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…

The radicalization of Luke Skywalker

A long time ago in a library far, far away, a mythologist named Joseph Campbell conceived the notion that all of humanity’s stories—from cavemen’s fire pits to religious myths to fairy tales—had certain similarities. They often shared reluctant heroes on quests that seemed slightly out of reach, thresholds to be crossed, mentors who guide us,…Read More…

Never lost. Always home.

We have lost the sense of story in most of our mass media. We express every unfinished thought, take pictures of our food and our cats and ourselves, share other people’s aphorisms. We convince ourselves that all we must know can be summarized in 144 characters. So when a genuine story comes along, it feels…Read More…

Miracle on County Road 34

The end of the year always inspires me to put things in order.  Last night, I was rearranging the scattered piles of books and papers in my office when I came across a rather ratty Christmas card from an old friend, a country acquaintance up north from back in another life. I thought I’d share…Read More…

Crime buffs only!

If you’re into true crime and history, you’ll love Ron’s Crime Buff’s Guides! There’s no better way to explore the crime history of places like Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Maryland than following your GPS to the scenes of a thousand crimes. Coming in 2016—Outlaw Los Angeles!Read More…

The Ladder Guy

A long time ago, my parents were visiting for an early December weekend, a rare occasion since I’d moved north. But I had already committed to hanging the Christmas lights before the weather turned bitterly cold – which is when I normally put up my Christmas lights. My father asked if he could help and…Read More…

In defense of Ebenezer Scrooge

This essay originally appeared in 1998. It appears here today with a few minor but festive updates. No businessman in the history of literature has been as misunderstood as Ebenezer Scrooge. His very name is now a synonym for pinch-fisted churlishness and humbuggery. Why? Certainly because that was Charles Dickens’ aim when, in his classic…Read More…

The origin of “hunker down”

Every hurricane season, two words pop up like a tropical depression in the Cape Verde Islands: hunker down. As a survivor of Hurricane Rita, which smashed into Gulf Coast Texas in 2005, those words became as natural to me as “please” and “thank you.” We hunkered down and prepared to cover a storm that promised…Read More…

We’ll always have mass murder

This essay was written just two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in 2012. It appears anew here now, with only minor updates. —RF This is America, dammit, and we have a God-given right to fool ourselves. The bodies of dead children hadn’t even been cleared from the classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary before…Read More…

Mystery of the Booth Mummy

Ready to play Gumshoe? While researching THE CRIME BUFF’S GUIDE TO OUTLAW TEXAS, I came across the intriguing story of the long-lost mummy of John Wilkes Booth … or at least a fellow who claimed to be him. It all begins in 1870, five years after the Lincoln assassination, when a young man named John…Read More…