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ENGL 2342 NW Mahoney-Ross True Crime: True Crime Research Strategies

And Now for Something Completely Different...

You will find that your True Crime literary research will be different in some respects from literary research you have performed in other English classes. Although there are many True Crime works that feature great writing, most literary critics regard True Crime as more of a "popular" genre than one that merits close literary analysis. 

 

You can illustrate this fact by yourself by making a quick search in TCC's library databases. 

If you go to the library homepage at: library.tccd.edu and search "tell-tale heart" you will find thousands of results and hundreds of peer-reviewed articles on Poe's famous short story. If you try the same thing for "The Onion Field," (add "Wambaugh" as a second search term on the Advanced Search screen) you will find about 15 peer-reviewed articles, only one of which is really about the book--the others only mention The Onion Field in passing. 

So then, how to proceed? 

One very effective way is to search for the sub-themes contained in the 17 books on your reading list. You will find many more peer-reviewed articles on the sub-themes found in True Crime works than you will peer-reviewed articles on the individual books in the reading list. 

For example, try an Advanced Search with "True Crime" in quotes in one box and "catharsis" in a second search box. Be sure to put "True Crime" in quotes--this is a much more specific way to search. You should find 35 or so peer-reviewed articles with this search, some of which discuss Capote's In Cold Blood

Peer-reviewed articles that you find may discuss one of the 17 books on the reading list and they may not--but you will be able to find articles on the sub-themes in the books that you can relate to your selected title. 

Below is a list of the 17 titles and some of the sub-themes they contain. You can use this list to generate search terms. 

Database searching is mostly a science--but there is also a bit of art involved too. As always, if you feel you need help, contact a librarian!


 

true crime and regional history

true crime and justice

true crime and trials

popularization of true crime

celebrity involvement

literary history of true crime

Journalistic style

 true crime biographical approach

sympathetic depictions of murderers

Function of the first person narrative/memoir in true crime

true crime and the death penalty

unsolved crime

true crime and race

victim portrayal

true crime and catharsis

True crime portrayals of law enforcement

 

Independent reading selections

  • Berendt, John. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: 400 pages; murder in 1980s Savannah, GA; reads like a novel. true crime and regional history (South), true crime and justice, true crime and trials
  • Bugliosi, Vincent and Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter: 689 pages; story of the Manson murders told by the prosecutor; bestselling true crime book of all time. True crime and justice, true crime and trials, popularization of true crime, celebrity involvement
  • Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood; 343 pages; murder of the Clutter family in 1950s Kansas. Most famous true crime book of all time. true crime and regional history (Midwest), popularization of true crime, literary history of true crime, celebrity involvement, true crime and catharsis
  • Cullen, Dave. Columbine; 496 pages; character study of the life and crimes of the school shooting perpetrators in 1990s Colorado, written by a journalist.  Journalistic style, true crime biographical approach, sympathetic depictions of murderers
  • Gilmore, Mikal. Shot in the Heart; 416 pages; a memoir written by the brother of Gary Gilmore, executed in 1977. Function of the first person narrative/memoir in true crime, sympathetic depictions of murderers, true crime and the death penalty, true crime and catharsis
  • Graysmith, Robert. Zodiac; 400 pages; the story of the unsolved serial killings in 1960s-1970s San Francisco, written by a journalist. Journalistic style, unsolved crime
  • Hollandsworth, Skip. The Midnight Assassin; 336 pages; about a serial killer in 19th century Austin, and how the race of his victims (African-American) affected the approach.    Journalistic style, true crime and race,, unsolved crime
  • Kolker, Robert. Lost Girls; 416 pages; investigation of the unsolved murders of prostitutes in the 21st century, written by a journalist.  True Crime and regional history (West), journalistic style, victim portrayal
  • Krakauer, Jon. Under the Banner of Heaven; 432 pages; an account of the crimes committed by a religious sect in Salt Lake City. Journalistic style, true crime and religion, victim portrayal
  • Larson, Erik. Devil in the White City, 447 pages; the creation of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and its effect on the story of serial killer H.H. Holmes. true crime and regional history (Chicago World’s Fair), victim portrayal
  • Mailer, Norman. The Executioner’s Song, 1136 pages; the story of Gary Gilmore, who campaigned to be executed in 1977. true crime and justice, true crime and trials, true crime and the death penalty
  • McGinnis, Joe. Fatal Vision, 976 pages; the story of physician Jeffrey MacDonald, who claims he was wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder. True crime and justice, biographical approach
  • Roughead, William. Classic Crimes; 576 pages; short depictions of crimes in 18th/19th century England. Literary history of true crime
  • Rule, Ann. The Stranger Beside Me, 672 pages; the story of the writer’s relationship with Ted Bundy, who killed dozens of young women in the 1960s and 1970s Function of the first person narrative in true crime, sympathetic depictions of murderers
  • St. Germain, Justin. Son of a Gun; 272 pages; a memoir written by a young man whose mother is killed by her husband. Function of the first person narrative/memoir in true crime, true crime and stereotypes, true crime and regional history (Western frontier), true crime and catharsis
  • Wambaugh, Joseph. The Onion Field; 512 pages; the story of 2 police officers who were ambushed. True crime portrayals of law enforcement
  • West, Rebecca. A Train of Powder; 320 pages; explores 4 trials in the 1940s and 1950s. Literary history of true crime, true crime and justice, true crime and trials

 

 

 

 

 

True Crime Books in TCC Libraries