Some criminals become household names, while others—even those who seek recognition through their crimes—are forgotten. The criminal’s actions are only a part of every famous true crime story. Other factors, such as the setting and circumstances of the crimes and the ways in which others take control of the narrative, ultimately drive their notoriety. Through a comparison of the tellings and retellings of two famous cases more than a century apart—the Jack the Ripper killings in 1888, and the murder trials of Steven Avery as documented in Making a Murderer—this book examines the complicated dynamics of criminal celebrity.
As a new attorney, Pamela Braswell was confident her career was about to skyrocket. Instead, she narrowly escaped death at the hands of a serial rapist and killer—his only surviving victim. Twenty years later, the moratorium on executions in California that put his execution on hold ended, but the governor announced he wouldn’t enforce the death penalty. Braswell’s firsthand true crime narrative gives a victim’s perspective of the harrowing investigation, the revelations in the press, the grand jury indictment and capital murder trial. Through it all, her refusal to be a victim transforms her view of the world—and its heroes.
When Gail Hovey was a teenager, her local Presbyterian church hired Georgia, a seminary-trained Christian education director. Brilliant and charismatic, Georgia used the language of faith to seduce several of her students, swearing each to secrecy. When she eventually abandoned the others and focused on Gail, Gail believed herself uniquely blessed and for the next 15 years modeled her life on Georgia’s—the seminary degree, the minister husband. The relationship had a profound and lasting influence on the woman Gail became and left her a legacy of guilt and shame. Shedding light on the largely invisible issue of sexual abuse of girls by women, Hovey’s brave memoir relates her decades-long journey—from East Harlem to South Africa to Brooklyn—to break free of an overwhelmingly powerful and deeply destructive first love.
Born in the mid-nineteenth century, Sophie Lyons was a master thief, con artist, blackmailer and smuggler. Much of her success as a criminal was due to the fact that she was fearless, reckless, sharp and cunning—everything a woman of her time was not supposed to be. As a young child, Sophie’s parents forced her to steal when she showed a talent for pickpocketing. Strong-willed and smart, she blossomed into a beautiful teenager who caught the eye of many men in the underworld of New York City. By the time Sophie reached her late teens she was married to her second husband—a notorious bank burglar named Ned Lyons—and was a professional criminal in her own right.
Despite her prominent place in crime history, Sophie Lyons has never been the subject of a full-length biography. This book chronicles Sophie’s fascinating and tragic life, from her beginnings as a criminal prodigy, through her ingenious escape from Sing Sing prison and her lifelong struggle with mental illness.
Over 13 months in 1976–1977, four children were abducted in the Detroit suburbs, each of them held for days before their still-warm bodies were dumped in the snow near public roadsides. The Oakland County Child Murders spawned panic across southeast Michigan, triggering the most extensive manhunt in U.S. history. Yet after less than two years, the task force created to find the killer was shut down without naming a suspect. The case “went cold” for more than 30 years, until a chance discovery by one victim’s family pointed to the son of a wealthy General Motors executive: Christopher Brian Busch, a convicted pedophile, was freed weeks before the fourth child disappeared. Veteran Detroit News reporter Marney Rich Keenan takes the reader inside the investigation of the still-unsolved murders—seen through the eyes of the lead detective in the case and the family who cracked it open—revealing evidence of a decades-long coverup of malfeasance and obstruction that denied justice for the victims.
The shocking series of crimes committed by lovers Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez dominated the front pages in 1949. Caught for the double homicide of a widow and her young daughter in Michigan, the first couple of crime became the focus of an intense debate over the death penalty and extradition. Their story climaxed in a sensational trial in New York City and concluded two years later inside Sing Sing’s notorious “Death House.” Pulp fiction era reporters, who followed every step taken by the accused slayers, christened Beck and Fernandez the “Lonely Hearts Killers”—a nickname that stuck and has since been used to describe an entire category of criminal behavior.
Despite the sensationalization of the killer couple’s exploits, the story of the Michigan crime that ended their spree has until now remained largely untold. Drawing on rare archival material, this book presents, for the first time anywhere, a detailed account of this lost chapter in the saga of the “Lonely Hearts Killers.” Both biography and analysis, this book also attempts to deconstruct the myths and misconceptions and to provide answers to a few unanswered questions about the case.
April means we’re halfway to our next Halloween, and we think it’s a great time to celebrate all things macabre. This month, we’re offering readers 40% off our most riveting—and often downright frightening—books on real-life monsters and mayhem with our true crime sale. Through April 19th, use coupon code TRUECRIME40 on all of our reads about serial killers, unsolved crimes, famous robberies and more. Browse our true crime catalog here!
