A dark night, long ago and far away

Every crime writer has heard this little heckling voice, usually from the cheap seats, but sometimes from inside his own head. It isn’t always loud, but it’s often piercing. Tragically, today is the 43rd anniversary of a monstrous crime against two of my childhood friends in the small town where we grew up: Two young sisters were abducted…Read More…

Before Dallas, there was Mark Essex

This was excerpted from Ron Franscell’s DELIVERED FROM EVIL, a book that explores the lives of 10 ordinary people who survived mass killers. One of those monsters was a racist sniper named Mark Essex, who perched in a downtown New Orleans hotel in 1973 with an evil plan to kill as many white people as…Read More…

Did a Bible-thumping dummy meet a grim end?

The story you are about to read is true. No names have been changed to protect anybody. I’m not that creative. ~~~~~~~~~ The city is Beaumont, Texas. I carry a chewed-up pencil, a ratty notebook and my fingers are stained with bubble-jet ink. I’m a newspaperman. (Here’s where you, the reader, sing, “Dum-de-dum-dum.”) It was…Read More…

Vincent van Gogh: Suicide or homicide?

Among the historic, infamous, and heartbreaking deaths we explore in the brand-new book MORGUE: A LIFE IN DEATH (St. Martin’s Press) is the presumed suicide of the troubled genius Vincent van Gogh. Presumed. When van Gogh’s latest biographers, Pulitzer-winning authors Steven Naifeh and the late Gregory White Smith, were perplexed by the evidence, they eventually…Read More…

Is ‘felon’ the new dirty word?

If government was required to generate 1,000 jobs for every new word it tried to insert in the cultural lexicon, we’d all be employed. The Washington Post recently ran a guest column by U.S. Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, who has headed the Office of Justice Programs since 2013. (And while we’re editing, how…Read More…

Click here to see somebody die

Would you click to watch someone die? Maybe you just did. The proliferation of cameras—smartphone, news, surveillance, security, webcams, dashboard, GoPro, cops’ body-cams, and “old fashioned” digital models—means the moment of death will increasingly be captured. And the wildly unpredictable moral compass of social media and web content means more of those images will be…Read More…

Amazon puts MORGUE in Top 10 for May!

A week after Goodreads picked MORGUE: A LIFE IN DEATH among its best May books, Amazon has named it one of the 10 Best Nonfictions hitting the shelf this month! These are marvelous endorsements for MORGUE (St. Martin’s Press), which officially hits the shelf on May 17. Co-authored with Dr. Vincent Di Maio, one of the world’s most acclaimed medical examiners,…Read More…

Goodreads picks MORGUE for May!

Goodreads has recommended MORGUE: A LIFE IN DEATH among its best May books! This is a coveted honor. If you’re among the 39 million (or so) active and engaged readers who get Goodreads newsletters, please take the hint. Co-authored with Dr. Vincent Di Maio, one of the world’s most acclaimed medical examiners, this book offers a rare glimpse behind the…Read More…

How many murder victims can you name?

Because you’re here right now, it’s safe to assume you’re fairly conversant in matters of mass- and serial-killing. You know your Mansons from your Bundys, right? Well, it’s Monday and you’ve got a tough week ahead, so here’s something fun—in a macabre sorta way—to distract you from your nasty, binge-watching obsession with “Making a Murderer.”…Read More…

Can you spot the killer?

      Winston Mosely murdered New York bartender Kitty Genovese in an infamous 1964 knife attack that raised questions about the role of bystanders in crime. When he died in prison this week at age 81, his old mug shot (far left in the lineup above) was splashed across the Internet and  we all thought simultaneously, “Yep,…Read More…

Eyeball tattoos (and other prison brainstorms)

If you brushed your teeth this morning before settling down to read whatever fascinating new material was posted at ronfranscell.com, you unwittingly celebrated a prison inmate. That’s right. In 1770, British merchant William Addis was doing time for causing a riot. That’s when he decided that the customary tooth-cleaning of his day—rubbing your teeth with…Read More…

The day I planted Dermot Healy’s potatoes

The potato patch behind Dermot Healy’s stone cottage wasn’t much bigger than a parking space, but the Irish winter had left it dog-eared and bedraggled. “The first thing,” Dermot said as he handed me the spade, “is to turn the soil.” I’d come to Ireland to research a novel. Without a drop of Irish blood in…Read More…

‘Lost’ pieces of ‘The Darkest Night’

Tomorrow, THE DARKEST NIGHT celebrates eight years since it was first published in paperback. Almost immediately it became a bestseller and readers continue to find it in great numbers today. It’s not because I am an extraordinary storyteller, but because this powerful story of two girls’ terror moves anyone who hears it to want to…Read More…

10 Ideas for Loving a Creative Person

For a long time, I resented that my mother accused me of being a dreamer—”accused” being the operative word. To her, it was less than I was capable of. To her, creativity was fine for hobbyists, but not successful men. But as I grew into a decent journalist and professional writer, she slowly changed, even exhibited pride…Read More…

A message from the past

As I write this, my birthday is still about 13 hours away, but my first birthday well-wish has arrived from the other side of the world. It comes from my friend Shoukry Henain, a Cairo chef I met on the street there just a few weeks after 9/11, and who plays a small but sublime role…Read More…

Digging up Lee Harvey Oswald

Here is an excerpt of my upcoming book MORGUE: A LIFE IN DEATH, which explores the most historic, infamous, and heartbreaking cases of renowned medical examiner Dr. Vincent Di Maio. In this “clear, gritty, and enthralling narrative,” Dr. Di Maio and I guide the reader into the inner sanctum, behind the morgue door, to tell his fascinating life story…Read More…

The Black Dahlia dissected again

Today, it’s been 69 years since Elizabeth Short’s grisly parts were discovered in a vacant Los Angeles subdivision, sliced cleanly in half and posed lasciviously. This obscure waitress suddenly became far more famous in death than the Black Dahlia (as we know her now) ever dreamed in her brief life. Breathing, she was just another pretty face. In chunks…Read More…

What would be your last meal?

Your last breath is only a few hours away. The governor isn’t going to call. People are gathering outside to cheer your death. The Death Row chaplain has run out of prayers. The clock is ticking like a time bomb. You have one final decision before your life is over: what will you eat for…Read More…

Voices in my head

Every crime writer has heard this little heckling voice, usually from the cheap seats, but sometimes from inside his own head. It isn’t always loud, but it’s often piercing. My 2008 true crime, The Darkest Night, enjoyed a revival on bestseller lists when its long-awaited digital edition was released last year. This intimate story of…Read More…

Welcome home!

For more than 12 years, you’ve watched Ron’s career blossom right here, growing from just two books when we first launched in 2003 to 15 (and counting). Now, www.ronfranscell.com is blossoming, too. Welcome to our newly redesigned website! You were the driving force behind this redesign. We know you’re coming to us from all sorts…Read More…

16 Pages of Shocking Photos! (Did you peek?)

WARNING: Some morgue and crime-scene photos appear in this essay. Funny story. Not long ago, I was telling a fascinating little yarn about the autopsy of a deranged killer whose body was riddled with more than 200 bullets after pursuing police cornered him at the end of one of modern America’s bloodiest massacres. Then my…Read More…