This picture is very interesting to me now for some reason. It’s just wild how it was of course, the senior class picture… everyone looks so happy and hopeful in it. Like the tragedy that was right around the corner couldn’t happen in a million years.
and then there’s Eric. Literally behind everyone’s backs, at the verryy top left corner, and I can almost just feel the threat of him. It’s very sneaky. But patient.. Like if I had seen this picture and it had never happened, I wouldn’t even look at it twice in suspicion. It’s only after the tragedy that you really just open your eyes and can see all of the hints, right there for you in the open… staring at you in the face. My god he could keep a fucking secret. Carrying out his plans to kill depended on it. Even if it meant dying himself.
Quick Review of the True Crime Books I Read in 2015
Pretty Little Killers by Daleen Berry and Geoffrey C. Fuller: The unexplainable murder of Skylar Neese by her two “best friends” Shelia Eddy and Rachel Shoaf was one of the cases that obsessed me this year and led me to the true crime blogs in Tumblr. I had great expectations of this book, how can you go wrong with such a heartbreaking and compelling story, right? Unfortunately, this book sucks. The writing is mediocre at best, it’s very poorly researched and full of ridiculous assumptions made by the authors that aren’t supported with any real evidence. Example: the book claims that right after murdering Skylar, Shelia and Rachel had sex. How did the authors know that? Because one of the investigators says she believes the murder was a “thrill kill”, so apparently that immediately means you’re so horny you have to have sex next to your friend’s corpse. The authors didn’t care either about going deeper into the three girls’ personalities and lives. Skylar is perfect, Shelia is a psychopath and Rachel has no personality at all. I would pass on this if I were you, you’ll get better information from an episode of a true crime show.
Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story by Shanna Hogan: Now this is worth the read. It’s very well written, and gives tons of information that I didn’t know about, and it helps you get a very good understanding of who Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander are. The author covers everything from their childhood to their relationship to the murder to the trial, and she tries her best to be objective, although it’s inevitable that her sympathy for Travis and contempt for Jodi slips through every once in a while, even though she has no problem showing his flaws and her sad story. What I like about the way she does it, though, is that unlike many takes on the case I’ve seen, the author makes it plain clear what a manipulative liar Jodi Arias is, and I can just read between the lines how appalled she is that some people believe her to be a victim. Jodi Arias was in a crappy relationship with a less than ideal man, but she’s no victim.
Columbine by Dave Cullen: I read this book before I came to Tumblr to find out that Dave Cullen is one of the most hated man in the true crime community, apparently because his book is very biased and ignores key evidence to further his own theory of this massacre. If that’s true, I find it reprochable but not surprising. Most true crime books are written with a hypothesis in mind, and when you’re so married to a theory sometimes you just disregard truths (ask tunnel vision detectives if you don’t believe me). I found Columbine to be an interesting read, although it’s clear it’s not the whole story. It drags sometimes, especially when covering the school before the shooting. I think that this book adds to getting a better idea of what happened, even if it’s biased, particularly in terms of the media coverage and why so many mistakes were made in the aftermath of the shooting. As for his view on the shooters, he comes too strong in portraying Eric Harris as the evil mastermind and Dyland Klebold as the blind follower. Both guys had serious issues that are laid out in this book but not given a proper context and development. Harris evidently had some narcissistic and antisocial personality traits, but stating beyond any doubt that he was a psychopath is unprofessional, especially coming from a journalist that claims he wants to set the truth about Columbine straight.
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry: I really enjoyed reading this despite the fact that it’s so so long. The first half of the book is kind of slow, and there are so many names, dates and facts thrown around that I admit I was put off by it. But once the Manson Family comes in, the narrative takes off. The second part of the book is devoted to the trial, which is as interesting as the crimes and Manson himself. So many crazy things happen, and told by Bugliosi’s (and his ghost writer’s) voice it sounds even more interesting. Again, this book is written with a very clear point of view, the one of the prosecutor, so it can’t be taken as an absolute truth. But I’ve read other Manson books and I found this the most convincing of all, especially when taking into account the interviews the various members, and Manson himself, have given over the years (Sorry, I just don’t buy Tex Watson’s “I made it all up” claim, I have no doubt Manson had his fingers deep in all his Family’s crimes). If you are a true crime enthusiast, you must read this.
Popular Crime by Bill James:I’ve recommended this book here before and I’ll do it again. It’s a very interesting take of many, many famous crimes that have happened throught the US story, written by a true crime enthusiast. Bill James is no researcher, he just has, like us, read a lot of true crime books and articles and has his own opinion about every case. Some are better than others, but it’s a good way of learning about true crime and also understanding the impact these cases have on society. James scoffs at people who think true crime is tacky or that being interested in it is condenmable. He explains why people always wants to know more and how it shapes what we’ve become as a society.
Devil’s Knot by Mara Levitt:This book is a very good way to get acquainted with the West Memphis Three case. It details everything from the murders of the three boys to the investigation and the trial, and it focus on all the ways the police and the justice system messes up. It’s evident the author believes Damien Echolls and his friends are innocent, and frankly after you read this you’ll think it too. She tries to point the finger at one of the boy’s stepfather, John Mark Byers, although not in a convincing way, in my opinion (this was written before the evidence that eventually led to the freedom of the Three and suggested Terry Hobbes might be involved). The book is well written and makes tedious court transcripts easy to read, my only issue with it is that I feel there was little extra investigation from the author, who is a journalist, to add more to the case. It seems like she just stuck to telling us about court documents but she fails to give the reader a better insight to the case.
Fatal Vision by Joel McGinniss: I find the case of Jeffrey MacDonald one of the most interesting crimes committed in the US during the XX century, mostly because I really don’t know what to believe. This guy, a former green beret and doctor, is currently doing a life sentence for the murder of his pregnant wife and two daughters. He was convicted a long time after the actual crime, because first investigations and indictments cleared him. Fatal Vision is an extremely detailed account of the whole ordeal, not just the case and trial itself, but MacDonald’s life and his family’s. It also covers the fight of his father in law to bring him to justice. Really, this is so detailed it was overwhelming at points. It also has a lot told by MacDonald himself, which is the biggest asset and also the biggest problem of this book. The author was extremely unethical while writing this, and got full access to MacDonald and his story by pretending he was writing a book that would show his innocence, only to betray him in the end and theorizing that he indeed killed his family while high on diet pills (that particular theory is, unfortunately, hard to believe). The book also presents MacDonald as a narcissistic, cold hearted bastard, which he is, but did he kill his family? I’m not entirely sure.
A Wilderness of Error by Errol Morris: And then there’s the antidote of “Fatal Vision” in this book, although I’m sad to say it fails at what it intended. Morris is well known for his documentary The Thin Blue Line, which succesfully helped exonerate a wrongfully convicted man. Morris tried to do the same here, believing Jeffrey MacDonald is innocent, but at best what he manages to do is create some reasonable doubt. Of all the books in this list, this is by far the better researched. Morris interviews people connected to the case, searches and looks for witnesses and jurors long lost. His writing can get a little tedious because he tends to add a lot of his own opinions and turns many things into a philosophy. Still, it’s a worthy task and again shows how flawed the justice system can be.