In 2010, University of Kansas officials were shocked to learn that the FBI and IRS were on campus investigating Rodney Jones, former head of the Athletics Ticket Office, for stealing Jayhawks basketball tickets and selling them to brokers. Investigators found that for more than five years Jones and a small ring of university officials had conspired to loot the university of $2 million in tickets, reselling them for $3–5 million. In what was perhaps the biggest scandal in college sports history, all seven members of the “Kansas Ticket Gang” pleaded guilty to RICO Act indictments. Five went to prison—two were given probation for turning state’s evidence
In 2010, University of Kansas officials were shocked to learn that the FBI and IRS were on campus investigating Rodney Jones, former head of the Athletics Ticket Office, for stealing Jayhawks basketball tickets and selling them to brokers. Investigators found that for more than five years Jones and a small ring of university officials had conspired to loot the university of $2 million in tickets, reselling them for $3–5 million. In what was perhaps the biggest scandal in college sports history, all seven members of the “Kansas Ticket Gang” plead guilty to RICO Act indictments. Five went to prison—two were given probation for turning state’s evidence.
As the Great Depression hit, Penn State College was cash-strapped and dilapidated. Cuts to athletic scholarships left the football program a shambles and the school a last resort for many students. In 1937, underfunded state police, fighting a losing battle against striking miners and steel workers in Johnstown, called in the National Guard.
There were not enough police to cover the state, and it showed. Then someone started killing young women in the area. Between November 1938 and May 1940, Rachel Taylor, Margaret Martin and Faye Gates were abducted and sexually assaulted, their bodies dumped within 50 miles of the college.
As the school grew into Pennsylvania State University and the Nittany Lions became a world-class team, two demoralized police agencies were merged, forming the precursor of the Pennsylvania State Police. Gates’s murderer was captured and convicted. The killer(s) of Taylor and Martin, however, have gone unidentified to this day.
Decades before the coining of the term “serial killer,” H.H. Holmes murdered dozens of people in his now-infamous Chicago “Murder Castle.” In his own autobiography, Holmes struggled to define himself in the language of the late nineteenth century. As the “first”—or, as he labeled himself, “The Greatest Criminal of the Age”—he had no one to compare himself to, and no ready-made biographical structure to follow. Holmes was thus nearly able to invent himself from scratch. This book uses Holmes’ writings and confessions to inspect how the Arch Fiend represented himself. Although the legitimacy of Holmes’ personal accounts have been called into question, his biography mirrors the narrative structure of the true crime genre that emerged decades after his death.
In January 1889, as London constables hunted for Jack the Ripper and theaters around the world presented theatrical renditions of the Jekyll and Hyde story, Jackson, Michigan, Police Captain Jack Boyle searched for the murderer of Mary Latimer. This book follows Captain Boyle to the bordellos of gaslight-era Detroit—populated by madams, pimps, prostitutes and gamblers. It describes the investigation that led him to a pharmacist that prowled the streets, akin to a real-life Jekyll and Hyde. Ultimately, the book delves into the mind of Robert Irving Latimer, known as the most dangerous prisoner in Michigan and the man who inspired talk about resurrecting the state’s long-dead death penalty.
We are all instilled with principles, passed down through generations, that guide our feelings and behaviors. Women often feel immense pressure to live up to preconceived standards when taking on the roles of wife, partner or mother. The drive to meet expectations can lead to a sense of lost individuality and feelings of isolation and invisibility. This book serves as a guide through the “muse process,” which encourages women to explore their innate feminine power to reach their full potential and create a happier, healthier life.
From the files of Scotland Yard’s “Black Museum” (open only to police officers) come true crime stories of some of the most infamous murder cases of the 19th and 20th centuries—the Lambeth Poisoner, “baby farmer” Amelia Elizabeth Dyer, the Gentleman Vampire of Bournemouth, the Brides in the Bath Murders, the Rillington Place murders and many others. Along the way, investigators pass a number of crime-solving milestones, included the first use of fingerprint technology, the early use of photography and the first time “The Yard” enlisted the press to help hunt down a killer.
In 1975, Dr. Richard Charles Haefner had it all—a Ph.D. from Penn State University, a prestigious job offer with UCLA and a thriving family business. Then it all came crashing down. Two boys who worked for Haefner accused him of sexual molestation, but allegations of police brutality, prosecutorial misconduct, bribery and corruption soon overshadowed what seemed like an “open-and-shut-case,” ultimately resulting in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s amending state law.
