed the shooting. Despite two eyewitness accounts and three grand jury investigations, no one has been prosecuted for the crime.

Killer Clown : The John Wayne Gacy Murders by Terry Sullivan and Peter Maiken

He was a model citizen. A hospital volunteer. And one of the most sadistic serial killers of all time. But few people could see the cruel monster beneath the colorful clown makeup that John Gacy wore to entertain children in his Chicago suburb. Few could imagine what lay buried beneath his house of horrors–until a teenaged boy disappeared before Christmas in 1978, leading prosecutor Terry Sullivan on the greatest manhunt of his career.

Reconstructing the investigation–from records of violence in Gacy’s past, to the gruesome discovery of 29 corpses of abused boys in Gacy’s crawlspace and four others found in the nearby river–Sullivan’s shocking eyewitness account takes you where few true crime books ever go: inside the heart of a serial murder investigation and trial. 

Bind, Torture, Kill : The Inside Story of BTK by Roy Wenzl, Tim Potter, Hurst Lavigne and L. Kelly

For thirty-one years, a monster terrorized the residents of Wichita, Kansas. A bloodthirsty serial killer, self-named “BTK"—for "bind them, torture them, kill them"—he slaughtered men, women, and children alike, eluding the police for decades while bragging of his grisly exploits to the media. The nation was shocked when the fiend who was finally apprehended turned out to be Dennis Rader—a friendly neighbor … a devoted husband … a helpful Boy Scout dad … the respected president of his church.

Written by four award-winning crime reporters who covered the story for more than twenty years,Bind, Torture, Kill is the most intimate and complete account of the BTK nightmare told by the people who were there from the beginning. With newly released documents, evidence, and information—and with the full cooperation, for the very first time, of the Wichita Police Department’s BTK Task Force—the authors have put all the pieces of the grisly puzzle into place, thanks to their unparalleled access to the families of the killer and his victims.

Serial Killers : The Method and Madness of Monsters by Peter Vronsky

In this unique book, Peter Vronsky documents the psychological, investigative, and cultural aspects of serial murder, beginning with its first recorded instance in Ancient Rome through fifteenth-century France on to such notorious contemporary cases as cannibal/necrophile Ed Kemper, Henry Lee Lucas, Ted Bundy, and the emergence of what he classifies as the “serial rampage killer” such as Andrew Cunanan.

Vronsky not only offers sound theories on what makes a serial killer but also makes concrete suggestions on how to survive an encounter with one—from recognizing verbal warning signs to physical confrontational resistance. Exhaustively researched with transcripts of interviews with killers, and featuring up-to-date information on the apprehension and conviction of the Green River killer and the Beltway Snipers, Vronsky’s one-of-a-kind book covers every conceivable aspect of an endlessly riveting true-crime phenomenon.

American Legal Injustice by Emanuel Tanay

Forensic psychiatrist Emanuel Tanay has testified in thousands of court cases as an expert witness, including such notorious cases as those of Jack Ruby, Sam Sheppard, and Theodore 'Ted’ Bundy. Tanay walks the reader through his experiences in the courtroom, explaining the role of the forensic psychiatrist in the litigation process and providing a 'behind-the-scenes’ view of our criminal justice system, including individual chapters on some of his most interesting and infamous cases. Tanay also provides clear examples of the rampant injustice that he has witnessed and argues that the potential for injustice is built into our legal system in the form of incompetent lawyers, the imbalance of resources between the pricey defense lawyers hired by large corporations in civil trials and the inexperienced lawyers often hired by plaintiffs, and the political concerns of elected judges and prosecutors.American Legal Injustice: Behind the Scenes with an Expert Witness is a must-read for Law & Order, Court TV, and true crime enthusiasts.

Among the Lowest of the Dead : The Culture of Capital Punishment by David Von Drehle

There is no light darker than that which filters through the cells and souls on death row. Now David Von Drehle, the prizewinning journalist of The Washington Post, takes us as never before into the world of death row inmates, the world of those who have been the victims of their crimes, and the world of those who have the power to punish by killing. Among the Lowest of the Dead introduces us to the lawyers who run their lives into the ground fighting to save killers, and the equally frazzled lawyers who fight to execute them. We sit with the survivors of murder victims, waiting - sometimes for decades - for justice to come. We oversee the deliberations of governors as they sign death warrants, then sit passively by the telephone as the appointed hour passes. We go inside the courtrooms where judges intone the awful words "and may God have mercy on your soul”. And we delve into the world of the sick, the vicious, the changed - even the innocent - men and women who spend their days in tiny cells waiting for the moment when time runs out. A book of enormous and profound insight, cloaked in a prose poetic, stark, and stunningly revealing, Among the Lowest of the Dead is much more than one of the most powerful books ever written on crime and punishment in America - it is a look into the souls of the guilty, the innocent, and ourselves. There is no light darker than that which filters through the cells and souls on death row, but David Von Drehle’s masterpiece of prose and power illuminates this deepest, darkest realm like a prolonged flash of lightning.

Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert Ressler

Face-to-face with some of America’s most terrifying killers, FBI veteran and ex-Army CID colonel Robert Ressler learned form then how to identify the unknown monsters who walk among us–and put them behind bars. Now the man who coined the phrase “serial killer” and advised Thomas Harris on The Silence of the Lambs shows how is able to track down some of today’s most brutal murderers.

Just as it happened in The Silence of the Lambs, Ressler used the evidence at a crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the killers. From the victims they choose, to the way they kill, to the often grotesque souvenirs they take with them–Ressler unlocks the identities of these vicious killers of the police to capture.

And with his discovery that serial killers share certain violent behaviors, Ressler’s gone behind prison walls to hear the bizarre first-hand stories countless convicted murderers. Getting inside the mind of a killer to understand how and why he kills, is one of the FBI’s most effective ways of helping police bring in killers who are still at large.

Join Ressler as he takes you on the hunt for toady’s most dangerous psychopaths. It is a terrifying journey you will not forget.

The Killer Department: Detective Viktor Burakov’s Eight-Year Hunt for the Most Savage Serial Killer in Russian History by Robert Cullen

This is the story of an obsessive 8-year hunt by a Russian detective, Viktor Burakov before savage serial killer Andrei Chikatilo was caught.There were 53 victims ranging from 8-40 years old.This is probably the worst serial killer worldwide

House of Evil: The Indiana Torture Slaying by John Dean

In the heart of Indianapolis in the mid 1960’s, through a twist of fate and fortune, a pretty young girl came to live with a thirty-seven-year-old mother and her seven children. What began as a temporary childcare arrangement between Sylvia Likens’s parents and Gertrude Baniszewski turned into a crime that would haunt cops, prosecutors, and a community for decades to come…

When police found Sylvia’s emaciated body, with a chilling message carved into her flesh, they knew that she had suffered tremendously before her death. Soon they would learn how many others―including some of Baniszewski’s own children―participated in Sylvia’s murder, and just how much torture had been inflicted in one house of evil.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.