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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Waxing Brazilian … a new edition

Ponder the enigma of a writer who can’t read the words he’s strung together. No, I’m not having a stroke. I simply cannot speak, read, or write Portuguese. And that’s the language of the newest translation of my 2016 book MORGUE A LIFE IN DEATH, with famed medical examiner Dr. Vincent Di Maio. O SEGREDO…Read More…

Every generation has its bogeyman

Excerpted from The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Los Angeles (2017, WildBluePress)   Every generation has its bogeyman. Before 1969, maybe it was Adolf Hitler. After 2001, Osama bin Laden. But for those 30 or so years in between it was unquestionably an aspiring musician, deeply damaged outlaw, and hippie Svengali named Charles Manson. On…Read More…

MORGUE nominated for Edgar!

This morning, the Mystery Writers of America announced that MORGUE: A LIFE IN DEATH, by Dr. Vincent Di Maio and Ron Franscell, is among the nominees for its prestigious Edgar Awards as one of the five best true crimes of 2016. “It’s always a humbling moment when a life’s story is considered worthy of re-telling,” co-author…Read More…

Whistling in the graveyard

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” —William Faulkner So the would-be mass murderer at Ohio State University this week was apparently inspired by the hateful words of American-born cleric Anwar al Awlaki, al Qaeda’s most powerful recruiter before he was obliterated in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011. A few years ago, I…Read More…

A season of slaughter is coming

Where I grew up, you learned the smell of rain coming, and could damn near tell the exact day, maybe the exact moment, the seasons changed. Well, a dark season lies ahead. In 2009, in the earliest, scariest days of the Great Recession and the uncertainty of a new presidential administration, I predicted an uptick…Read More…

There’s pain and love. Then there’s painful love.

Some stories are about love, and some are about pain. But painful love stories like the star-crossed romance between Annie Beatrice McQuiston and Claude “Cowboy” Henry started long before they met in a whorehouse on a humid night in Depression-era Texas. EXCERPT Joe Calloway died naked in a Louisiana rice field, trembling with terror and…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…

Vincent van Gogh: Suicide or homicide?

Among the historic, infamous, and heartbreaking deaths we explore in the brand-new book MORGUE: A LIFE IN DEATH (St. Martin’s Press) is the presumed suicide of the troubled genius Vincent van Gogh. Presumed. When van Gogh’s latest biographers, Pulitzer-winning authors Steven Naifeh and the late Gregory White Smith, were perplexed by the evidence, they eventually…Read More…