Category: True Crime Book Reviews

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Silent Night Deadly Night

Being Christmas I had a thought about the controversial 1984 film Silent Night, Deadly Night.

I was eight years old in 1984 and I remember some new reports about the furore the film’s release caused in the United States, Australia (where I’m from) and other countries.

We were frequent visitors to our local video store and I remember as a kid glancing at the horror movie covers, including Silent Night, Deadly Night and wishing I could watch them. (May sound weird but I do like a decent horror film.)

This slasher film is about a young man, who after witnessing his parents murdered by a criminal donning a Santa Suit and surviving childhood in an orphanage turns into a spree killer.

The film’s advertising was what causes the worldwide outrage. The film poster depicted a hand of Santa emerging from a chimney and clutching an axe. The tagline was: “You’ve made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas”.

A Milwaukee protest at the opening of Silent Night, Deadly Night in November 1984.
A Milwaukee protest at the opening of Silent Night, Deadly Night in November 1984.

The R-rated film was released in the United States on November 9 1984 and immediately the public was in uproar. By the end of November, the film’s distributor Tri Star Picturs dropped plans for a wider release. The film had performed poorly in the selected markets it was shown (The Northeast and Midwest of America) due to the media attention on the protests and complaints. An article “Christmas horror film dropped from distribution” (Gadsden Times, November 24, 1984) stated the film’s earnings declined after Tri Star stopped the controversial television ads for the movie. The commercials had shown a man in a Santa suit swinging an axe and shooting a gun.

But according to Box Office Mojo on the film’s opening weekend it screened in 398 theatres in the US and made USD$1,432,800. The film’s budget was reportedly USD$750,000. The opening weekend takings  actually more than the now legendary horror film Nightmare on Elm Street, which opened the same weekend and made USD$1,271,000 (it played in 165 theatres).

Local television stations were reportedly bombarded with complaints from parents who said the commercials for the film were too scary for children who could not discern the fact that the person in the film was not actually Santa.

Tri Star marketing vice president Steve Randell (who would have truly earned his money doing issues crisis management) told The Pittsburgh Press (November 16, 1984) “The picture doesn’t present Santa as a killer. It’s the story of of a man who dresses as Santa Claus who is the murderer”.

A pressure group called Citizens Against Movie Madness picketed the film’s opening and were vocal in the local media about their objections to the movie. Their campaign was picked up nationally. The founder of the group, Kathleen Eberhardt said of their efforts: “I guess all of my griping did some good”. Ms Eberhardt told a reporter from Los Angeles Times said she did not believe the group was practising censorship but would lobby any future sequels to the original film.

All the controversy went on to give the film somewhat of a cult status.
All the controversy went on to give the film somewhat of a cult status.

The film went on to get a cult status, mostly due to the controversy around the film’s marketing. But according to reviews, it was really a storm in a teacup. The movie wasn’t actually that scary or more violent than any other of its ilk.

A review in the Schenectady Gazette called it “cinematic garbage”. The Boston Phoenix said: “…it’s not a particularly gory film, or even a particularly suspenseful one…”.

The Toledo Blade’s film critic at large said “To say ‘Deadly Night is blasphemous would be an understatement. It’s an absolute travesty…”.

There were several sequels made.

I never did end up seeing the original movie…

 

The London Underground Serial Killer

The book claims authorities covered up the killings to avoid public panic.
The book claims authorities covered up the killings to avoid public panic.

This book released in mid-2015 certainly boasts one of the most intriguing and explosive storyline of any book released this year.

In The London underground Serial Killer author Geoff Platt  claims Irish-born vagrant Kiernan Kelly told police he murdered 18 people by pushing them in from of trains on London’s Northern line but it was ‘covered up’ due to fears it would cause chaos among the public.

Kelly was convicted of murdering a fellow vagrant in 1975 and the killed a cellmate in 1983. It was during a 1984 interview with then-detective Platt about this jailhouse murder that Kelly allegedly confessed to killing the people on the train lines.

On further investigation of Kelly’s seemingly wild claims, Platt discovered there were many seeming suicides on the Northern Line and Kelly was a witness to a lot of them.

The revelations prompted much media coverage and newspapers in London reported the British Transport Police would investigate the allegations and invited more information from the public.

The book is a decent read, although I found there was a lot of padding to the story with general background about the London Underground. I felt this detracted from the explosive story Platt presented and it was a bit laborious in parts. I was keen to know more about the alleged murders.

I personally think this story would have worked better as a long form article or mini-book of around 4000-6,000 words.

But for sheer “I need to read this” the premise of The London Underground Serial killer is hard to beat.

The London Underground Serial Killer is published by Pen and Sword Books.

Then no One Can have Her by Caitlin Rother

 

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Review by Ellen D. Wallace

Caitlin Rother proves that a true crime writer must be many things: detective, researcher, legal expert and persuasive interviewer. In relating the case in Then No One Can Have Her Rother uses these skills plus gentle empathy for the victim, her friends and family.

The book is the story surrounding the murder of Carol Kennedy — a mother, artist, spiritual therapist and a wife in love with her husband despite her need to save herself by divorcing him. Just piecing together this case which covers a span of five years and has more ups and downs than the Swiss Alps proves Rother’s expertise and tenacity as a true-crime author.

On July 2, 2008, just 35 days after divorcing her charming stock-trader husband Steve DeMocker, Carol was found in her Prescott, Arizona, home bludgeoned to death. The investigation focuses on two possible suspects: her ex-husband and a male friend who occupied a guest house on Carol’s property.

Caitlin Rother

 

Rother (above) describes the early stop-start and slightly bumbling efforts by local authorities to unravel this crime that was veiled by misrepresentation from the start. To add to the complexity of events, the investigation was hampered at every stage — even the outdoor portion of the crime scene was obliterated by rain shortly after the murder.

