As long as people have been committing crimes there have been people who have wanted to hear about those crimes. When newspapers became big business in the early twentieth century, true crime became big news as publishers realized that these stories could sell a lot of newspapers. While the newspapers claimed that they were covering these types of stories because they were doing a public service, profits were foremost on their minds when they included true crime stories in the headlines. In fact, if they didn’t have any truly gruesome murders to report about, they would often sensationalize lesser crimes and killings to sell papers. While newspapers at the time tried to sensationalize these stories by adding lurid details and filling in the holes with wild speculation, they often stayed just short of truly crossing the line. That’s where “detective magazines” came in.
Detective magazines sought to include every last detail of each murder they covered, even the more prurient ones. Concentrating on murders of women, the magazines tried to put a legitimate gloss on what were essentially snuff books. In later years, these publications would often print unredacted crime photos alongside their seamy crime “reports”.
It would be Truman Capote who would truly raise the genre of true crime out of the publishing gutter and into the mainstream. Not only was his self-described “non-fiction” novel a commercial success, it also earned praise from the literary world. Chronicling the notorious murder of the Clutter Family, Capote wrote as though he were writing a novel, versus just recounting the events. His book would show what the true crime genre could be, elevating it from the sort of material one might hide away into something that readers would not be embarrassed to be caught reading.
The book that would bring the true crime genre fully into the mainstream would be Helter Skelter, the book that would (for better or worse) become the definitive book about the bloody 1969 murders of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Steven Parent, Abigail Folger, Voyteck Frykowski, Rosemary and Leno Labianca over two bloody nights in August by Charles “Tex” Watson and members of the “Manson Family”. ADA Vincent Bugliosi had successfully convicted the perpetrators and sought to cash in by writing what he hoped would be the last word on the murders. The book would rise above the cheap and tawdry paperbacks that merely regurgitated speculation and provably false rumors that sprang up about the crimes. The book would become the best selling true crime novel of all time. While some of its revelations have since been questioned, it was one of the first true crime books that sought to accurately recount a true crime without sensationalism or unverified rumors.
So what does that have to do with this website? I’ll attempt to cover true crimes by separating fact from fiction on some well known cases as well as highlighting lesser known crimes. I’ll also cover the criminal justice system in the United States, discussing its many problems and abuses. Sound interesting? Please bookmark the site and come back soon!