Drawing on interviews and recently discovered documents, the author revisits the case and explores a number of open questions—including whether Haefner was set up by police as he claimed.
Derek Sherwood is the author of 2011’s Who Killed Betsy? Uncovering Penn State University’s Most Notorious Unsolved Crime, which put forth Haefner as the prime suspect. While writing it, he uncovered many expunged documents and as a result he has spent the past decade researching Haefner’s 1976 molestation trial, which ended with a hung jury. The author lives in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Already part of a genre known for generating controversy, some true crime and scandal books have wielded a particular power to unsettle readers, provoke authorities and renew interest in a case. The reactions to such literature have been as contentious as the books themselves, clouding the “truth” with myths and inaccuracies.
From high-profile publishing sensations such as Ten Rillington Place, Fatal Vision and Mommie Dearest to the wealth of writing on the JFK assassination, the death of Marilyn Monroe and the Black Dahlia murder, this book delves into that hard copy era when crime and scandal books had a cultural impact beyond the genre’s film and TV documentaries, fueling outcries that sometimes matched the notoriety of the cases they discussed and leaving legacies that still resonate today.
The term “swinging” calls to mind a bygone era of 1970s sexual liberation—images of shag carpet, hot tubs and married couples swapping motel keys. The Internet age has made swinging widely accessible and discreet to a broad range of participants, married or single, and of any sexual orientation. Some people pursue the excitement of spontaneous, noncommittal sex with strangers, while others seek a certain intimate connection they find unattainable by conventional dating or romantic relationships.
Casey Donatello’s frank memoir describes her transition from inexperienced 20-something through the ups and downs of her introduction to swinging as a couple with her boyfriend to her maturation as a single female swinger—known in the lifestyle as a “unicorn”—in her 30s. Her explicit account goes beyond the physical acts to explore the psychology and life lessons of self-discovery through sex.
The tragic death of 13-year-old Danny Croteau in 1972 faded from headlines and memories for 20 years until the Boston abuse scandal—a string of assaults taking place within the Catholic Church—exploded in the early 2000s. Despite numerous indications, including 40 claims of sexual misconduct with minors, pointing to him as Croteau’s killer, Reverend Richard R. Lavigne remains “innocent.”
Drawing on more than 10,000 pages of police and court records and interviews with Danny’s friends and family, fellow abuse victims, and church officials, the author uncovers the truth—church complicity in a cover up and masking of priests’ involvement in a ring of abusive clergy—behind Croteau’s death and those who had a hand in it.
“You are about to enter a world of drug smuggling, drug greed, and drug murder.” With those words, the West Palm Beach assistant DA began the 1986 murder trial of Judy “Haas” McNelis. The only woman on the U.S. Federal Marshal’s 15 Most-Wanted List, she gained infamy as head of the “Haas Organization,” a reputed $267 million per year marijuana empire. But before her jet-set lifestyle as a drug “queen-pin,” Haas was simply a divorcée with two young children and a penchant for growing pot.
David McNelis’ candid memoir recounts his life with a brash, free-spirited mother determined to achieve success in the male-dominated world of international narcotics smuggling. A studious kid striving for normalcy, McNelis is thrust into an extraordinary adventure where dealers, smugglers, daredevil pilots, federal agents, hitmen, and even an accused KGB spy all become part of “normal” life.
“Big Bob” Bashara put on a respectable face. To his friends in Detroit’s affluent suburb of Grosse Pointe, he was a married father of two, Rotary Club President, church usher and soccer dad who organized charity events with his wife, Jane. To his “slaves,” he was “Master Bob,” a cocaine-snorting slumlord who operated a sex dungeon and had a submissive girlfriend to do his bidding—and he wanted more slaves to serve him. But Bashara knew he couldn’t rule a household of concubines on his income alone. He eyed his wife’s sizable retirement account and formulated a murderous plan. This meticulous account tells the complete story of the crime, the nationally watched investigation and trials, and the lives affected.
“We never lock our doors.” This is an often-heard remark expressing a commonplace American attitude or belief that, despite whatever danger might prevail in public spaces, life inside our own homes remains (or at least should remain) safe, carefree, normal. This book covers 13 high-profile cases in which evil paid an untimely visit and found the entrance open—when everything was normal, until it wasn’t.
