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true crime

Oct 19 2015

Ann Rules Indeed

by Hope L

annrulesAnn Rule wrote 30 New York Times bestsellers, all of which are still in print. I, for one, think she really does rule. Unfortunately, the prolific author died July 26, 2015, at age 83. She had her first bestseller in 1980 with her book about serial killer Ted Bundy.

It may not be the first of Rule’s books that I’ve read, but The Stranger Beside Me definitely is the one that scared me the most and was the most memorable. I think it was the personal connection that Rule had to Ted Bundy that made that book unique and incredible–that, and of course, the subject matter of Ted Bundy, a serial killer whom most of us have heard about.

More recently, I read her book about Gwinnett County dentist Bart Corbin, Too Late to Say Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and Betrayal.

Ann Rule was once a Seattle police officer, and that’s why her writing seems so authentic, so mesmerizing. Right now I’m reading Every Breath You Take: A True Story of Obsession, Revenge, and Murder, and she fleshes out the myriad of details and somehow puts everything into a fascinating  account. Allen Van Houte, the criminal in this book, is truly unbelievable–and she recounts with incredible heartbreak the many people whose lives he ruined.


I’ve read a lot of true crime books, and I’d have to say that Ann Rule is right up there at the top of my favorites. She would write forewords to her books that spoke to readers like they were friends, often inviting them to drop her a line or an email.  Indeed, Every Breath You Take was written after Rule received a request from a fan who said that her sister wanted Rule to write her story should she ever die tragically (at the hands of her then ex-husband).

Click here to see what’s available by Ann Rule at DCPL.


Jul 13 2015

Criminal History

by Hope L

echoesI got excited when my co-worker Camille wrote a review about the true crime book The Stranger She Loved.  True crime stories are some of my favorite, and now I have someone else at DCPL who may be sharing some interesting finds.

My new favorite true crime author is Jerry Bledsoe. His book Before He Wakes: A True Story of Money, Marriage and Murder is available through DCPL.  He has written about several true crimes from his home state of North Carolina, and his books are  filled with very detailed facts, which must take years of research to write.

I have read many of Ann Rule’s books, but my favorite of hers will probably always be The Stranger Beside Me, her true account of serial killer Ted Bundy. Rule discovered she had known Bundy years ago when they both worked at a crisis center.  Reading about Ted Bundy scared the daylights out of me!

Another book that terrified me (no doubt these books scared me so much because I was living alone when I was reading them) was Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders  by Vincent Bugliosi.

Ancareergirlsother book I recently ran across is Robert K. Tanenbaum’s Echoes of  My Soul,which is sending chills down my spine, but in a different way.  You see, it tells the story of  ‘The Career-Girls Murders’  in New York on August 28, 1963, which,  ironically, occurred on the day of  Martin Luther King’s  iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.  I say ironically because a black man named George Whitmore was bullied by police into confessing to the murders.  This case reminds me of some of the news stories that have been front and center in our country over the past couple of  years.





Jun 5 2015

The Stranger She Loved

by Camille B

Book Cover ImageI confess that I have always struggled with reading nonfiction. Facts, dates, places, times; my mind tends to wander, and most times I find myself going through the book, picking out all the exciting bits and skimming over the rest, much like you would a salad. So, I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks ago when I came across Shanna Hogan’s book The Stranger She Loved: A Mormon Doctor, His Beautiful Wife, and an Almost Perfect Murder, a true-crime story so intriguing and filled with heart-stopping drama, I simply could not put it down.

Crime stories always reel me in because there’s always a part of me that tries to fathom how the criminal mind works, even though I know it’s probably futile to try. I can’t help but wonder what leads him/her to commit such heinous acts–and most of all, what makes them think they can get away with it?

This MacNeill case in particular was even more intriguing to me because, scarily, in spite of all the overwhelming evidence, the good Doctor almost did get away with it. And, had it not been for the relentless pursuit of some of his family members (even though it took them years to find justice) and the unwavering determination of their lawyers, he might very well be sitting on a beach somewhere sipping Margaritas.

The highly publicized trial, dubbed the “Facelift Murder Case” (you’ll have to read the book to see why) was carried live on television in 2013. I vaguely remember catching glimpses of it from time to time, but I didn’t keep up with it all the way through; but I’ll tell you that Shanna Hogan’s retelling of the events surrounding the case–from the very first morning Michele MacNeill was found in her bathtub to the final judgement passed down by the court to her husband Martin–was so engaging, the details so vividly presented, it was as though she was sitting at your kitchen table telling you the story herself.

As you read, you sense and feel the frustration of the women, Michele’s daughters and her sister, as their suspicions are initially brushed aside by the authorities as being nothing more than the speculations of grieving, emotional women.

You find yourself digging and searching alongside them as they work tirelessly to compile enough evidence to build a strong and sturdy case against Martin, all the while living in constant fear of him and what he might do if he found out what they were up to.

