Deadly Hero by Jason Lucky Morrow

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Reviewed by Ellen Wallace

Put on your fedora, sit back and enjoy one of the best period true-crime books to be released recently.

“Deadly Hero” by Jason Lucky Morrow takes the reader back to the heartland of America — Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the mid-1930s. The book illuminates how power, money, and a killer who is right on the edge of sanity combined to produce a tragedy that rocked Oklahoma for decades after the crime.

“Deadly Hero” is the story on two “rich kids” from Tulsa and a scheme involving get-rich-quick-money and a damsel in distress. Setting up this convoluted convergence of story lines takes Morrow’s gift to cut to the chase and boil the story down. The heart of the book reveals how the killing of one of those boys occurred, a brazen claim of self-defense and how the parents of both young men reacted to the crime and the ensuing trial.

Morrow is the perfect storyteller for this crime. His prose is crisp, no-nonsense and uses just enough period lingo to shed light an era when the justice system was easily swayed not by what was right, but by the connections of the criminal. Morrow’s research and careful examination of hundred of pages of court notes, newspaper archives and first-person interviews are handled with care and accuracy.

Morrow’s earlier career as a reporter provides him a solid footing to approach this type of book. “Deadly Hero,” however, is more than this — it’s a look at the dark side of the newspaper business in the 1930’s and how it fed hysteria as reporters worked fast-and-loose to cover the murder.

It also describes the painfully slow legal process that is as true today as it was then, and how political power may or may not help when a parent is protecting his child who has done something unspeakable.

The story is filled with many characters (even some who gave police false names), the rumors of unknown illegal past behavior of the victim and his killer and a town all too eager to spread gossip as gospel. Morrow’s attention to detail is evident on every page. The book includes footnotes, maps and photographs that help readers understand a time that few lived in. The story unfolds at a great clip, and the author makes additional impact by providing insights into an era when being a cop, detective or reporter were just beginning as true professions in America.

“Deadly Hero” is a great read that reminds one of the black-and-white films that we all love to watch on dark, stormy nights. Enjoy.

VISIT Morrow’s website Historical Crime Detective HERE.

A mystery solved

 

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WHILE researching for my books and blog I came across one article from 1984 about a West German tourist named Iris Kadau who had gone missing in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Iris, who was 29, went missing while on a cycling day trip in Alice Springs on November 6, 1983.

The dental nurse was a very fit woman and set off on her bicycle to Simpsons Gap – 17km from the Alice Springs city centre. The site is one of natural beauty and spectacular landscapes and there is a bike path that is popular with visitors. Iris had cycled back from Simpsons Gap but then carried on for another bike ride north of Alice Springs. When she didn’t return to her motel that evening, police were alerted.

I got in touch with the investigating officer at the time, Graeme Charlwood (now retired from the police force), to see if I could have a chat to him about Iris’s mysterious disappearance.

Graeme very generously chatted to me and recalled the events around Iris’s disappearance:

“We had witnesses who saw her cycling out and back. We conducted extensive investigations, searched for evidence of her and found nothing. We really reached a dead end by Christmas 1983. Iris had just vanished off the face of the earth…”

In February 1984, Iris’s body was found.

Mr Charlwood said he was travelling to either Darwin or Tennant creek in a police helicopter when the pilot intercepted a call from the musterer who said he’d spotted something – the glint of chrome from what appeared to be a pushbike.

“We looked at one another and said ‘Iris’. When we got there we saw there was the bike and the mummified remains of Iris. She was chained to her bike…”

The newspaper article I had found was from The Canberra Times (February 11, 1984) and titled “Body found chained to bike”.

The fact that the chain was around her waist seemed strange but Mr Charlwood explained that the pathologist deduced that Iris had simply done what was common practice in Europe.  Cyclists would chain themselves to their bikes when they went to have a rest. (This was to deter bike thieves.)

It turns out that Iris would have been severely dehydrated – even though she was very fit, she had cycled a great distance that day and the weather was very hot. Iris died from dehydration.

“She would have felt tired and not known how dehydrated she was and stopped to have a rest. She was found near a Small sparse tree. Iris would have gone to have a rest and never woken up.”

Mr Charlwood said police had looked into the possibility Iris had met with foul play and when they were searching for her in the days and weeks after she seemed to vanish, journalists had focused on that theory.

“When you’ve got a young woman touring the highways of Alice Springs alone you can’t discount it,” Mr Charlwood told me when I asked whether police initially thought Iris had been murdered.

 

 

The Day the Catskills Cried

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The Day the Catskills Cried recounts the 1977 kidnapping and tragic murder of Trudy Resnick Farber in a rural New York town near the Catskill Mountains. Trudy, a young wife, was the daughter of millionaire industrialist Harry Resnick and niece of the former U.S. Representative Joesph Y. Resnick.