A trunk dripping blood, discovered at a railway station in Stockton in 1906, launched one of the most famous murder investigations in California history—still debated by crime historians. In 1913, the dismembered body of a young pregnant woman, found in the East River, was traced back to her killer and husband, who remains the only priest ever executed for homicide in the U.S. In 1916, a successful dentist, recently married into a prestigious family, poisoned his in-laws—first with deadly bacteria, then with arsenic—claiming the real murderer was an Egyptian incubus who took control of his body.
Drawing on court transcripts, newspaper coverage and other contemporary sources, this collection of historical American true crime stories chronicles five murder cases that became media sensations of their day, making headlines across the country in the decades before radio or television.
Historian Alan G. Gauthreaux chronicles 12 homicide cases from late 1800s and early 1900s Louisiana—where “unwritten law” justified jilted women who killed their paramours, and police took measures to protect defendants from lynch mobs. Stories include the 1907 kidnapping of seven-year-old Walter Lamana by the New Orleans “Black Hand,” the 1912 acquittal of Zea McRee (a woman of “good reputation”) in Opelousas, and the 1934 trial and execution of Shreveport’s infamous “Butterfly Man.”
An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing each year in the United States. Only one in 10,000 are found dead. Yet unsolved child murders are almost a daily occurrence—of nearly 52,000 juvenile homicides between 1980 and 2008, more than 20 percent remain open. Drawing on FBI reports, police and court records, and interviews with victims’ families, this book provides details and evidence for 18 unsolved cases from 1956 to 1998.
On a September night in 1958, three New Orleans college students went looking for a gay man to assault. They chose Fernando Rios, who died from the beating he received. In perhaps the earliest example of the “gay panic” defense, the three defendants argued that they had no choice but to beat Rios because he had made an “improper advance.” When the jury acquitted the three, the courtroom cheered. The author offers a detailed examination of the murder and the trial.
In his 2012 book Time Cure, psychologist Philip Zimbardo introduced a groundbreaking therapeutic approach for PTSD sufferers, co-developed with Rosemary Sword. “Time Perspective Therapy” shifts mental focus from the past to the present, and from negative to positive events, helping anyone achieve a more balanced view of life. Featuring real-life stories, this book describes how TPT helps people living with depression, anxiety or stress to move beyond past negative experiences—from toxic relationships to bullying—toward a more positive future.
Clayton Delery’s Out for Queer Blood: The Murder of Fernando Rios and the Failure of New Orleans Justice is on its way to the printer. Sarah Schulman, award-winning writer and gays rights activist, called it “a riveting and important work of grassroots LGBT history that reveals the connections and fissures between homophobia and anti–Latino prejudices in U.S. history.” Schulman added that “Delery unmasks the origins of one of the most sinister legal and cultural foundations of anti-gay oppression: the false accusation of desire and how it has been used to excuse injustice.”
According to editor Lisa Camp, “The authors encourage their readers to be mindful of their time perspectives and in turn create more positive mindsets and healthier relationships—whether between peers, coworkers, romantic partners, or parents and children. Readers are left with invaluable mental tools and the power to better not only themselves, but also the world around them.”
The ancient Greeks and Romans considered it degrading to both parties yet depicted it prolifically in art and literature. The Early Christian Church called it “the worst evil,” punishable by seven years of penance and fasting (murder was one year). Nearly all of the 13 original American colonies had laws against it—except Georgia. A Victorian handbook for young brides advised how to “dampen his desire to kiss in forbidden territory.” Attitudes about oral sex have varied through the centuries and across cultures—a death sentence in some nations, a religious practice in others. This book explores its history as well as its impact on world events.
There have been two new manuscript deliveries today, and both are ready to go into editing. Kevin Sullivan delivered his manuscript about the crime of murder occurring in the homes of those who, through a matter of conscious decision or simply not paying attention, failed to secure their homes and to lock their doors, and because of this, were easily slaughtered. EJ Fleming has previously written for McFarland about Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites. Details about his new manuscript about the murder of Danny Croteau will be released soon.
The end of April was a banner week for Exposit Books, with our authors delivering three manuscripts. Alan G. Gauthreaux, who co-authored Dark Bayou with D.G. Hippensteel, has written a new work about crimes in Louisiana in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Dean Scoville recounts his long career in law enforcement with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in his new memoir, touching upon events such as the Night Stalker Richard Ramirez. Lastly, Phil Zimbardo and Rose Sword (who broke new ground in transforming the lives of people suffering from PTSD) have written Living and Loving Better with Time Perspective Therapy.