And finally you feel the angst. You feel the turmoil they must have experienced as they sat in that courtroom day after day, awaiting the verdict of the man who took away their mother, sister, daughter and friend.

Seeing that this was no Smoking Gun Murder, the fear that Martin MacNeill might walk away a free man was probably always at the back of their minds, and your heart aches for them while they sit at the edge of their seats awaiting a guilty verdict for Michele’s murder.

When I finally did close the book, in complete satisfaction, I felt as though I had been to that residence over in Pleasant Grove. I had walked through every room in the house, seen the MacNeills celebrate birthdays and Christmases, knew all of their friends and neighbors, and watched in horror as everything they had, everything they had believed in all their lives, unraveled in front of them at the hands of their father.

If I had to rate this book, I’d honestly give it five stars.

If you’re like me and drawn to true-crime stories, here are a few other titles that might interest you.

Practice to Deceive by Ann Rule

Exposed: The Secret Life of Jodi Arias by Jane Velez-Mitchell

Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox


Oct 7 2013

The Atlanta Mary Mysteries

by Hope L

Truth really is stranger than fiction. That’s the main reason I enjoy reading non-fiction books.  In this post and the next, I will explore the strange stories of the two Marys.

I’m fascinated with true crime mysteries right here in our own metropolis, but none intrigue me more than the cases of the two Marys: Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old pencil factory worker who was found murdered in 1913, and Mary Shotwell Little, a 25-year-old C & S secretary who disappeared seemingly into thin air from Lenox Mall in 1965. Mary Shotwell Little vanished after eating dinner with a friend at the S & S Cafeteria at Lenox Mall.

Here are a few books from the Library’s collection about the Mary Phagan case. My next post will highlight some publications on the Mary Shotwell Little case.

And the Dead Shall Rise:  the Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank, by Steve Oney, is definitely the most thorough account of the Phagan/Frank crimes I’ve read.  If you don’t know about Mary Phagan:  The 13-year-old was found murdered in the pencil factory where she worked. Factory superintendent and part-owner Leo Frank was tried and convicted of the crime. His death sentence was later commuted by the governor to life in prison. Upon hearing this, an angry mob took Frank at gunpoint from the state prison at Milledgeville and brought him to Marietta where they hanged him. Frank was ultimately pardoned posthumously. The story became nationally famous because of the anti-Semitism involved, the founding of B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation League, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and the local newspaper sensationalism pitting the working class and child labor vs. Atlanta’s moneyed elite.

Murder in the Peach State – Infamous Murders from Georgia’s Past, by Bruce L. Jordan, starts with a chapter on Mary Phagan and Leo Frank. The book itself is dedicated to columnist Celestine Sibley, who was a court reporter for years covering the trials of Georgia’s most infamous murders.

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan, by Mary Phagan (great-niece and namesake of the Mary Phagan), tells the family’s side of the story and the grim nature of the crime. Another book about the story is The Leo Frank Case, by Leonard Dinnerstein.


Mar 27 2013

Best Free Reference Websites 2012

by Jesse M

Alphabits TV AdBack in 2009 I posted about the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) list of the best free reference websites of the year. Since several years have elapsed, I decided to investigate the 2012 list to see what new and useful reference websites were being featured. Here were some standouts:

Fans of the popular television series Mad Men and nostalgia buffs generally may be interested in Adviews: A Digital Archive of Vintage Television Commercials. Access thousands of historic commercials created for clients or acquired by the D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (DMB&B) advertising agency or its predecessor from a period ranging from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Art lovers rejoice! Google Art Project brings the art to you by linking to thousands of works of art across 30 institutions in the US and worldwide! Just choose a museum from the homepage and then use Street View technology to virtually explore the museum or click on specific works of art and zoom in to view them in high resolution.

Fans of truecrime books may enjoy browsing through The Vault, a repository of thousands of declassified FBI documents including memos, reports and other materials spanning several decades. While some words and passages have been redacted to protect identities or sensitive information, a plethora of dossiers are available on both well known and minor criminals as well as such notable figures as Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Taylor, George Steinbrenner and even the pop group the Monkees. Please note: Some material contained in this site may contain actions, words, or images of a graphic nature that may be offensive and/or emotionally disturbing. This material may not be suitable for all ages. Please view it with discretion.

And finally, a great resource for students, educators, and anyone interested in viewing country-by-country statistical data, the World Databank offers a wealth of statistics gleaned from databases maintained by the World Bank. World Development Indicators (WDI) provides data across many categories such as education, the environment, health, and poverty, while Global Development Finance (GDF) provides statistics about the economic and financial health of countries. The site is easy to use, just plug in the country or countries, the statistics of interest, and the years needed.

Want to see more reference sites from previous years? Check out the combined index of lists from 1999-2012.