She was abducted at gunpoint from her home by a masked intruder then buried alive in a pit while her abductor demanded one million dollars ransom for her return. The crime was devised by the schizophrenic mind of Ronald H. Krom and motivated be greed and revenge. Krom and Trudy knew each other as youngsters because their parents had a business relationship at one time. Krom is revealed as a man who has a grandiose self-image combined with a propensity to demand social respect that resulted in a senseless murder. The slight that starts this bizarre spiral is that Krom is not invited to Trudy’s wedding.


The book describes the arduous process of bringing Trudy’s killer to justice. It’s only after Krom has confessed and brings authorities to Trudy’s  earth-bound cell that they all realize that Trudy died alone and terrified while in captivity. Then the legal circus begins and is drastically slowed down when allowances have to be made due to Krom’s previously diagnosed schizophrenia.


Throughout the book, Beyea, a former state investigator for New York, shows his respect for authorities and prosecutors involved in the case by highlighting the nature of the exacting work done by the team. He also shows his compassion toward for the victim’s family as they restrained their emotions and focused only on bringing Trudy’s killer to justice despite endless delays.


There is a distraction in the book, however, that is created by choppy writing and insertion of the author into the story via “notes” to the reader. Meaningful character development is lacking and the author characterizes those involved are clearly all good or all evil. Bringing the courtroom drama alive at the trial of Ronald Krom is where Beyea’s grit and skill as an author shines.


The book makes two strong points: evil exists in this world, and the American system of justice protects the rights of everyone — even those who are accused of unthinkable criminal acts until proven guilty, despite how long that process takes.

Luck of the Irish: Dr John Bodkin Adams

My second true crime book Angels of Death was released early this year. One of my favourite cases I covered in the book was that of  doctor John Bodkin Adams.

BUY THE BOOK HERE

The case of Dr John Bodkin Adams was a worldwide sensation in 1950s. The portly general practitioner lived and worked in the south coast English seaside town Eastbourne and he had a reputation for being a particularly attentive doctor, especially to elderly wealthy widows.

Dr John Bodkin Adams

 

 

READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER at Herald Sun True Crime Scene

Adams received money from over 300 wills and was left property, jewels, silverware and the luxury cars he so loved.

When police started investigating the death of one of Dr Adams’s wealthy widows it seemed that the good doctor may have been a serial murderer…

 

 

 

Treasure House Murders

One of the most exciting things about writing a book is the reader feedback.

After my first book Murder in Suburbia was released in January 2014 I got quite a few emails and letters from people who were fascinated by the older, Melbourne cases and also from people who had a personal link to some of the murders.

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From The Argus, Monday 17 December 1956.

I wrote about the 1956 murders of an elderly mother and her daughter in Melbourne’s Fitzroy. These brutal killings (the women were bashed to death) became known as “The Treasure House” murders because the women had wads of money, jewellery and thousands of dollars (pounds back then) worth of exquisite Chinse carvings and furniture in their home.

The case remains unsolved – a male boarder did go to trial over the killings but he was acquited.

Article from The Canberra Times, December 18, 1956
Article from The Canberra Times, December 18, 1956

I received a fascinating email from the niece of MaryBoanas, who was one of the women clubbed to death. This woman wrote and told me she was actually there on the day her relations were murdered. She was a young girl and was visiting “Aunty Min and Rose” with her mother and three siblings. Here are her words:

“…I was then the 11-year-old standing outside their front door whilst the murderer was still inside the house.

They had partly raised me on their return from China, when we had a family guest house in Healesville, they later bought the house in Fitzroy, Aunty Min was my Grandmothers sister and Rose was her daughter.

As was the custom of the day they took in male borders, not because they needed the money but because it was considered safer to have a male person living on the house, they were wrong it was one of these men that murdered them for their money.

They did not trust banks and keep their money wrapped in socks and underwear in their drawers.

Our Mother took us for a pre-Christmas visit as she did every year, if they were not home they would leave their front door key for me to enter the house and wait for them.  The key was hidden in the vine twisted around one of the pillars on the front verandah.   However this particular day it was not there, very strange I thought.

As it was a hot day my Mother took us (4 children) to get ice creams as were sure they would return soon, they were looking forward to our visit.

We returned but there was still no answer, we did not know at that time they were dying in pools of blood not far inside the door.

On returning home my mother phoned one of her Aunts who had a spare key and Aunty Rose, said she would go and check on them. that was when she made the gruesome discovery.  I believe our Holden car was pictured in the news article of the day…”

The reader even sent me a photo of one of the Chinese tables belonging to the murdered women from “the treasure house”, which her mother gave her.

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Thank you to readers who take the time to contact authors. 

