Obsessed with True Crime discussion

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message 1: by dave (new)

dave (thebat37) | 7 comments well, here we all are, lovers of true crime stories, novels and movies. but why? why are we attracted to the absolute horror and devastation our fellow human beings are capable of? its a tough question to answer. for me it has to do with comprehension. my mind just cannot get around the things that people are capable of. it completely baffles me, so i read more and more to see if i can somehow glimpse the reason behind the madness. i have yet to achieve that goal, i doubt i ever will. i will continue to read though, as terrible as it may be, because i want to know. i also want to know what you think. why do you love true crime so much? what is it about stories of human atrocities that draw you to your book store? theres no right answer, but it sure is an interesting topic to discuss.


message 2: by Mirjam (new)

Mirjam Penning (mirjampenning) For me it's not that tough to answer this one. I like that the stories I read are based on what happens in real life. Then I can look up the real people, find out more about them. That interests me more than a fictional story.
Partly it can't be otherwise described as voyeurism out of sensation. But there's more to it. If it happened for real, we can relate to it more than when it was fiction. It could've happened to us. We 'easily' could've become that certain victim if our circumstances just had been slightly different or if we had less luck.
Besides that, I'm interested in the science part, the evidence, the techniques of trying to solve a case and catch a killer.


message 3: by dave (new)

dave (thebat37) | 7 comments yes i absolutely see your point. if you read a fiction story it just doesnt hit home like a non fiction. especially when it comes to true crime. it really is a genre that should terrify you, but also makes you aware of the dangers that are out there. knowing it can happen to you is the scariest part. and definitely the science is incredible. learning the techniques and ways they caught some of these terrible people is always fascinating. it goes from hardcore science to being pulled over and matching a description. sometimes hard work and dedication, sometimes luck, its such a wide range. i too am very interested in forensics, evidence, the truth behind the crime with the science to back it up.


message 4: by Mirjam (new)

Mirjam Penning (mirjampenning) Yes, somehow it doesn't get to me when it's fiction. Of course, there are a lot of very good fictional books, but my preferance definitely is the based on a true story genre or a book about the factional inside and out of the crime. How the victim and the perp got involved, the background and character of the perp and how he or she often did themselves in.
For example, I once saw a segment of, I think, FBI Criminal Pursuit. A woman had disappeared and most likely was murdered, because she knew too much. The suspect had a fridge and on a gut feeling they took it and kept it for years in a storage. One day they took it apart bit by bit and found a really tiny piece of human tissue of the victim. That got him convicted. He should've cleaned the refridgerator better, lol.


message 5: by dave (last edited Feb 15, 2014 09:43AM) (new)

dave (thebat37) | 7 comments ha, yea its often little mistakes like that that catches the crazies. tho to be fair id rather they be a bit sloppy and get caught then be too clean and getting away with it, lol. it definitely makes the story much more real and easier to identify with when you know the whole story, every person involved, all their backgrounds. such a fascinating subject, i feel like reading a new true crime novel right now, lol. but i should finish the book im reading, which is a fiction. then im definitely going the true crime road, i need some facts.


message 6: by Burl (last edited Feb 16, 2014 12:00AM) (new)

Burl | 6 comments When I received my first contract from Kensington's Pinnacle True Crime imprint for MURDER IN THE FAMILY, I was advised by Gary C. King that I should be prepared to cry, and deal with lurid and upsetting nightmares. He was correct. What he didn't warn me about was the animosity directed towards true crime writers by families of either the victim or the perpetrator who see us as "profiting from pain" -- that we are bloodsuckers. Of course, they don't feel that way about the newspapers, radio stations or television shows that all rely upon these stories for ratings or circulation numbers that translate into advertising revenue. Each true crime book I've written has been a grueling experience, tragic in so many aspects, inspirational by virtue of the dedication of investigators and families to bring those responsible to justice. Few genres of literature are as maligned and disrespected as true crime, fact crime or, as they are now termed, non-fiction thrillers. Those of us who write true crime do it because, like actors, we become type cast. It takes concerted effort to move outside the genre, which many of us do by writing mystery fiction or more lighthearted fare. Jack Olsen, America's exemplary true crime author and a true master of his craft, once advised me, "Get out of true crime while you have the chance -- otherwise you'll end up like me." He didn't mean that I would become a writer of his stature, but that I would feel creatively unfulfilled and more than a bit irked at the lack of journalistic integrity that he felt had afflicted the genre. I would prefer the part about stature :-)


message 7: by dave (new)

dave (thebat37) | 7 comments wow i never thought of it from that perspective before. especially the repercussions from victims families or the perpetrators. so you write true crime novels. when you got the contract for your first book was it an assignment or did you find out about the case and want to write about it? it sounds like you regret being in the true crime writing game, which is a shame as people such as myself quite respect what you do. i havent read murder in the family but i will certainly be looking it up. thanks for the insight


message 8: by Burl (new)

Burl | 6 comments Dave - I had written one true crime book prior to Murder in the Family -- the very off-the-wall but highly praised "MAN OVERBOARD: The Counterfeit Resurrection of Phil Champagne" which is not at all like the true crime books you are used to. Oddly enough, it was nominated for Best True Crime Book of the Year at B'con for 1974...but Ann Rule won the award with Dead by Sunset. MO is coming out this year in a special 20th Anniversary edition with updates and bonus material much like a special edition DVD.
I was contacted by my agent back in 1998 and asked if I would be interested in writing a true crime book about a case in Alaska. I asked if there were a check attached, and as the answer was affirmative, I took the assignment. Happily, it became a NYT Best Seller and, no doubt because of that, I was immediately signed to write more.


message 9: by Burl (new)

Burl | 6 comments Oh-- and I do NOT regret being in the true crime genre at all! I also do a true crime radio show, TRUE CRIME UNCENSORED, on outlawradiousa.com, and appear frequently on I.D.'s various shows such as DEADLY SINS, DEADLY WOMEN, etc.


message 10: by Mirjam (new)

Mirjam Penning (mirjampenning) dave wrote: "ha, yea its often little mistakes like that that catches the crazies. tho to be fair id rather they be a bit sloppy and get caught then be too clean and getting away with it, lol."

