True Crime by Ted Bassingthwaighte
The best . . .
Now that you are prepared for it let’s talk about what’s good. I am passionate about stories in book form in particular. I don’t deride digital versions of true crime. True crime podcasts are arguably the fastest growing medium in the genre. But is listening as engaging or enriching as the book. Not for me, but I’m old fashioned I suppose.
There are so many diverse, interesting and stimulating stories on the market. Too many to soak them all up so I spend my reading time on only those stories that grab me from the start and are expertly written. I intentionally avoid the bad ones so I can’t let you in on the crap ones. You’ll have to find out for yourself.
I seek out the books that enrich my reading experience and value add to my knowledge and fascination of all the genre has to offer. In true crime the world is your oyster. I feel it is near impossible to consume it all coupled with my poor concentration so I’m content concentrating on the stories that interest and excite me.
Of course, we all have our favourite writers and themes. I suggest you keep an open mind about all that is on offer in the genre. Try a lot until you find that theme or those authors who bring you the most joy.
When you buckle up to stand at the shoulder of monsters you have to relish the experience. Hairs standing erect on the back of your neck, heart fist pumping in your chest, churning stomach at the grotesque, bug-eyed amazement at the surreal and teeth clenching anger at the cruelty and injustice are all part of the true crime slalom.
In the beginning I went to a safe place, reading police procedurals highlighting great detective work and successful prosecutions. It’s what I did for a job. Was it a vindication of my personal successes and failures? Maybe. Silly me! I soon found mind food in the whole gamut of true crime: police procedurals, journalistic exposes, biographies, memoir, and narrative non-fiction to name a few.
If you want to start somewhere, I suggest these three world class tomes. You will not be disappointed:
- Truman Capote – In Cold Blood (Vintage)
Author and journalist, Tom Wolfe said, “The book is neither a who-done-it nor a will-they-be-caught, since the answers to both questions are known from the outset . . . Instead, the book’s suspense is based largely on a totally new idea in detective stories: the promise of gory details, and the withholding of them until the end.” (Pornoviolence in Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1976))
- Helen Garner – Joe Cinque’s Consolation (Picador)
Garner wrote in her journal: “Joe Cinque’s murder wasn’t a series of facts that I could be professional about, that I could seize and manipulate with my mind. I was helpless in the face of it. It billowed like a dark curtain on every breeze that blew. It seeped into everything I did. It was a stricken land to which my imagination had been exiled. I couldn’t find a place to get back across the border. The only way was to write about it. But I was paralysed.” (Brennan, Bernadette (2017). A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work. Text Publishing)
- Norman Mailer – The Executioner Song (Little, Brown)
Mailer won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for this true crime novel that tells the story of double murderer, Gary Mark Gilmore who demanded his own execution by firing squad in 1977 overturning earlier death penalty statutes that deemed the death penalty as ‘cruel and unusual.’
What’s on my bedside table? Check out these three new releases covering nearly 100 years of bad people doing evil across a range of cultures, occupations and responsibilities.
Over the past 15 years I’ve read and reviewed dozens of true crime books. I remain loyal to the Australian true crime market. There is a plethora of quality international true crime stories both in print, podcast and blog so don’t limit your adventure. I just know what I like and I’m comfortable with that.
Without bias, I highly recommend publishers Allen & Unwin, Big Sky Publishing and Penguin Australia for the variety, quality of story and writing of some of my favoured writers.
Here are but a few to consider:
Allen & Unwin
Ted Bassingthwaighte is a retired NSW police detective living in Newcastle with his wife and dog. Since his retirement in 2009 he has been writing. He reviews books for the NSW Police news magazine, has entered HWC short story competitions, winning a prize in the HWC 2014 Grieve competition. He is a member of the HWC and participates regularly in HWC events. He hopes to have his true crime manuscript ‘Bloody Odyssey’ edited and ready for publication in 2019.