Brief History of True Crime and Benefits of Buying Used Books
True crime has never been more popular than it is now, as proven by the staggering number of podcasts, television shows, and documentaries devoted to the topic. True crime, on the other hand, is a genre of nonfiction literature. From classics like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1966) to contemporary thrillers like Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark (2018) and Elon Green's Last Call (2021), such stories are unique in the way they connect with readers because they explore harrowing real-life events that could happen to anyone.
Are you interested in learning more about true crime? Here, we define the genre, examine its fascinating roots, and discuss some of its most common topics plus the benefits of buying used books.
The Meaning of the Term "True Crime"
The definition of true crime appears to be self-evident: a story about a crime that truly happened. The majority of real crime books deal with dark and upsetting topics, so readers should proceed with caution. Granted, the first guideline of true crime is that the story must contain as many details as possible concerning the case: Readers want the author to provide the true names of everyone involved, as well as the correct time and location, information about what they did, and as many details about the crime and its investigation as he or she can.
True crime novels might focus on a particular incident, such as a kidnapping. They can also be about serial murders, robbers, or cult leaders' collective crimes. The best true crime books give well-researched, finely written assessments of the case at hand, regardless of how narrow or broad the focus is.
However, the abundance of details is only part of what makes real crime so appealing to readers. True crime authors with the most talent excel at conveying the facts of a case while vividly re-creating the atmosphere around the crime. They put perpetrators and their victims in context by providing variables such as the current political climate, a town's history, or a community's challenges. They delve into everyone's motivations before weighing them against the behaviors and events they observe. They try to recreate dialogue as accurately as possible, while artistic license is occasionally necessary.
In other words, the best true crime authors transport readers to the crime scene, engaging all of their senses. The details of the crime would read like a legal report without the author's narrative skills.
True Crime's Beginnings
Prior to the Renaissance, when literacy rates began to rise, dramatic crimes were recounted in the form of songs. These songs were frequently written and performed only a few days after the incident had place. Ballads about a woman murdered by her lover, such as "The Gosport Tragedy or the Perjured Ship-Carpenter" (1560s), have been passed down for generations, with the lyrics changing over time. The ballad "Pretty Polly," which is considered a standard of American folk music, is the most recent version of "The Gosport Tragedy."
Some of the first real crime writing dates back to the early 1600s in England. To convey a moral lesson about the limitations of God's mercy to the criminally bent, town leaders and clerics revealed horrific local atrocities. The Triumphs of God's Revenge Against the Crying & Execrable Sinne of Willful, & Premeditated Murther, authored by John Reynolds between 1621 and 1635 and originally distributed as pamphlets, is one such collection of crime accounts.
Another type of early true crime writing is execution sermons. Prior to a criminal's execution, preachers delivered these lectures, which were popular among Puritans in the New World, concentrating on the criminal's route to ruin and the ways they may have escaped their fate. The person due to be executed was generally present during these sermons, which drew big crowds. After the execution, printed versions of the sermons were sometimes disseminated. Interviews with the condemned were added to these materials as time went on, frequently with embarrassing confessions. According to Cotton and Increase Mather's Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Tryals of Several Witches Lately Executed in New-England, some of the most common execution sermons in the New World included women convicted of witchcraft (1862).
Broadsides, crime pamphlets, and penny dreadfuls provided readers with vivid — and often inflated — reports of crimes by the 1800s. They were a sensationalized blend of reportage and storytelling that did well on the market but were hardly considered literary. Criminal behavior was, nevertheless, a popular theme for some of the era's most well-known writers, with articles by Charles Dickens ("A Visit to Newgate," 1836) and William Thackeray ("Going to See a Man Hanged," 1840) addressing humanity's capacity for violence.
Crime fiction flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries, but genuine crime did not achieve a new level of popularity until 1966. Truman Capote's book In Cold Blood revolutionized the way real crime writers and commentators approached the genre. Capote's book is a hybrid "nonfiction novel" about the killings of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959. It delves into the murders' investigation, the following arrest of killers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, as well as their trial and death. Capote's deft analysis of the killers' motivations reads like a best-selling mystery thriller. Since the publication of In Cold Blood, a slew of true crime novels, podcasts, and documentaries have followed Capote's narrative-driven model.
True Crime: The Most Common Types
Although there is usually some overlap in the sorts of true crime books, most recent releases seem to fall into one of the following categories:
True crime books with a criminal focus place criminals and their motivations front and center. Norman Mailer's novel The Executioner's Song earned the Pulitzer Prize in 1979. Gary Gilmore was convicted of murder and insisted on his own execution in this real crime book. The Stranger Beside Me (1980), written by Ann Rule, is a chilling description of her association with serial killer Ted Bundy.
Victim-centric true crime books concentrate on the lives of the victims and attempt to give the voiceless a voice. Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York (2021) by Elon Green sheds light on a serial killer who preyed on homosexual men during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. The victims of the still-unidentified Long Island Serial Killer are given a voice in Robert Kolker's Lost Girls (2013).