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

http://www.amazon.com/Fruit-Poisonous-Tree- ebook/dp/B008BKNRFG

 

For more details go to Richard W. Carson’s website. The book is available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble

This true crime case has a lot of elements that make it an extremely intriguing tale – a missing and murdered Michigan teen, witchcraft, a defence lawyer who also happened to be a priest, other tragedies that befell people with links to the case.

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, The True Story of Murder in a Small Town, is an eBook version of the traditionally published, Murder in the Thumb, which came out in 2012.

The victim was Robin Adams, a 17-year-old high school girl. She vanished in 1976 and her disappearance was unsolved for eight years until a brother and sister were in the frame for her murder. (The sister, Nora Garza, cooperated with police to lead them to Robin’s body in exchange for the murder charge against her being dropped.)

At the time of the prosecution of the siblings, Robin’s body had not yet been found. The case was a legal first for Michigan because the prosecutors charged the accused with murder without a body. It was the first time this had ever been done.

Author Richard W. Carson is a journalist with decades of experience who has worked on newspapers, including The Columbus Dispatch (the major daily newspaper for Ohio’s capital city). Putting this intriguing story into a book has been a long project for Carson. As a journo and true crime author myself, the story seems mind-boggling and Carson has done a fantastic job. It’s a great read. It is detailed and painstakingly researched.

Cold Case bloggers

I want to give a shout out to bloggers and writers who are so dedicated to raising awareness of cold cases and re-igniting media coverage on these mysteries through social media.

Defrosting Cold Cases – This resource blog profiles cold cases to give the victims a bigger digital footprint. Excellent, relentless work by Alice de Sturler.

Iowa Cold Cases – this fantastic site provides case summaries, articles and updates for all of Iowa’s unsolved murders and persons who’ve gone missing under mysterious circumstances. This is the brainchild of crime writer and journalist Jody Ewing.

Carol Kean -Carol’s Linkedin profile sums her up: “…an avid reader and writer, book reviewer, wife, mom, guerilla gardener and champion of underdogs and overlooked authors…” Carol has a real interest in writing about missing persons and reviewing true crime books.

Anne Gavin – Anne is a tireless advocate for missing persons and their families.

Dolly Stolze – Dolly writes the intriguing and informative blog Strange Remains that focuses on forensics, cold cases and anthropology.

 

Audacity: Jodie Arias 18 Days on the Stand

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This book is about the sensational trial of a woman called Jodi Arias who was convicted of the brutal murder of her boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008. He was stabbed around 30 times, had his throat slit and his body lay undiscovered for days.

This case has gripped America. In fact, Arias will be sentenced in April to either life in prison or a life term with the possibility of release after 25 years. The death penalty was taken “off the table” after the jury could not reach a decision on her punishment.

California-based court blogger and author Lisa Wilson teamed up with South African photojournalist Nick Van Der Leek to write about the Arias crime and trial. This book covers the background, investigation and trial of Arias, who displayed bizarre behaviour in the wake of her boyfriend’s murder. She did headstands in the police interview room just minutes before she was charged with Travis’s murder.

 

Jodi Arias doing a headstand in the police interview room.
Jodi Arias doing a headstand in the police interview room.

Jodie Arias has fascinated people because her behaviour plays into the public’s intrigue and fears about evil women. The motive for the murder is believed to be Arias’s fury that Travis wanted to end their relationship, which was volatile. (The couple’s phone sex conversations were sensationally played in court, among other things.)

For someone like me who knew only scant details about the Arias, Audacity was a decent read that gave me a comprehensive look at the case.

Being based in Australia where our criminal justice system is very different to that in America, I can find coverage of cases a bit overwhelming…and that’s coming from someone who is very interested in true crime.

For instance, jurors are never allowed to speak to the press. Only details in open court are allowed to be reported and the media must wait until a conviction to reveal certain details of police investigations and an offender’s background. (I still can’t get my head around how in the US it is open slather to report on every little detail of a crime, the accused and the victim. how does that not influence a jury?)

That is why books and media coverage about US cases are so tantalising for true crime readers.

Audacity was quite a gripping read. Arias is certainly a very dangerous woman. I really feel for the family of Travis Alexander.

Audacity is available from Amazon.

 

Blood Aces by Doug J. Swanson

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Blood Aces: The Wild Ride Of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker REVIEWED by By Investigative Crime Journalist Clarence Walker: truecrimewriter83@mail.com

Texas outlaw Benny Binion was an amazing character.

In fact, he was many characters all wrapped up into one – A Texas cowboy, famous casino owner, a poker pioneer, gambler, a smooth-talking businessman, a ruthless gangster with organized crime connections, a killer…and the founder of the World’s Poker Series, a series held each year in Las Vegas that showcases the best players from around the globe.

The life story of Benny Binion had to be told in all its splendid glory and spellbinding details.

Douglas Swanson has written a highly remarkable book about the life of Benny Binion Blood Aces: The Wild Ride Of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker.

