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.…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

10 Crime Myths You Probably Believe

Between your gullibility, urban legends and Hollywood, you’ve swallowed a lot of, um, bull about crime, cops, and courts. You’ve consumed so much crapola that I’m surprised you aren’t on Ducky’s slab. But here are some fabrications, fables, and fairy tales about forensics and felonious foolishness (not to mention wrongful alliteration) that you’ve accepted as…Read More…

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…Read More…

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…Read More…

Miss V’s closing arguments

In the beginning there was Miss V. That’s how Mary Vandeventer was known to her high school English students, partly because it was easier than pronouncing her last name and partly because they felt a kind of kinship, even then. Young and only a few years out of college, Miss V wasn’t terribly older than…Read More…

10 Texas Crime Facts You Didn’t Know

Texas is so big that its long history of crime—from outlaw days to today—is damn near impossible to know completely. The hard part of compiling a list of 10 obscure Texas crime facts is eliminating dozens of others! But here’s a fascinating collection to keep even the most dedicated crime buff busy for a while.…Read More…

The mystery of Harper Lee’s lost true-crime book

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep (Knopf) is actually two parallel stories: One about a real-life 1970s murder mystery, and the other about a beloved author’s frustrated dream to write her own version of her friend Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” Lee was uncomfortable with Capote’s “nonfiction…Read More…

What’s in your DNA? Just a killer grandma? Or gold for exploiters?

At dinner recently with an IT professional, the conversation drifted into our inexorable plunge toward the mass retailing of our privacy—from intimate data collected by smartphones, Alexa, and your own TV to the government and corporate seizure of utterly innocent people’s DNA profiles. Soon, everything you know, everything you want, everything you talk about, everywhere…Read More…

10 Songs for Every Writer’s Playlist

A lot of writers like background music while they tap out their stories. A lot don’t. So, for those writers who prefer silence, please skip to my blog about the “15 Best Places for Writers to Retire.” And fergawdsakes, don’t listen to the rest of this little ditty. But for those scribblers who prefer a…Read More…

Rainbow’s End?

This is a love story desperately seeking an end. Almost every day for the past 17 years, Babe Rainbow has looked for one face in the crowd that passes his corner. He sees her face in his mind, framed against hazy memories of San Francisco’s Haight Street in the Sixties. That picture flickers through his…Read More…