Historical True Crime

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[Cover] American Lightning
Howard Blum
In 1910, the building of the Los Angeles Times was bombed—21 people were killed. Billy Burns, famed detective, began a massive investigation to find those involved and bring them to justice. Evidence revealed a deadivy plot by trade unionists to "bring capitalism to its knees." Also intertwined in the story are famous defense attorney Clarence Darrow, who nearly ended his career with a witness-bribing scheme, and director D.W. Griffith who, inspired by the events, proceeded to make his groundbreaking film The Birth of a Nation.

 

Black Dahlia Avenger
Steve Hodel
Steve Hodel, a former Los Angeles police officer and now a private investigator who has worked on over three-hundred murder cases, provides shocking detail of his discovery of evidence that led him to conclude his late father, Dr. George Hodel, had been responsible for the murder of 22-year old Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia, as well as other murders in the L.A. area at the time. Hodel offers updated information including forensic evidence, photos, and unreleased documents to support his investigation.

 

The Complete Public Enemy Almanac: New Facts and Features on the People, Places, and Events of the Gangster and Outlaw Era, 1920-1940
William J. Helmer and Rick Mattix
The ultimate reference book for the "golden age" of crime, this meticulously researched and detailed work provides a vast source of information on the "era" of the 1920s and 1930s. The book includes a thorough collection of outlaw biographies, hundreds of illustrations and photographs, a first-ever "crime chronology" of the era, and it also provides new detail on events such as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the Kansas City Massacre, and the mysterious death of Baby Face Nelson.

 

The Devil’s Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial that Ushered in the Twentieth Century
Harold Schechter
True-crime historian Schechter provides a captivating account of a murder case that shook New York high society at the turn of the 20th century. Roland Molineux, an ambitious chemist, member of the Knickerbocker Club, and one of New York’s most eligible bachelors, became a prime suspect in a series of poisoning deaths. The sensational trial that followed shocked the nation. Schechter explores facts such as the birth of tabloid journalism and poisoning as a murder weapon, while also weaving a richly detailed story of murder, deceit, seduction, and scandal during New York’s Gilded Age.

 

Death at the Priory: Love, Sex and Murder in Victorian England
James Rupick
This story portrays a vivid account of the unsolved 1876 murder (by poisoning) of attorney Charles Bravo, a mean-spirited man who abused and tormented his wife, Florence. The case, which fascinated Agatha Christie and others, features many of the stereotypical elements that comprise a "classic murder mystery" and gives colorful detail to a repressed Victorian society.

 

The Monster of Florence
Douglas Preston, with Mario Spezi
Between 1968 and 1985, seven couples were murdered in their cars in a secluded “lovers’ lane” area around Florence, Italy. This book is a detailed account of the collaboration between American thriller author Preston and Italian journalist Spezi to revive investigation into these unsolved murders. Preston teamed up with Spezi after discovering his new home in Florence had been one of the scenes of the double homicides. The book chronicles the pair’s investigation and how they were targeted as suspects by Italian authorities. Though nothing has been proven, Preston and Spezi claim to know the identity of the Monster.

 

The Murder of Dr. Chapman: The Legendary Trials of Lucretia Chapman and Her Lover
Linda Wolfe
True crime journalist Linda Wolfe presents a fascinating account of a 19th century American scandal. Lucretia and Dr.William Chapman had been a wealthy, happily married couple in 1830s America. That all changed when a handsome visitor named Lino Espos y Mina appeared on their doorstep claiming to be Mexican aristocracy. In reality, he was the greatest con-artist of all time and soon Lucretia became his lover. One month later, Dr. Chapman was dead. When the police found out about the affair, the pair was charged with murder. What followed were two separate trials featuring "sex, scandal, deception," and courtroom drama that gripped the nation.

 

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed
Patricia Cornwell
Acclaimed author Patricia Cornwell presents evidence that she has uncovered the identity of Jack the Ripper—he was renowned artist Walter Sickert. For the first time ever, Cornwell applies modern forensic science techniques to the crimes that shocked London more than a century ago. She also makes convincing comparisons between the Ripper’s and Sickert’s drawing and writing styles and provides the reader with a psycho-biography of Sickert. From her evidence and meticulous research, Cornwell concludes that not only was Sickert Jack the Ripper, but he continued to kill long after the Ripper’s murderous rampage was supposedivy over.

 

Satan’s Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption and New York’s Trial of the Century
Mike Dash
It was known as Satan’s Circus—a square mile of Mipown Manhattan where corruption, sin, vice, and violence were the norm in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This finely detailed work chronicles the life and times of NYPD officer, Charles Becker who became the first police officer to be executed in U.S. history. This is the account of Becker’s rise and fall into a toxic world where he earned a reputation for extreme brutality and was ultimately accused of murdering a casino owner. In this chronicle of the crime, trial, and execution, the reader becomes engrossed in old New York and the early years of the NYPD with crooked cops, politicians and the infectious atmosphere of Tammany Hall.

 

Thunderstruck
Erik Larson
In this suspenseful true tale with the Edwardian period as a backdrop, Larson links two separate stories that would seemingly have nothing to do with one another. Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen murdered his wife in London and tried to escape on a ship to America with his mistress. At the same time, Guglielmo Marconi races to invent the wireless telegraph, the device which was used on the ship and was responsible, in part, for the capture of the killer. The result is a fascinating thriller that intersects dual stories and captures the flavor of this bygone era.