Eleven years after it was first published by St. Martin’s Press, “The Darkest Night” is still getting attention.
This week, the New York Times published a list of the top true-crime books in every state. “From the safety of your armchair, lose yourself in some classic — and completely terrifying — real-life stories of murder, mayhem, corruption, arson and robbery,” the Times’ introduction promised.
The alluring catalog compiled by reporters Tina Jordan and Ross MacDonald included great true-crime classics such as “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, “Columbine” by Dave Cullen, “Never Let Her Go” by Ann Rule, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt, “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, “Give a Boy a Gun” by Jack Olsen, “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” by David Simon, “Missoula” by Jon Krakauer, and “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann … and “The Darkest Night.”
The Times boiled the entire 1973 Wyoming tragedy, which spanned the next 19 years, into a compact summary:
In one of Wyoming’s most notorious cases, two sisters were abducted and thrown off a bridge — and one of them lived to identify her attackers.—New York Times
Any time someone, especially the Times, recognizes a writer’s work among some of the genre’s best is flattering. I knew both of these victims better than most and I poured a lot of my heart into telling their story. The real-life characters, the sometimes alien setting, and the tragedy have fascinated readers all over the world.
But it isn’t my beautiful prose or my exhaustive research that makes it so moving. It isn’t a trick of marketing. It isn’t reviews in papers like the New York Times. It isn’t “shocking photos” or graphic descriptions. No, it is the power of a very sad story about two doomed girls that, like much of the real crime that happens around us, had no happy ending.
But I am happy my friends’ story has touched many new hearts—especially at the New York Times.
In addition to “The Darkest Night,” bestselling crime writer Ron Franscell is the author of the new true crime “Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story.”