Beware of fast, easy answers about Uvalde’s tragedy

WHY is a natural and human question. I’m not a psychologist, I’m a journalist who has spent a career exploring what some evil, disturbed humans can do to fellow humans. But while it might be natural and human to want to know, we must be patient.  Partly because it’s not always evil we’re seeing. We…

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We’ll always have mass murder

This essay was originally written just two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in 2012. Yesterday, the tragic Uvalde TX school shooting left 19 children and two teachers dead. It appears anew here now, with only minor updates because, well, nothing will ever change. —RF This is America, dammit, and we have a God-given…

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How many murder victims can you name? Go …

Because you’re here right now, it’s safe to assume you’re fairly conversant in matters of mass- and serial-killing. You know your Mansons from your Bundys, right? Well, it’s Monday and you’ve got a tough week ahead, so here’s something fun—in a macabre sorta way—to distract you from your nasty, binge-watching obsession with “Making a Murderer.”…

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The Resurrection of Elmer McCurdy

Elmer McCurdy was a two-bit outlaw, a wannabe desperado who overshot the Wild West and landed in the 20th century. Nobody knew his name, and nobody in the Oklahoma Territory cared much. In 1911, Elmer was 31 years old, usually drunk, and flat broke when he decided to hold up a train. His booty: $46…

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Peace, love … and murder

How long did you think it would take me to find a good true-crime story in my new digs, the tiny village of Placitas in northern New Mexico? Yeah, well, I never bogart a good yarn. This’ll blow your mind. In the 1960s and ’70s, Placitas was a far-out satellite in the hippie universe, man.…

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The entangled histories of 'In Cold Blood' and narrative journalism

Lecture: 9:30am to 11am on Feb. 20Book-signing immediately afterwardCasper College (WY) Humanities FestivalMusic Building’s Wheeler HallAdmission is free Ron Franscell, who has been called one of the exciting voices in narrative nonfiction by some heavyweight authors like Ann Rule and Vincent Bugliosi, will deliver a lecture about how his particular style of crime journalism has…

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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…

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Pick me, Ted: Bundy expert explores a perverse love

I recently visited a Facebook group where true-crime fans gather to chit-chat about the latest foul play. The group’s members are mostly women because, well, women are overwhelmingly the most voracious readers of true crime (some surveys have found as much as 75% of the TC market is female). There’s no question about their earnest…

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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…

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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…

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40% of serial killers getting away with murder

The Golden Age of serial killers—the 1970s and ‘80s—is over. According to National Institute of Justice, the number of serial killers is down 85% in the past 30 years. Reasons abound, including the introduction of DNA and criminal profiling since the 1960s, Add in longer prison sentences (and less parole), a proliferation of security cameras,…

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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…

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