- Post by Molly Odintz
True crime books may be a hop and a step away from their mystery and thriller cousins, but every once in a while, just as readers jump from fact to fiction, a crime writer will step across the bounds from fiction to non-fiction. The origins of detective fiction lie in the lurid pulp of yellow journalism, and crime fiction based on fact remains perennially popular. Here are five non-fiction crime reads by authors who started off writing fiction. The picks below range from recent releases to true crime classics.
LAPD ’53 by James Ellroy
Ellroy’s stunning collaboration with the Los Angeles Police Museum showcases the weird, wild and less-than-wonderful world of LA in 1953. The collection highlights a society marked by the dissonance and blurred lines between appearance and reality, cops and criminals, vagabonds and victims, and starlets and sociopaths. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this slim volume is a perfect shortcut to enjoying the work of America’s most violent and verbose writer (although Don Winslow and Greg Isles, with their recent work, have both been racking up a competitively high body count and even higher page count). You can find copies of LAPD ’53 on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
With her recent true crime book, McDermid has pulled a reverse Kathy Reichs; as a mystery novelist, she has wowed us for some time, yet now is the time to appreciate her talent for writing about forensics. While Sherlock Holmes may be frequently pilloried by his creator for a willingness to write long academic papers on identifying cigarette ash, McDermid has a far better sense of when to step back and give a bigger picture. She delves into many of the most fascinating areas of forensic science, substituting her usual quest for the literary “who” and “why” with a forensic pursuit of “how” and “what.” You can find copies of Forensics on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
As She Lay Sleeping by Mark Pryor
Pryor seems to be the Persephone of the crime fiction world, evenly divided between real life and fiction. His day job is as a prosecutor for the city of Austin, and when he’s not at the courthouse, he writes the hugely entertaining Hugo Marston espionage series, following Marston’s adventures as head of security for the American Embassy in Paris. Pryor brings together all of his writing expertise and many of his own experiences in his true crime book As She Lay Sleeping, which details Pryor’s involvement in the difficult prosecution of a re-opened case long gone cold. You can find copies of As She Lay Sleeping on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Capote never wrote a detective novel, but boy, did he write fiction – massively popular fiction such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as well as a host of other works, recently back in print in new classic editions. This makes it all the more shocking that Capote virtually single-handedly created the genre of “true crime” by writing what he called a “nonfiction novel” about two boys on death row for murdering a family. You can find copies of In Cold Blood on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue by Frederick Forsyth
Forsyth is best known today for his stunning sixties thriller, The Day of the Jackal, based on true events and inspired by his own colorful past. He’s recently released a new memoir detailing his adventures in espionage, and his news-style prose transitions perfectly from intrigue thriller to thrilling memoir. You can find copies of The Outsider on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.