The best true-crime books of all time? Maybe not

Last weekend, USA Today published a Goodreads list of the “Best True Crime Books of All Time.” There are some truly great books on the list, compiled from various Goodreads features like reviews, lists, and ratings from 90 million members. Ninety million readers can’t be wrong, can they? In this case, sort of. The meaty…Read More…

Berkley-Penguin will publish ‘ShadowMan’

There are a few moments in a book’s life that are special for authors. One is when a box of finished books arrives on the front porch. Another is when you see somebody reading your book on a plane or in a park. And then there’s the moment when you know your next book is…Read More…

Unfinished.

Once upon a time—which is how all worthwhile stories begin—I knew a man named Herman who had reached a moment when there was more of his life to look back upon than lay ahead. This would be a perfect time, Herman told me, to “sum up,” or to sort through memories and other junk to…Read More…

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…

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…

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 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…

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…

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…

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…

Join us at San Antonio Book Festival this weekend!

So many books, so little time. On Saturday, I will be both an author and a reader (two things I seldom do at the same time). I’m privileged to be among the authors who’ll speak at the 5th Annual San Antonio Book Festival—one of the USA’s fastest rising book events—about our bestseller MORGUE: A LIFE IN…Read More…

A dark night, long ago and far away

Every crime writer has heard this little heckling voice, usually from the cheap seats, but sometimes from inside his own head. It isn’t always loud, but it’s often piercing. Tragically, today is the 43rd anniversary of a monstrous crime against two of my childhood friends in the small town where we grew up: Two young sisters were abducted…Read More…

The day I planted Dermot Healy’s potatoes

The potato patch behind Dermot Healy’s stone cottage wasn’t much bigger than a parking space, but the Irish winter had left it dog-eared and bedraggled. “The first thing,” Dermot said as he handed me the spade, “is to turn the soil.” I’d come to Ireland to research a novel. Without a drop of Irish blood in…Read More…

Welcome to ronfranscell.com!

For more than 16 years, you’ve watched Ron’s career blossom right here, growing from just two books when we first launched in 2003 to 17 (and counting). Now, www.ronfranscell.com is blossoming, too. Welcome to our newly redesigned website! You are the driving force. We know you’re coming to us from all sorts of devices—smartphones, tablets,…Read More…