True Crime

The literature of true crime is a growing area of study.  Within the last decade there have been two major studies:  Anita Biressi’s Crime, Fear and The Law in True Crime Stories (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001) and David Schmid’s Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture (Chicago 2005).  This section of crimeculture, which contains a contribution by David Schmid, includes discussion of the true crime press, the representation of the serial killer, and the cover art of true crime magazines:

An Introduction to the True Crime Press:  Vicky Munro  ranges from Victorian origins to the contemporary popularity of writers like Ann Rule and Joe McGinnis, analysing the representations of the lives and alleged crimes of killers whose stories are on sale in the True Crime sections of bookstores – serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, children who killed their parents, parents who killed their children, nurses who killed their patients and children who killed each other.

Serial Killer Non-Fiction:  David Schmid argues that “One of the curious things about non-fictional treatments of serial murder is that many of them appear avant la lettre. In other words, before the term “serial murder” was popularized by the F.B.I. in the 1970s and 1980s, many works on the subject were published that used a variety of names to describe what would later become known as serial murder.”  Drawing on his highly regarded monograph, Natural Born Celebrities, Schmid begins with earlier non-fiction works on serial murder  – both “the sensational” and “the technical” – and then moves on to consider work published by F.B.I. agents alongside the best-selling books of Ann Rule and Truman Capote.

True Crime Covers (PDF):  Lee Horsley’s “Dead Dolls and Deadly Dames”, on the iconic female figures of pulp true crime publishing. This section contains extracts from Lee Horsley’s article on the iconic female figures of pulp publishing – “voluptuous, tantalizing and dressed to kill, they voicelessly tempted generations of men to buy the stories of their death or disgrace…”   Pulp covers, Horsley argues, are a condensation of the clichés of the dangerous and the endangered woman, offering bold, suggestive embodiments of the sexual dynamic that so often drives both ‘true’ and fictional crime narratives.

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