Of course. Otherwise the case goes unsolved and stays that way. The one thing I don't want, is a killer going scott-free. And there are already enough unsolved cases. Also in my country we have quite a few. Two names I know about of the top of my head: Tanja Groen, (Groen is Green in English) and Cassandra van Schaijk. Another case is already 35 years or even more old and will probably never be solved. I see a picture of her in my head, but I can't think of her name now.
Luckily, there also are solutions later on.
A sixteen-year-old girl, Marianne Vaatstra, got murdered in a gruesome manner in 1999 and found in a pasture the next day. It took thirtheen years, but then they got him and he's convicted now. That makes me happy. That when you think it won't get solved anymore, it does. For the families it is good they get (more) answers, but the closure where so many talk about, I hear police often say that, (family gets closure) I don't think that happens. If I empathize with the families and try to put myself in their shoes for a minute or so, I figure there is none. It won't change the fact the victim is still murdered and won't ever come back to them.

I guess for me it's not only that something could easily have happened to me, that I could become the victim of someone, but also as much that someone I love could become a victim, like my two children.
In news coverage you hear so often 'that stuff doesn't happen here'. Well, it did happen and why not where you live. Or 'you never think it will happen to you, only to somebody else'. Well, that somebody else is just a person like yourself, but that person was unlucky to be targeted or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. A given is, it can happen to anybody, anywhere, if you're just unlucky enough. And we better realise it.


message 11: by Mirjam (new)

Mirjam Penning (mirjampenning) Burl wrote: "When I received my first contract from Kensington's Pinnacle True Crime imprint for MURDER IN THE FAMILY, I was advised by Gary C. King that I should be prepared to cry, and deal with lurid and ups..."

Burl, nice to read you here. And another insight in this question is surely welcome. What you talk about, I did think of that before. That when reporters or writers contact them, families can be hostile. From the families' point of view, it's understandable. Another person trying to dig into their misery. I can understand and empathize they feel it like 'profiting from their misfortune' or just another vulture. I know, Ann Rule has mentioned that as well. You named her and I remembered she has come across that aspect as well. At least in the way it bothered her herself that, matter of factly, it did feel somehow as if she was profiting. I'm not a True Crime Writer, only an aspiring one, but I can understand the writer's part as well. I think it can be tough to deal with the animosity and the grief. On the other hand, I also can truely understand the need to write the story. To bring the inside and out of a case to the public.
It's far more than just want to earn a buck with what you like to do: writing.
For me, it's, for example, also the research, finding out what happened, bringing the victim alive in words. The latter I mean in a way that he or she was more than just a murder victim. A person with a whole life, before it all came to an end.

A question: what did Jack Olsen exactly mean with 'feel creatively unfulfilled'? I'm curious.

As a last: I admire your career. Keep up the good work in this genre.


message 12: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne (emtor) | 12 comments Hi Burl, if you are member of facebook join our true crime page. A lot of authors are on there and get to tell us and discuss their books with us.


message 13: by Koren (new)

Koren  (koren56) | 1381 comments Why do I like True Crime? As someone else said, you feel more emotion than a fictional story. Just knowing something is real. I appreciate the research that goes into any nonfiction book.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi folks
I just joined the group and thought I'd jump in and post a bit in here in a few areas .

First of all, to those that have written a true crime book, how DO you approach the families ? Is there a way you can word it so that they are accepting of the fact that you want to tell their story ? Maybe it'd be an individual decision, but if you told them you wanted to talk more about their family member who was killed so that they are remembered and people get to know them as more than just a murder victim ?


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, and I like true crime because it IS true and deals with real people and events . It's fascinating to see how each case plays out, what makes one person kill another ? How do they commit the crime ? How do they try to get away with it ? How are they caught, and how does the trial/punishment part of the story go ?
All of it is fascinating .


message 16: by Burl (new)

Burl | 6 comments True crime books are changing rapidly...publishers are paying less and less for them, despite the cost of researching and writing them is going up. Hence many of us are going with new publishing paradigms and approaches. The whole thing is market driven, of course, and highly researched. There a many fascinating true crime stories that are not in traditional book form if they involve Blacks, Asians, or Hispanics. Also if the person who they charge with the crime is found not-guilty. People who think they know better than the jury who heard the case, or who disagree with the jury instructions will continue calling the innocent person a killer, a monster, etc etc even though they were found not guilty, The book The innocent Killer (new title and forthcoming) gets into this in great detail.


message 17: by Burl (new)

Burl | 6 comments Creative fulfillment, under the stylistic and structural format established by most true crime publishers, is next to impossible unless you delight in working within that specific "Law & Order" format. This is why I especially enjoyed writing MAN OVERBOARD (my first true crime book) as I was able to be as quirky as I wished...as with my commentary on Frank Girardot's Manling WIlliams' Deadly Sins.


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