Blood Aces is the definitive biography of a Texas outlaw who played important roles in making Las Vegas the world’s most famous gambling empire. Blood Aces may sound like a fiction novel, but it is a true-life book, which comes compellingly alive.

People are fascinated by the Sopranos, Mafia dons, hit men, drug kingpins and flashy criminals.

But meet Benny “Cowboy” Binion, a real-life Texas gangster.

Swanson, a Dallas Morning News Investigative Project Editor, writes in Blood Aces. “The nation’s history is packed with legendary outlaws. But none of them can match Binion’s wild, bloody, and American journey.”

“As much as anyone,” says Swanson, “Binion made Vegas a mecca for high rollers”.

Binion’s poker games became a big hit when Binion and close friends played a few rounds in 1970. A shrewd money-maker, Binion figured out that poker games could make money at his Horseshoe Casino.

Benny Binion At His Horseshoe Casino.
Benny Binion At His Horseshoe Casino.

Showing deep affection for gangsters, Benny Binion, the man known as “Cowboy” once hired an airplane pilot in 1934 to drop a floral wreath at the gravesite of outlaw Clyde Barrow (the second half of Bonnie Parker, as in “Bonnie & Clyde”).

Benny Binion was a modern day Billy “the” Kid. As a killer, Binion’s oft-remarks were, “I ain’t killed nobody that didn’t deserve it”. Other remarks by Binion are legendary: “My friends can do no wrong

As a killer, Binion’s oft-remarks were, “I ain’t killed nobody that didn’t deserve it”. Other remarks by Binion are legendary: “My friends can do no wrong…and my enemies can do no right. Do your enemies, before they do you.”

Other remarks by Binion are legendary: “My friends can do no wrong, and my enemies can do no right. Do your enemies, before they do you.”

When FBI agents pursued Binion for his involvement in the murder of Bill Coulter, a former FBI agent, and a Russian guy named Louie Strauss, Binion, in a moment of rage, told a reporter: “Tell them FBIs’…I am still capable of doing my own killing!”.

When Herbert “the Cat” Noble refused to give Binion 40 per cent of his gambling operation, Binion tried to kill Noble 11 times!

Binion’s crew finally succeeded by killing Noble…on the eleventh try. Previous attempts to kill “Cat Noble” included bombs that didn’t go off, shots that either hit Noble (but he survived) or multiple shots that missed Noble. On one attempt, the killers blowed up Noble’s car, then went back to Binion to claim a $25,000 reward, but Binion broke the sad news, that they killed Noble’s wife, not Noble.

It took eleven attempts, but old Cowboy Benny finally killed the “Cat.”

Benny “Cowboy” Binion was a modern day Billy “the kid” or Jessie James, but Binion had much more money. Much more.

Binion was dangerous as a rattlesnake, but also he became a “super rich” gangster, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Inside Binion’s Horsehoe Casino he allowed regular customers and tourists to take pictures standing outside a glass-plated showcase filled up with a million dollars.

Binion’s wealth influence and power connections led him into the circle of some of America’s most notorious and prominent people, as well as those abroad. Blood Aces retrace Binion’s footsteps all the way from the back woods of Texas to the West Coast, where he settled in Las Vegas.

Arriving in Vegas from Texas during 1940s’, Binion, as a southern style gambling boss, forged close relationships with Mafia players like Meyer Lanksy, Bugsy Siegel, Tony “the Ant” Spilotro, Mickey Cohen, and billionaire Howard Hughes. He surrounded himself with a host of well-connected people with political power, capable of making things happen. Or make things not happen.

Gifted with razor-sharp intelligence, boldness, folksy charm, and having the heart of a cold-bloodied killer, Benny Binion opened Las Vegas Horseshoe Casino & Hotel on Freemont street in 1951. And he became the most revered figure in the history of Las Vegas gambling.

Benny Binion was a true pioneer who understood the makings of a successful casino by offering patrons a better deal for their money – good food, fine whisky, lovely-looking women, private rooms, and beautiful central air suites to sleep in. If customers so desired, Binion had limousine service to drive customers to and from the airport.

Binion’s formula for running a business was simple: cultivate the big boys, own the cops, and kill your enemies.

For decades, Benny Binion’s name and hellish reputation has echoed throughout Texas and Las Vegas history like old ghost stories and never-ending gangster lore, but author Douglas Swanson may be the first writer to cobble together all the nitty-gritty exclusive details together.

Blood Aces captures the essence of Benny Binion’s dirt-poor childhood life growing up in Texas, all the way to his gigantic rise as boss of the “numbers rackets” in and around Dallas Texas. “He came from nothing,” writes Swanson, “or the nearest thing to it”.

VERDICT: Blood Aces is a page burner. It’s hard to put it down without going back to it.

Blood Aces: The Wild Ride Of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker is published by Viking Press.

