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.