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3.77  ·  Rating details ·  492 ratings  ·  69 reviews
True stories of sudden death in the classic collection by a master of American journalism.

Reporters love murders, Calvin Trillin writes in the introduction to Killings. In a pinch, what the lawyers call wrongful death will do, particularly if it's sudden. Killings, first published in 1984 and expanded for this edition, shows Trillin to be such a reporter, drawn time after
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 4th 1985 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Sam Quinones
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One night years ago, as a crime reporter in Stockton, CA, I was asked to cover the killing of a man whose real name escapes me at the moment.

I went to the hospital to speak to the family. His son grew enraged that I wanted to talk at such a delicate moment. But I calmed him and said I wanted to write about how his father lived, who he was in life, and less about he died. His relatives helped convince him and we began to talk.

Turns out his father worked in a factory by day, but on nights and week
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a long time reader of the New Yorker, it’s always a treat to read collections of articles and essays by members of their writing staff. And Calvin Trillin is one of my favorites from that staff. Trillin is well known for writing about food, but I prefer the articles that showcase his reporting skills. “Killings,” which was originally published in 1984, has been reissued and expanded and is a valuable assemblage of his reporting about individual murders. He takes a unique vantage point in thes ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
There are many things to be impressed with in Trillin's writing—the sly voice, the seamless reportage, the narrative momentum—but it's the economy of these stories that really wows. In the space of 10 pages or so, Trillin sketches tales that are gripping, detailed, and ambiguous, yet makes each feel fully realized and whole. Joan Didion can pull off this trick. Jorge Luis Borges was its all-time master. Trillin would later amp up his voice in his wonderful comic food writing, but here he's at hi ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Calvin Trillin is a tremendous writer. I've read his "Tummy Trilogy" twice and hope to again before I die. His political writings, no matter how dated, still enlighten and outrage. After a small binge of true-crime sagas, including VULGAR FAVORS (the killing of fashion designer Gianni Versace), MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL (a killing blamed on Savannah's most prominent "bachelor socialite") and IN COLD BLOOD (in many respects, the daddy of them all), I ran across mention of this Killi ...more
Valerity (Val)
I got an ARC for Kindle from Netgalley and Random House True Crime for this book Killings which has been updated with new stories added for this 2017 edition by the author Calvin Trillin.

This is an interesting collection of true stories of deaths of people by all sorts of sudden means. They are all quite different and unusual and tend to keep your interest from one to the next. You never quite know what to expect as you are reading, you just know something is going to happen. Succinct writing, w
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, crime
I discovered Calvin Trillin as a teenager and have never stopped reading him. I love his sly, dry wit that bursts through everything he writes. A lot of his books are about food and/or he and his family's travels to get a decent meal. Many of his books are a collection of his columns which range from politics to human interest stories and everything under the sun. This book is a collection of columns he did over the years about murder and murderers that interested him for one reason or another. ...more
Katherine Addison
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"A Stranger with a Camera" (Jeremiah, Kentucky, April 1969) Hugh O'Connor, killed by Hobart Ison
"I've Always Been Clean" (West Chester, Pennsylvania, June 1970) Jonathan Henry, killed by John Mervin
"Jim, Tex, and the One-Armed Man" (Center Junction, Iowa, February 1971) Tex Yarborough, killed by Jim Berry
"Sergei Kourdakov" (Southern California, May 1973) Sergei Kourdakov, killed by self?
"You Always Turn Your Head" (Gallup, New Mexico, May 1973) Larry Casuse, killed by self? cops?
Katie B
This collection contains true crime stories written by Calvin Trillin that originally appeared in The New Yorker from 1969 to 2010. The first edition of this book was originally published in 1984 and this edition has added a few more stories.

What I found unique about this true crime collection, is the focus on the communities where the crime took place and not just on the crime itself. With an average length of 20 pages or so for each story, the writer really was able to capture the social clima
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Still one of the best books you can read not just about crime but about America and about writing. Trillin's reissue includes several pieces from the 80s, one from the 21st century, and a profile Trillin wrote of Miami Herald crime reporter Edna Buchanan.
What struck me looking at this book after a long time was how Trillin moves quickly from scene setting, invoking a place, how a life fits into that place, so well that occasionally you forget somebody's about to die violently.
Extremely interesting! This is one I could see myself re-reading in the future. Random stories of murder, accidents, and so on over the last couple hundred years. I loved that the writer took stories most people wouldn't have heard of, solely because people have just forgotten about them over the years, and sadly such events are quite common.

Nick Lehr
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Favorite "Killings" (in no particular order):

- "A Stranger with a Camera"

- "I've Always Been Clean"

- "Jim, Tex, and the One-armed Man"

- "Partners"

- "Called at Rushton"

- "Resettling the Yangs"

- "A Father-Son Operation"

Mary & Tom
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Calvin Trillin is a fine writer. In Killings,he writes about various murders around the United States that peaked his curiosity or captured his attention. If you enjoy, true crime or reading front page murder stories in your home town newspaper, you will enjoy this book.
Sliced of life.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
A fascinating collection of reportage on what might be investigative journalism's ultimate subject - human conflict that resulted in death, along with what caused it, and its aftermath. Beyond the obvious appeal of the subject matter, what makes Trillin's work itself unique is he doesn't write to record effective (or, for that matter, ineffective) law enforcement procedure or to build suspense around a mystery as it unfolds in chronological order. In fact, many of his stories result in acquittal ...more
Dec 05, 2018 added it
I understood this was a classic and predated the expansion of true crime as a genre. There is some variety and I enjoyed Trillin's journalistic style, but it's a LOT of Peyton Place/The Last Picture Show stuff and the last or second to last piece "At the Train Bridge" is more indicative and closest in time to much of what we see today - basically a lone, white male terrorist who decided to murder others due to his own misery and inability to manage is own life. I appreciate that the updated forw ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Despite the long time it took me to read, I did enjoy this. I'm a sucker for Calvin Trillin's work, and these stories of murders across the U.S. are no exception. You will not read a lot of gory detail, nor will you follow the twists and turns of a procedural type. Instead, you will find some sorrowful stories, definitely killings that could have been avoided, and find the pain in prosaic American murders that don't leap to the front page of a newspaper.