The Innocent Killer by Michael Griesbach

The Innocent Killer

The Innocent Killer is an in-depth look at a very important case in Wisconsin criminal law. It is the story of violent crimes against women, police investigations and the vital importance of evidence.

The author is Michael Griesbach who is a prosecutor in Wisconsin in the same country where the central crime that is featured in this book took place.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers because this book has an incredible twist but here’s the basic outline: In 1985 a woman called Penny Beernsten raped and assaulted in an extremely violent attack as she took a run along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

A man called Steven Avery was convicted of the crime and spent 18 years in prison. The thing is, he didn’t do it. A serial sex offender called Gregory Allen was the man who attacked Penny.

Avery (who was by no means a man who lived a crime-free life), is freed, however that’s not the end of the story. What happens next is shocking. There is no clear black or white, good or bad here. Griesbach became involved in the case during the process to exonerate Avery so his first-hand knowledge is the strength of this book.

Griesbach has written an incredibly detailed story that is a must-read if you are interested in crime and legal books. The book is not a quick and dirty read. It is one where the reader needs to absorb the detail and they will certainly learn much about Wisconsin, the law, DNA and the devastating impact of slack…even corrupt police practices on people involved in and affected by crime.

In the press release for this book is said of Griesbach: “…He hopes to leave readers better informed about the inner workings of the criminal justice system and more concerned about those whose lives it deeply affects…”.

This book certainly achieves those aims.

To order The Innocent Killer go HERE.

Angels of Death – Charles Cullen

 

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I’m excited to share with you that my second true crime book is out in stores in Australia and available in ebook.

It is called Angels of Death and features cases of nurses and doctors who were serial killers.

The first chapter is about Charles Cullen, the New Jersey nurse who is believed to have killed hundreds of people during his time working in hospitals.

The Herald Sun has run the extract: Angels of Death tells how nurse Charles Cullen killed patients

Angels of Death is published by The Five Mile Press

Burwood Murders

The 1992 Burwood triple killings in Melbourne is one of the most chilling crimes in modern Australian history.

The killer, Ashley Coulston, is in jail, never to be released.

I wrote about the case in my first true crime book, Murder in Suburbia. Here is the chapter extract as published in the Herald Sun.

Who Killed The Candy Lady?

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Earlier this year  while I was researching some cases for my latest book, I stumbled across some newspaper articles about the still unsolved disappearance and presumed murder of American Candy empire heiress Helen Brach.

I was intrigued. In 1977, the 65-year-old, was reported last seen by her houseman Jack Matlick, who said he left her at O’Hare International Airport to board a flight to Florida.

helen brach pic

So, I was very interested in reading James Ylisela Jr’s Who Killed The Candy Lady?: Unwrapping the Unsolved Murder of Helen Brach.

This is an e-book that is a quick and satisfying read. Ylisela is a long-time Chicago journalist and in this book he has presented a very clear telling of this case. He admits that he set out to solve the mystery, however changed tact to leave the readers to make up their own minds. I particularly like it when authors have a page dedicated to the “cast” of the book. I am always referring back to these pages to make sure I am fully digesting the text. Ylisela does this and the cast of characters in the Brach case is as intriguing as it gets.

I won’t spoil the story by giving too much away (as an avid true crime reader I love to read cases with no prior knowledge).

Who Killed The Candy Lady? is published by Agate Digital.

Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

 

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I have had this book in my “to read” pile for months.

Like many readers (and especially when you have a book blog) I have SO many books to read and feel like I just want to devote whatever  spare time I have (apologies to my children!) to curling up and reading. This book by Australian John Safran – controversial media personality, filmmaker and now, author – was worth the wait.

I was fortunate to hear Safran talk about his journey to writing Murder in Mississippi (the book is called God’ll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi for North America) at the launch of Monash Libraries’ Wordfest in the middle of 2014. Once I had got over my complete professional jealousy of him for having the planets align to create this incredible book, I was entranced by his retelling of his creative process. As a writer myself, I find him inspiring.

Safran is someone people either love or can’t stand. There is not a lot of middle ground with Safran and that’s why he is so good at what he does…which is basically getting himself run out of places for doing super-controversial things. His series Race Relations, which aired on Australia’s public broadcaster, saw him donate sperm to a Palestinian sperm bank (Safran is Jewish) and digs a hole next to his mother’s grave and performs a ritual order to ask her whether she approves of him marrying a non-Jewish woman.

For this series, Safran interviewed a notorious white supremacist named Richard Barrett.  This footage never made it to air (for reasons I will let you read in the book) but then Barrett  was brutally murdered in 2010 by a young black man named Vincent McGee. Some pretty startling revelations came to the surface and Safran seized his opportunity to go to Mississippi and write this book.

