T. Greenwood Picks Stories Based on True Crimes

Posted by Goodreads on July 30, 2018
T. Greenwood

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T. Greenwood, the author of 12 novels, including Where I Lost Her, Bodies of Water, and Grace, is making her first foray into historical fiction with Rust & Stardust. The novel is based on the true story of the 1948 kidnapping of 11-year-old Sally Horner in Camden, New Jersey. Horner was abducted by a child predator who convinced her he was an FBI agent and took her across the country, hiding her from authorities for two years until she was rescued and returned home. It was a crime that later reportedly inspired Vladimir Nabokov's classic and controversial novel Lolita.

Greenwood recommends the following novels (and one short story) that were also sparked by actual events. Like Rust & Stardust, each of these novels has a true crime at its heart but is, in the end, a work of the author's imagination. "These stories are a testament to the power of fiction," Greenwood says. "The use of speculation and imagination elevates each true-crime tale into an incredibly moving narrative, imbuing these historical figures with humanity."

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"The genius of this novel is that it takes a fairly traditional kidnapping story and tells it from a child's point of view. Room is the story of a woman held in captivity, but it is told by five-year-old Jack, a child fathered by the woman's captor. Like Nabokov, Donoghue downplays the influence of the true-crime story that inspired this novel. She has suggested that the real-life story of Josef Fritzl, who held his own daughter captive in a basement for 24 years—along with three of the seven children whom he fathered—was simply a 'trigger' for the novel. Regardless, this novel is both thrilling and heartbreaking in the depiction of their imprisonment through a precocious yet innocent child's eyes."


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"Cartwheel is another work of fiction ripped from the proverbial headlines, loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox, the American exchange student who was convicted of killing her roommate while studying in Italy in 2007. I listened to this audiobook on a long car ride, and it was hypnotic and mesmerizing, offering a kaleidoscope of perspectives on one of the most controversial crimes in recent history."


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"I was 11 years old when John Hinkley Jr. attempted to assassinate then-President Ronald Reagan. I knew the bizarre story of his motives (attempting to impress actress Jodie Foster). I also knew that he was eventually sent away, not to prison but to a mental institution. What I didn't know was that during his time there, he fell in love with a woman named Leslie deVeau, who had killed her own ten-year-old daughter in 1982. Author Andrea Kleine's sister was best friends with the slain child, and this novel fictionalizes both crimes in parallel narratives. The prose is journalistic, almost affectless, yet oddly moving, capitalizing on our understanding of history even as we hold our breaths waiting to see what will happen next."


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"In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sent to the electric chair for conspiring to commit espionage. The couple had two small children at the time of their arrests, and the story goes that Ethel left her sons with a neighbor on the day of her arrest, and the boys never saw their mother again. What Cantor does here (and what she does best) is imagine the life of this nearly mythic historical figure, this time through the filter of a peripheral player in the story. This book is so wonderful, offering not only a glimpse of midcentury America during the Red Scare, but also humanizing Ethel Rosenberg: focusing on her as not just a suspected spy but as a mother."


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"I am cheating a little here because this is a short story, not a novel. But Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? is one of those short stories that I return to again and again as both a writer and a teacher. Oates has readily admitted that this story was inspired by Charles Schmid, who in 1964 lured a teenage girl to the Arizona desert, where he murdered her. The story does not focus on the murder, however, but rather the victim: her tragic vanity and naiveté, her strained relationship with her mother, and the moment during which she makes the life-altering decision to open the door to a stranger."


Want more book recommendations from authors? Check out our Good Minds Suggest series.

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Shannon (new)

Shannon That Joyce Carol Oates story is so creepy and well done. I hadn't realized it was inspired by a true story.

Can't wait to get my copy of Rust & Stardust tomorrow!


message 2: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (BookishConnoisseur) Rust and Stardust was fantastic. I'll definitely be checking these stories out as well!


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