5 Yuletide Crimes: Death doesn’t take a holiday

The song says it’s the most wonderful time of the year—but it has historically been a lot less wonderful for some. Crime doesn’t take a holiday. In fact, evil celebrates those the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, too. You already know that burglars, muggers, identity thieves, and carjackers run rampant during the holidays,…Read More…

Atticus Finch and the #MeToo movement

You know the story: A young lawyer named Atticus Finch is appointed to defend a black man against rape charges in Depression-era Alabama. His defense is vigorous, but ultimately futile (at least in the courtroom). The forces of racism arrayed against him were simply insurmountable. In the end, the accused and the accuser die violently…Read More…

Stealing pennies from dead kids’ eyes

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” —Rahm Emanuel, Obama aide and Chicago mayor Today, the Left is outraged that the Right has instantly politicized the murder of Iowa coed Mollie Tibbetts by a reported illegal Mexican immigrant. Tomorrow (or at least soon enough) the Right will be outraged that the Left…Read More…

A father, a son, and the longest day

Excerpted from “The Sourtoe Cocktail Club,” by Ron Franscell (Globe Pequot Press, 2011). While Matt sleeps, I watch the subtly changing sky as the sun circles around to the north on the longest day of the year. The clouds are breaking up and patches of blue are oozing through. The day is warming. I smell…Read More…

Is true crime as entertainment morally defensible?

I’ve been writing true crime for 10 years. I confess to occasional pangs that I am reopening wounds for a few people, but the old-school journalist in me rationalizes that these stories can have a universal, positive, human impact to the greater society. Whether they reflect something in us that we should (and don’t want…Read More…

Just hanging out at the library

In my hometown of Casper WY, the Natrona County Public Library is celebrating local authors such as CJ Box, Craig Johnson … and me … with colorful banners along the main street through the city. Most writers aren’t comfortable with larger-than-life depictions of themselves—although maybe it’s just me—but this feels like a cool way to…Read More…

For writers, endings are beginnings

“I hate writing; I love having written.” —Dorothy Parker Once upon a time, early-day typesetters recognized the end of a newspaper story when they saw “XXX” at the bottom of a reporter’s typed page. Since “XXX” was also Latin for the number 30, the end of a typewritten story came to be signified by “-30-”…Read More…

DARKEST NIGHT among 10 Most Underrated TC books, says website

A popular crime website and podcast has rated THE DARKEST NIGHT one of the 10 Most Underrated modern true-crime books. TheLineUp.com put the story of the horrendous 1973 abduction, rape, and murder at the Fremont Canyon Bridge near Casper WY among its favorite must-reads. Over the years, sensational court cases that scandalized a community might…Read More…

Old West serial killer

In 1868 in the boomtown of South Pass City, Polly Bartlett ran a boarding house … where she reportedly liquored up a couple dozen travelers and poised them with arsenic-laced steaks. A vigilante killed her in jail and she’s buried in an unmarked grave in the town cemetery, which is still there.Read More…

‘Wine of Wyoming’

Prohibition was in full swing in 1928 when Ernest Hemingway came to Sheridan and met an immigrant couple making their own wine in a little house on the outskirts of town. His celebrated short story “Wine of Wyoming” was inspired by them.Read More…

Was the genius artist Vincent van Gogh murdered?

The feverish life and curious death of Vincent van Gogh have become a kind of myth, partly true and partly what we wish to be true.  His disappointments, his genius, his demons, and even his birth have been inflated to metaphoric proportions.  Legend colors his biography as vividly as any paint he ever applied to…Read More…

The Black Dahlia dissected again

Today, it’s been 71 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 on…Read More…

45 years ago today, Mark Essex unleashed himself

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…

Before Vegas and Orlando, there was Luby’s Cafeteria

The entire restaurant was eerily silent, except for the pop-pop-pop of George Hennard’s guns and his profane ranting. Frightened diners hid the best they could, sometimes protected by nothing more than the hands covering their heads, hoping not to attract the killer’s attention. Paralyzed by fear. Waiting quietly to die. —from DELIVERED FROM EVIL (2011)…Read More…

The flags of our killers

In the last couple football seasons, Americans have exhausted a lot of very personal energy arguing about our flag. What it stands for. Whether it’s bigger than us. What respect it deserves. Ex-quarterback Colin Kaepernick might have ignited a wildfire that illuminated the differences in our patriotism, and it continues, zero percent uncontrolled. In a…Read More…