Some true crime books devote a significant amount of time on the investigation of the crime. I'll Be Gone in the Dark (2018) by Michelle McNamara chronicles the author's pursuit for the Golden State Killer. Matthew McGough's The Lazarus Files (2019) explores the story of a cold case inquiry that leads to the discovery of a killer in an unexpected location.
True crime books from the past shed light on infamous crimes from the past, some of which have been unsolved for years. The Devil in the White City (2003) by Erik Larsen relates the story of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the crimes perpetrated in its shadow by legendary serial murderer H.H. Holmes. In Tombstone (2020), Tom Clavin recounts one of the most infamous Wild West shootouts, presenting his interpretation on what occurred to the survivors. David Stout's The Kidnap Years (2020) reminds us of the sad kidnapping epidemic that occurred during the Great Depression, which included the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby.
Political killings, high-profile robberies, and organized crime are all topics covered in sociopolitical real crime books. Kevin Mitnick's true crime memoir Ghost in the Wires (2011) is about his life as a hacker on the run from the FBI. I Heard You Paint Houses (2004) by Charles Brandt is based on the admissions of hitman Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran, who claims to have killed Jimmy Hoffa. There are too many books about JFK's assassination to count.
Finally, no true crime bookcase is complete without a dismal peek into the lives of the world's most prominent cults. Jeff Guinn's film The Road to Jonestown (2017) features contemporary interviews with survivors of Jim Jones' cult as well as others who knew him personally. Several novels have been written about Charles Manson and his cult, but none is more well-known than Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter (1974), which is the best-selling true crime book of all time (in second place is Truman Capote's In Cold Blood).
Buying Used Books
While all books are lovely, ardent readers are particularly drawn to used books. It's fantastic to know that the stories here have been lived by someone else and have traveled a long way to reach you. Even if you're looking for more practical books, buying them used is a terrific method to get what you need while without depleting your bank account. Here are a few reasons why you should buy used books whenever possible.
Benefits of Buying Used Books
Used books help you save a lot of money.
Buying used books, like anything else second hand, is a great way to save a lot of money. New books are frequently pricey merely because they are new. What's more, guess what? Whether the book is brand new or has been treasured by readers before you, the words are the same! Used books from places like Usedbooksfactory can be found for a fraction of the cost of new books. This is especially true of larger books, such as textbooks, which can significantly increase the cost of your purchases.
Used books make it possible for you to read more.
A well-stocked bookcase is never enough for true bookworms. Buying old used books is the easiest strategy to keep oneself a constant supply of fresh books to read. Not only will you be able to obtain more books for your dollar when compared to new books, but the sheer number of old books available second hand will also ensure that you have a diverse range of genres to read. Buying used books ensures that you never have to feel the agony of not having another book to read.
You have the ability to broaden your horizons by buying used books.
Chain bookstores only stock the most recent books, which are likely to be picked up by everyone who reads. If you're tired of reading the same popular novels as everyone else, buying old used books is the best way to avoid it. Given that used books can come from a wide range of people from all walks of life, you never know what you'll find at a used bookstore's back corner. It's crucial to keep an open mind when reading, and extending your mind to topics or concepts you've never considered before can be quite beneficial to your life.
You Get to Take Pleasure in the Search of Used Books
When you walk into the same chain bookstore you typically go to, there isn't much that will surprise you. As a result, all you have to do is head over to the genre you currently enjoy and take a brief look to see if there is anything new. Searching through gently used books, on the other hand, is like going on a treasure hunt. If you delve deep enough, you never know what you'll find. Who knows, maybe you'll come across an obscure novelist's esoteric out-of-print book, a thesis on a little-known historical event, or simply something with a cover that makes you chuckle. However, you never know if a book will be your next favorite unless you give it a chance. Finding new books is part of the enjoyment of being an avid reader, so take advantage of your local second hand store's second hand books area.
Buying used books is beneficial to the environment.
At the end of the day, books are merely collections of paper—paper that was made from a large number of trees. Throwing away outdated books is a waste of both the book and the paper used to create it. By keeping these worn used books out of the garbage and on a bookshelf, you may play a little part in saving the environment. When there are so many editions of an old used book with cool new covers still in stores all over the place, resist the impulse to buy a new edition with a cool new cover. This helps us to circulate knowledge and stories while simultaneously safeguarding the environment.
Used Book Have Already Been Cracked
Let's face it: books are supposed to be read. When you buy used books, you know that someone has already gone through the arduous task of breaking the book in. When it has already seen a few owners, you don't have to worry about cracking the spine, folding the page corners, or spilling your morning coffee on it. Anything that hinders you from reading, such as a desire to preserve the beautiful finish of a brand-new book, is not a beneficial attribute in a book. You won't have to worry about putting them through their paces if you buy them used.
It's possible that you'll come across something truly extraordinary when buying used books.
Buying old used books is your best chance to locate something truly unique to add to your collection, whether it's a limited-edition cover or an author introduction that only appeared in one edition. Even novels you've read before can be found in a new version that you've never seen before. There is no better place to locate hidden jewels for the avid book collector than the used book department of your local second hand store.