I love Trillin's almost laconic style of w
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Killings is a collection of true crime articles originally published in the New Yorker stretching from 1969 to 2010. Each article tells a story of a sudden death, however, it's not the death that Trillin focuses on, but more the behavior and response of those in the community affected by the death.
Killings is equally entertaining and thought-provoking. Some stories end with a conviction or better laws for future prevention, but many end with the bad guy getting away or escaping his due punishme
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I can recall seeing Trillin on TV from time to time, countenance of a dour humorist, a sense that he's trying not to burst out laughing at life's absurdities. Though it's hard to find humor, even the wry variety, in these 22 murder and killer stories, reprinted from the New Yorker magazine, most have an ironic twist. Many what ifs. Numerous extenuating circumstances. Various intrigues. My favorite story is his final one, an in-depth character sketch written in the first person. It's about Edna B ...more
May 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime
Read the newly revised edition. It was okay...most of the cases were ones I'd never heard of, even the three cases he included that were from my home state of Iowa. Trillin's focus was primarily on the locations of the crimes and how the citizens viewed the various murders. Quite a lot of it was on the dry side and I think some of it could've been condensed down for better clarity/flow. Still, it was an interesting read. I had this one going at the same time as "The Roanoke Girls" and between th ...more
Grouchy Editor
"Killings" is a compilation of true-crime accounts that Trillin wrote for "The New Yorker," primarily in the 1970s and 1980s, about murders in the country’s heartland. Murder is an inherently interesting subject, and Trillin admirably fleshes out the lives of otherwise-unremarkable people caught up in horrific circumstances, but perhaps because we are by now accustomed to books and movies that spare no gruesome detail, "Killings’s" less-sensationalistic stories can feel sedate, at times almost q ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Typical Trillin, which is a very, very good thing. Not your typical true crime book, though. Trillin is less interested in the salacious, gruesome aspects of the crimes than he is in the lives of the killers, victims, families, and communities affected by the crimes. I'm a little surprised that there's no follow-up reports on any of the crimes, since so many years have passed since initial publication, but with a little internet sleuthing you can turn up more fascinating information, particularl ...more
Sep 28, 2017 rated it liked it
The writing here is great, obviously, as Calvin Trillin is just immensely talented. It's a three star book for me because of how much the pieces varied in their sensationalism and appeal. There were some that I thought hit it out of the park - the one about the right-of-way dispute, the Native American who takes the mayor hostage - but others really failed to capture my interest and I found myself slogging through them. But the title delivers; every single story there is a sad and senseless deat ...more
This was a fun read about a lot of odd cases -- murders, disappearances, accidents, wrongful deaths. I like the way the author made a point of choosing cases that evoke a certain group of people in a certain place and time; he gives you a sense of who they are and why the events happened the way they did. None of these cases are the big, famous ones you can easily find material on elsewhere. Well worth a look.
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Maybe it's pretentious to like The New Yorker and stories from The New Yorker....and maybe I don't really care.

This is a fantastic collection of true crime stories collected from the 1970's to current times. Calvin Trillin goes beyond the details and gets to the heart. From mining towns to unhappy immigrants to rebelling teens, these stories cover the loss that is felt.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for this review.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Nonfiction short-story format about murder in the United States. First published over 30 years ago, most took place in the 1970s and early 1980s; for this new edition a few later ones were added. Even for Calvin Trillin, it’s not easy to cover that much information comprehensively, and as with most short stories some are more interesting than others. I especially liked the last story of a different type about Edna Buchanan, a journalist with the Miami Herald.
Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Americana by means of murder in small towns. After a few chapters I thought I couldn't go any further, so depressing were the portraits of these towns—after all, they produced the deaths in question. The nature of the storytelling also contributed to the oppressing atmosphere...These are stories about the lives of people who had already died, and the reporting is inherently separated from their lives by an impossible distance. Now I know, I would not enjoy being an obituary section reader. ...more
Stacy Lewis
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Atypical book for Calvin Trillin, this is a collection of stories Trillin wrote for The New Yorker as part of a more general series. While all the stories are about murders, the book really is more about the lives these people led. Really excellent.
Kristyn Stimach
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a great read! I am glad that I won this book from the goodreads giveaway. Unlike all the other books I've read that focuses on the crime and murders, this book focuses more on the community and aftermath of the killings in the towns it took place. ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
A collection of New Yorker articles documenting true crimes in small communities in the 70s and 80s. I would have enjoyed a bit more depth on each one but it was an interesting exercise to read it all together.
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. Trillin is a master of the reporting style.
The time frame is 1971-86. Very little has change. People are people. Much of what I thought of as modern societal problems are in this book in print.
Enjoyed reading it, and keep thinking about it.
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Calvin (Bud) Marshall Trillin is an American journalist, humorist, and novelist. He is best known for his humorous writings about food and eating, but he has also written much serious journalism, comic verse, and several books of fiction.

Trillin attended public schools in Kansas City and went on to Yale University, where he served as chairman of the Yale Daily News and became a member of Scroll an

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“Reporters also tend to love trials. It may be that we are transfixed by a process in which the person being asked a question actually has to answer it. He cannot say he would rather not comment. He cannot tell an anecdote on a different subject. He has to answer the question—under oath that he is telling the truth.” 2 likes
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