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…

Mass killers often care less about ‘who’ than ‘how many’

At least one person was killed and eight others were wounded when shooters opened fire Tuesday inside a suburban Denver middle school. Two suspects—an adult man and a juvenile girl—have been arrested. During a wider-ranging press conference today, a visibly angry District Attorney George Brauchler implored the media to show restraint when reporting the names…Read More…

10 Wyoming Crime Facts You Didn’t Know

A killer’s dead eyeballs? A truant teenager who kills a mass murderer? A lady serial killer? You’ve been warned. Reading this list will probably change the way you think about the relative safety of Wyoming. Here are 10 sometimes disturbing—and always fascinating—crime-related facts about the Cowboy State you’ve probably never heard of. 10. THE EYES…Read More…

Fathers playing catch with sons

My son’s eyes brightened when he saw his new baseball glove. He was about to start a sort of pre-school for Little Leaguers, and he buried his face in the smell of new leather. He’s only 4 and he’s only tossed a ball in the backyard, but his very own glove was too much. “I…Read More…

Why I don’t care about Ted Bundy

The short answer My crime-writing friend Kevin Sullivan is the greatest living expert on Ted Bundy. He’s literally written an encyclopedia of everything Bundy. I have absolutely nothing to add. The long answer Yesterday, the sister of a toddler murdered in 1964 by a serial killer you’ve never heard of emailed me. The slaying had…Read More…

And now, the road.

The Author is fond of researching a new story. The Author is delighted to write that story. But most of all, The Author loves—truly, madly, deeply—being among readers. This weekend, The Author lights out for parts west to tour with his new story. He’ll stop in a half-dozen places to talk about the book, read…Read More…

15 Best Places for Writers to Retire

What writer wouldn’t want to live on “Ernest Heming Way”? We love the irony or whatever it is. Nobody really knows what irony means. Anyway, as I approach the official retirement age for normal people who dress for work every morning, I wondered about the best places a writer might spend his golden years. After…Read More…

Die different.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” —Jack Kerouac, “The Dharma Bums” A long time ago, in another life, I sat with Jan Kerouac, the writer/daughter of Jack, on the bare-wood floor of her unfurnished, rented apartment. I was interviewing her for a story—and maybe for a little enlightenment—about where…Read More…

A ghost in the machine, by Ron Franscell

Twenty years ago, in 1999, the Chicago Sun-Times’ legendary book editor Henry Kisor—who had fallen in love with my first novel Angel Fire—asked me to be one of 10 American authors who, upon the centennial of Ernest Hemingway’s birth in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, would write about Papa’s life and influence. I was…Read More…

A crime. A boy. A teacher. And a hundred books.

“Up ahead they’s a thousand lives we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one.” The Grapes of Wrath Fourteen years ago, a couple Southeast Texas high school kids just wanted to score some weed. They were an odd couple. Garrett was a hardened gangbanger with a long juvie rap sheet and a bad reputation.…Read More…

Cry later.

Not long ago, I stood with my wife Mary at the Houston grave of murderous Texas mother Andrea Yates’ five children, whom she drowned in her bathtub. I was writing about Yates, who suffered a grim array of maladies, from post-partum depression to schizophrenia. I’m an old-school journalist. I believe deeply in “being there”—touching, smelling,…Read More…

Let me tell you about my first time

I started reading young. I fell in crazy-mad love with books, or at least became addicted to the way they made me feel.  I began to wish that I could use words to make other people feel things, too. So I wrote vivid (if imperfect) grade-schooler epics in spiral notebooks, then worked on every campus…Read More…

Tour dates for new true crime book ‘Alice & Gerald’

Now you can meet Ron Franscell, the Edgar-nominated author of “Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story”—a new true-crime book ripped from Wyoming headlines—at readings, Q&A, and free book signings April 10-15 in San Antonio, Casper, Cheyenne, Riverton, Lander, and Douglas. The appearance schedule is 4/10 Casper, 4/11 Cheyenne, 4/12 Riverton and Lander, and 4/15…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…

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…