Even though it is a true crime book, Safran infuses his writing with his trademark humour. It’s not in the style true crime buff will be used to. There’s a lightness to the writing that seems at odds with a true crime subject, but it really worked in this case.

This is a standout true crime release of 2014.

Murder in Mississippi is published by Penguin.

The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama

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This book shows that DNA evidence is not failsafe. That mistakes can happen, assumptions made and that these can result in miscarriages of justice.

In 2008 a Somali-born Melbourne man Farah Jama, 21 was sentenced to six years jail for the rape of a woman in a suburban nightclub in the eastern suburbs.

Author Julie Szego tells this story of a man who maintained his innocent throughout. Jama’s conviction was eventually overturned and he was released and paid a substantial compensation payout from the government.

Szego details machinations of DNA testing and the reliance on science to make or break criminal cases. There’s also interesting detail of the Somali community in Melbourne and the challenges that young males who came to Australia as refugees face integrating into society. In particular, I found this aspect of the book really intriguing because when I was a high school teacher in London I taught quite a few Somali-born teens.

So, if Jama didn’t rape “Maria” in the Doncaster nightclub, what happened and why was his DNA on a database?

Szego details the reasons who Jama’s DNA was there. She interviews a young woman called “Taylah” who was involved in a sexual act with Jama and several other men the night before the alleged rape of Maria. This is uncomfortable and compelling reading.

As a journalist myself I was really compelled my Szego’s frank descriptions of what it is like to write a book and to tell other people’s stories. Her collaboration with Jama does not go to plan and this line she wrote really stuck in my mind: “Journalists swoop on people’s stories, pick the eyes out, mangle and reshape until they’re something entirely different. We thieve and desecrate for a living…”.

It’s the dilemma of the profession. Szego has written an important book. Told an important story about the criminal justice system and its flaws.

The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama is published by Wild Dingo Press.

Crime news wrap

Some crime stories from around the web:

– Study identifies traits of serial killer nurses (The Guardian) Read here.

– Ipswich, England murder of young mum still a mystery 21 years on. (Ipswich Star) Read here.

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– The murder of three Washington DC police officers in a shooting rampage is remembered 20 years on. (CBS Local) Read here.

– Police identify body of a Canadian man who went missing 30 years ago. (cba.ca) Read here.

– Hollywood Actor Ashton Kutcher’d girlfriend was murdered by a serial killer when they were dating back in 2001 (InTouch) Read here.

 

 

 

 

The Skeleton Crew

 

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For someone interested in true crime the new book The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving Some of America’s Coldest Cases is one of the most anticipated titles you could hope to read.

I really enjoyed this book. I often scan through missing persons websites and am endlessly intrigued by how someone could go missing or someone’s body could be discovered and their identity is a mystery. How does that happen? What happened? Why does nobody care about them?

Author and journalist Deborah Halber takes the reader on a journey of these databases of missing and unidentified bodies and the people who try and solve these mysteries. And it’s increasingly people doing amateur detective work from behind their computer screen who are giving closure to some cases that are often decades old.

There are currently 40,000unidentified dead stowed away in mortuaries, evidence rooms and potter’s fields around America. That is unbelievable and terribly sad.

Halber delves into the world of these people who spend their lives searching for clues on the web to try and identify these unidentified people with profiles of missing persons. It becomes somewhat of an obsession for many of these armchair detectives, as you’ll discover.

Halber covers details of cold cases, successful identifications and some of the lives of these amateur sleuths. There is also plenty of information about technology to help identify human remains and reconstruct what a person looked like from their skull. It is gripping stuff.

Skeleton Crew is published by Simon and Schuster. For Aussie and Kiwi readers it’s available on ebook.

That Night by Chevy Stevens

thatnight

True Crime Reader partnered with Bookworld on this blog post.

That Night is the third “psychological thriller” from Canadian author Chevy Stevens. I had never read any of Stevens’ books before so the fact that thriller heavyweights like Harlan Coban and Lee Child lent their names to praise That Night certainly piqued my interest.

I received my review copy from Bookworld,  which has an extensive range of crime fiction titles and I was very excited to start reading. and I was very excited to start reading. There’s something about starting a crime fiction book that is so tantalising, with the promise of reading late into the night when you find a book you can’t put down.

That Night did not disappoint me.

The book centres on Toni Murphy, who at 18 years old in 1996 was sentenced to a very long stint in prison for the murder of her little sister Nicole. Toni and her co-accused, boyfriend Ryan, always maintained they were innocent. After 14 years, Toni is freed and returns to her hometown where it becomes desperately clear she must unearth the dark secrets of the past. Especially why the group of high school girls who tormented Toni at school lied during the court case.

The book flips between 1996 and then to some of the years of Toni’s prison sentence, then to the present day where she is trying to forge a fresh start.

