We’ll always have mass murder

This essay was originally written just two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in 2012. Yesterday, the tragic Uvalde TX school shooting left 19 children and two teachers dead. It appears anew here now, with only minor updates because, well, nothing will ever change. —RF This is America, dammit, and we have a God-given…

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Everything I need to know, I learned in Little League

Essayist Robert Fulghum once surmised that everything he ever needed to know he learned in kindergarten, but I was a slow learner. Maybe Little League was just the beginning of my higher education, but everything else I ever needed to know I learned in the sandlot on endless summer days that simmered into night games…

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How many murder victims can you name? Go …

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.”…

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The Ladder Guy

A long time ago, when my kids were very young, my parents visited for an early December weekend, a rare occasion since I’d moved north with my family. I had already committed to hanging the Christmas lights before the weather turned bitterly cold—which is when I normally seemed to put up my Christmas lights. My…

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In defense of Ebenezer Scrooge

I originally wrote this essay as a newspaper column in 1995. It appears here today with a few minor but festive updates because, well, Scrooge is timeless. 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…

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10 Los Angeles Crime Facts You Didn’t Know

The darker side of a city built on dreams and illusions is sometimes obscured, sometimes elevated to mythic proportions. In a place where the words Manson, Night Stalker, and Black Dahlia are well known, the supporting cast of a thousand other foul-play tales can be found in the shadows of the neon-pastel Los Angeles landscape.…

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What if Huck Finn had helicopter parents?

Summer is over and you know what that means, right? No, not the start of school! It’s time for helicopter parents to lift off. Thanks to technology, these moms and dads can track their kids everywhere via numerous apps on their smartphones. They’re already hovering over the school bus, on the monkey bars, the college…

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5 Book Terms That Can Make You Sound Brilliant (or Stupid)

I’ve been astonished at the number of people who have expressed some trepidation about communicating with an author out of fear they’ll misuse a word (or never send fan letters as a way to avoid misspellings). Really, folks, we don’t judge you by your spelling and grammar—unless you’re pointing out a typo in our latest…

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Is true crime dead … or just choking on its own blood?

For many years, acquisition editors in New York have justified their rejections of true-crime manuscripts by saying, “Sorry, but true crime is on life support”—mostly as a way of letting authors down easy. It’s true that the true-crime genre has been in a coma several times since Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” inspired the modern…

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What crime writers do I read? Here’s one

It’s one of the most common questions I get from a roomful of readers: Who’s your favorite author? Fact is, I don’t have just one. And they’re all over the lot, from crime fiction to magical realism to true crime and some classic literary giants whose main attraction for me is simply the way they’ve…

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All writers and readers share one profound thing

Our most profound ideas are often very simple. This one was delivered unto me by a humble, small-town Texas bookseller and scribbler as we sat among his stacks and stacks of books. He loved his old books and he sold a few, but mostly he just collected them. It wasn’t a good business model, but…

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Place matters

For writers who grew up in the West the landscape is unconsciously woven into our storytelling. It’s natural because that’s what we know. And it’s the thing that makes our western regional literature distinctive. This past weekend, I was honored to deliver a keynote speech as the featured guest at the annual Authors Lunch, hosted…

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10 Creepy Places … Right Next Door to You

Maybe you’d like to take a casserole over to the new neighbors in the murder house? Maybe that kid in the serial killer’s old home could mow the grass this summer? Do you really know the disturbing history of your own place? These 10 places—mostly homes just like yours—will creep you out. 10. THE CANDY…

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Lend me your ears! Audiobook of ‘Alice & Gerald’ is out

One of America’s most notable audiobook producers—Dreamscape Media—has just released the Audible audio edition of my newest true crime, “Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story“ (2019, Prometheus Books). The CD version is expected to land by July 23. The audio edition is narrated by actor Chris Lutkin, an actor, director, writer, and teacher in…

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10 Mugshot Tips for Your Next Arrest

Police have taken mugshots of accused criminals almost since the beginning of photography. Why? So they’ll recognize you when you commit future crimes … and for their never-ending amusement. But there’s a real art to posing for a great mugshot. So, we present this rogue’s gallery for your education. And may the rest of you…

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Who’ll write the first true crime about murder in outer space?

It’s Hollywood sci-fi stuff. A simmering personal feud between two astronauts plays out across the frozen Martian crust … or maybe there’s a rape in the claustrophobic quarters of the International Space Station … or ooh-ooh, a celestial serial killer is loose on Uranus. And inevitably, a drunken, cynical galactic detective and his mismatched sidekick…

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Alice Barbier Uden (1939-2019)

I won’t try to eulogize Alice Uden. Her life sentence ended this week when she died at age 80, still being punished for one of the four—probably five—murders she either committed herself or took part in carrying out. Children and grandchildren know what she did, and they are horrified. They also remember her as a…

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Before #MeToo, there was Fatty Arbuckle

Nine years ago, HBO announced that “Modern Family” star Eric (“Cam”) Stonestreet had been signed to play Hollywood’s most tragic funnyman Fatty Arbuckle in a new a biopic. Since then—and possibly because of the rise of the #MeToo movement—the project has been deep in “development hell” since 2011 and might never see the light of…

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