I felt an affinity with Toni as I was a similar age in 1996 and could relate to the references to the grunge movement of the time. Stevens writing is quite plain (in a good way that lets the reader flow through the pages) and was quite befitting of her protagonist who was just a teenager when sent to prison.

I was often reminded of Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye while reading this in terms of the theme of “mean girls” and bullying. Atwood’s book was more subtle and literary however, Stevens firmly articulates Toni’s battle with her tormentors to keep the plot flowing.

The characters I was most intrigued by were Toni’s parents and Stevens has a particular focus of writing about family dynamics and she does it well in this book. You can really feel the complete destruction of the Murphy family.

I won’t give away any more of the plot, suffice to say Toni and Ryan have no choice but to get to the truth of “that night” and why Nicole was murdered.

I’ll definitely be reading more of Chevy Stevens‘ books.

*As well as reading true crime, True Crime Reader likes to keep up with what is happening in the world of crime fiction so expect to see more fiction reviews here*

The Time of Eddie Noel by Allie Povall

Reviewed by Clarence Walker (truecrimewriter83@mail.com)

As a true crime writer, research specialist, historian and freelance investigative journalist, what piqued my deep interest in The Time Of Eddie Noel by Allie Povall was the location where the crime happened – the state of Mississippi in the 1950s.

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I’ve always been fascinated with the history of Mississippi and its culture, notwithstanding the fact that my paternal grandfather Walter Walker was from Natchez, Mississippi and my paternal grandmother, Olivia Walker, was from Arcola. I was born in a small town in Southeast rural Arkansas near Greenville, Mississippi where my deceased father Clarence Walker Sr. and my mother Thelma aka “Nellie” got married in Greenville in 1960.

My precious mother, Thelma Walker has recalled over the years that her paternal grandmother Mary Minor was from a small town in Mississippi called Port Gibson, a town once ruled by the French during the 1700s. Following the civil war, Mississippi became the battleground of the historic civil rights movement – its past represented deep bias segregation and white people hating blacks based on skin colour. Mississippi once epitomized vicious racism toward blacks as a way to keep white supremacy forever in power.

Times have changed now. Mississippi is a much better place to live these days.

Delta Mississippi is known worldwide for its rich music of blues, soul, country, rock and roll, and mixture of rhythm and blues heritage sung by popular artists like Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Tyrone Davis, Little Milton and the geriatric B.B. King.

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Povall’s book The Time Of Eddie Noel is a well-written, compelling book about a young black man who killed three white men in Holmes County, Mississippi and got off scot-free at a time when blacks were lynched by whites at the drop of a hat.

For example, Emmett Till was murdered in 1955, allegedly because he “whistled” at a white woman. History shows that blacks were killed in Mississippi simply for defying a white person.

Prior to Till’s murder, in January 1954, a young Eddie Noel shot and killed a white man identified as Willie Ramon Dickard, the owner of a honky-tonk joint in Holmes County, Mississippi. The murder of Dickard triggered an outrage from the white community.

Angry white men swiftly formed a mob to hunt down Noel, to shoot him, cut his tongue out, lynch him, then burn the dark hide off his smouldering body. It was the largest manhunt in Mississippi history. Incredibly, Noel engaged in two separate gunfights with the mob and killed two more white men, one a deputy sheriff and wounding three others!

Povall’s superb narrative retells the night when Noel went on his shooting rampage by storming into the honky-tonk joint owned by Willie Ramon Dickard, a place where moonshine was sold unabatedly and interracial sex between customers was the norm.

Noel’s jealous heart led him to suspect that his wife, a hefty, sexy, “country soul sister” named Lou Ethel, had been tricking with Dickard in exchange for the old green mighty dollar. An argument ensued over whether Noel could take his own wife back home.

Dickard decided to teach Noel a lesson (to stay in his place and not interrupt business) by beating Noel bloody. Noel retaliated. He quickly fetched his rifle out of his vehicle and shot Dickard twice in the chest, killing him instantly. Echoes of revenge reverberated throughout Homes County over the harsh reality that a black man had killed a white man.

The hunt, led by Sheriff Richard Byrd and Deputy John Pat Malone, was on. Positioned in the dark cold woods, Noel fired a .22 rifle and struck Deputy Malone, killing him, too.

A few days later just when the mob thought they had the elusive killer cornered, Noel fired a shot wounding two and killed one more white man in Mississippi.

Here’s what make the book so fascinating – Noel was never caught by the mob or law enforcement, never put on trial for his life, and he never went to prison. The background about this entire case is so captivating until the world’s best Hollywood scriptwriter, nor a great fiction writer could have created the multitude of bizarre facts that collided amidst this true life drama of how a black man miraculously survive in the dark hateful era of Jim Crow Mississippi after killing three men.

One mesmerising point about Eddie Noel’s ancestors will blow your mind.

Eddie Noel (actually Edmond Noel) is a direct descendant of Edmund Faver Noel, Mississippi’s governor from 1909 to 1913. As the story unfold in Povall’s book, it illustrate that the killer Eddie Noel was named after the one-time popular governor, although Eddie’s first name is a variation of the governor’s first name. (Read this list of Mississippi Governors.)

The book provokes mind-boggling questions – how could a negro man kill three white men then elude an armed mob in the woods for several days during a frigid cold winter without incurring illnesses or starvation? And why has the history of Eddie Noel ‘s amazing story has not been well documented as part of Black History nor included into the annals of American Civil Rights? The author thoroughly explores and explains the dynamics behind this incredible story.

Eddie Noel’s story of never being tried for killing three white people in Mississippi at a time when blacks had no civil rights, unable to properly vote, and subjected to inhumane treatment is a story that will keep you turning the pages. The Time Of Eddie Noel is the story of a time and place whereby a young black man defied incredible odds of a criminal justice system that poised to send him to the electric chair for crossing the line to kill a white man.

I will not reveal how Eddie Noel escaped the electric chair or how he avoided prosecution altogether. Only the book can give you all the details to form a sensible, objective conclusion for a reader to get the complete picture.

This book is a rich history filled with explicit, colourful details of a time and place when the Deep South stood at the threshold of the civil rights movement, a legacy that would forever change both the landscape and the social system, which would govern the lives of its people, both black and white.

The Time Of Eddie Noel rivals John Grisham’s best-selling novel A Time to Kill.

The book is published by Comfort Publishing.

Clarence Walker can be contacted at truecrimewriter83@mail.com

 

Justin Tapp death inquest

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Here is an update I have written to this August 25 blog post on the Tapp murders about the tragic effect the crimes have had on the surviving family, namely Justin Tapp, who died earlier this year at age 44. Mr Tapp was traumatised by his mother and sister’s death and struggled for the rest of his life with depression and alcohol abuse.

AN INQUEST in England into the death of an Australian man whose mother and sister were murdered 30 years ago in Melbourne has delivered an open verdict.

Justin Tapp, who was 14 when his mother Margaret Tapp and nine-year-old sister Seana Tapp were killed on August 7, 1984, died earlier this year.

Mr Tapp was not at his family’s Kelvin Drive, Ferntree Gully home on the night of the still unsolved murders and moved to England in 2001 where he lived until his death.

He was found dead in his Wycombe bedsit on June 3 by ex-girlfriend Wendy O’Donovan, with whom he had remained friends in the years since their separation.

Ms O’Donovan told the Buckinghamshire Coroners’ Court on September 23 that Mr Tapp had problems with alcohol and had tried several times to commit suicide.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had depression.

The body of Mr Tapp, aged 44, was in such a state of decomposition that the cause of his death could not be found by a post-mortem.

Police found a book and other literature about suicide near his body.

Accounts from neighbours on Mr Tapp’s last known movements indicate he may have died around a week before he was found.

The Bucks Free Press newspaper reported that Mr Tapp had no family living in Britain and it was after a concerned aunt in Australia contacted Ms O’Donovan that she went to his flat.

The coroner’s court heard that Ms O’Donovan looked through the window and saw Mr Tapp collapsed on the floor.

A former neighbour of Mr Tapp, Charlotte Kirby, contacted True Crime Reader via a comment on the blog post “Margaret and Seana Tapp murders – more tragedy”  and said she knew nothing of his traumatic history until she read about it last week on the front page of her local newspaper Bucks free Press.

Ms Kirby told True Crime Reader that Mr Tapp was a ‘very quiet and private man’ and she wished they had talked more.

“I felt really bad about his death and cried when I read the newspaper,” Ms Kirby said.

She said they both lived in an old house in Wycombe that had been split into three flats and Mr Tapp lived in the basement one.

They both moved away in 2011.

“Justin did not wish to be bothered really by the world,” Ms Kirby said.

“It is just a shame that he lived in isolation, but with that kind of trauma in his past, no wonder.”

Ms Kirby said she had often wondered about Mr Tapp’s past.

“I suspected there were reasons for his departure from Australia and even asked him why he left,” Ms Kirby said.

“All he told me was that he had grown tired of Australia.

“I just pray he rests in peace and that he has a decent funeral and resting place.”

BACKGROUND

The cold case murder of Margaret and Seana Tapp is one of Victoria’s biggest mysteries. On August 7, 1984 Margaret Tapp, 35 was strangled in her bed. Seana, 9 was sexually assaulted and also strangled.There was no sign or forced entry, which suggested that the killer was familiar with the house. The backdoor had a broken latch and could not be locked. A neighbour heard a muffled scream at around 11pm and other neighbours heard the Tapp’s dog barking frantically, which was not usual. The murders of the mother and daughter were not discovered until 6pm the next day when a friend of Mrs Tapp arrived to take her on a pre-arranged date.

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000