By distilling reams of evidence reports that ultimately implicated the killer, Rother describes years of psychological mistreatment endured by the victim. Carol’s dream marriage to her “soulmate,” as she called Steve, began to crumble under the strain of watching him jeopardize their family year after year by his self-centered spending and crass womanizing.

Rother’s investigation reveals that Steve counted on Carol’s loyalty despite his despicable behavior and used her love as the ultimate weapon against her. Steve’s passive-aggressive control over Carol broke like a parched twig in the Arizona desert when she divorced him setting in motion the grizzly events afterward.

But what about the renter in the guest house? Was he really just a friend or a man who wanted more? Peel back the truth as Rother takes you along in this crisscross investigation.

Then No One Can Have Her also examines the challenges of prosecuting an educated, narcissistic suspect. In the hands of a less competent writer, the book could easily have become a tedious list of circumstances, but Rother keeps the story moving at a fast clip using a crisp, clear and detailed writing style she undoubtedly polished in her career as an award-winning journalist.

Rother also dissects a dark side of human behavior rarely seen — even in criminals — a parent who manipulates his children to protect himself. How the killer influences those that he should love and protect before and during his trial will both amaze and repulse readers.

One of the sections of Then No One Can Have Her not to be missed is the “author’s notes” because Rother reveals her personal reason for selecting this particular case for her book and why readers will feel that she was the perfect author to advocate for the victim.

This book, published by Pinnacle, illustrates how one man’s manic lust for control ended in murder. Then No One Can Have Her is a suspenseful read well worth your time.

19th Century Barnsley Murders

Review by Ellen D. Wallace

Pen and Sword Books

19th Century Barnsley Murders is a look back at a town caught in beginnings of economic failure, the Industrial Revolution, and the emergence of working class movements in Britain. All three of these major influences converge in poverty and crime, including murder of the boldest sort in Barnsley, a town located between Sheffield, Leeds and Doncaster.
 
Amid descriptions of rat-ridden slums populated by numerous pubs, author Margaret Drinkall describes the darker side of progress in this small town. She recounts 17 murders or near-misses that occurred during the tempestuous 19th century in Barnsley. Drinkall reveals cases of bodysnatching, an early case of stalking which ended in murder in the street, the loss of a child and murder by pudding.
 
Interspersed in the copy are black and white photos, maps and drawings of places described in each of the cases. These photos and maps help draw the readers into the narrative. One impressively stark photo is that of a jail cell door in Leeds — in an underground jail with ominously thick stone walls.
 
Court practices of the period are also described in the book. For instance, often in the 19th century, an inquest was started almost immediately and the body of the victim was not moved from the scene until jurors viewed the body were it was dropped. 
 
Drinkall describes the cases she has selected each in a separate chapter, allowing every case center stage. One thing that is lacking is a character development of the victim and murderer, but this is understandable since Drinkall relies on court records and newspaper accounts to retell these stories.
 
If you are lucky enough to be traveling to Great Britain, based on the intrigue of the this book, you might wish to read this book first and then add Barnsley to your itinerary to soak in the local colour and the sites of murders long ago. 

Published by Pen & Sword Books
 

 

Lingering Doubts: Going inside Brisbane’s Arcade Murder

The authors of Lingering Doubts: Going Inside Brisbane’s Arcade Murder represent the heart of true crime investigative writing.

Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis are the granddaughters of a man named Reginald Brown. Brown, a respected Brisbane accountant, had his world turned upside down in 1947 when he was arrested for the murder of his 19-year-old typist Bronia Armstrong. Bronia’s partly-clad body was found on January 11 in a room of the Brisbane Associated Friendly Society in the Wallace Bishop Arcade building where Brown worked.

Authors Deb Drummond & Janice Teunis. Picture: Lingering-Doubts.com
Authors Deb Drummond & Janice Teunis. Picture: Lingering-Doubts.com

 

The case was a sensation in Australia’s newspapers and his family and friends could not match the loving, moral and community-minded man with who was being portrayed in newspapers and by police.  In March 1947 Brown was sentenced to life imprisonment. Throughout he had maintained his innocence. He spent just nine days in prison before being found in his cell, hanging by his belt.

Brown’s last ever note read: “To Whom it May Concern,“I did not kill Bronia Armstrong. My conscience is clear. RWS Brown”.

Source: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127074031
Source: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127074031

The book delves into exhaustive detail about the case and trial and interwoven is family history, interviews with those who knew Brown and Miss Armstrong, people involved at the time and the aftermath of the tragedy on those left behind. The authors never knew their grandfather but this book is a testament to the man who they believe was innocent of the murder.

There is plenty to back up their belief that Brown was framed for the murder – Queensland was a hotbed of police and political corruption for decades during the 20th century (for readers google “The Fitzgerald Inquiry” to start read about Queensland corruption). A senior police officer in the case, a man called Frank Bischof,  looms large as a central figure and as the authors detail, he was named as a key player by The Fitzgerald Inquiry in the “unscrupulous conduct” by Queensland Police. (By the time of the inquiry in 1987, Bischof was deceased.)

The passion and dogged determination of the authors make Lingering Doubts a fascinating read. The memory of Bronia Armstrong is also sensitively dealt with and it is never forgotten that this young woman’s life was cruelly taken.

This is a standout Australian true crime book. My utmost respect to the authors.

Read more at the website Lingering Doubts.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

 

Mothers Who Murder by Xanthe Mallett

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This book covers a topic that is deeply distressing and uncomfortable to consider. Women who kill their son or daughter, known as filicide, challenge our deeply ingrained notion of what we think a woman, and a mother in particular, should be and how she should act.

The author, Dr Xanthe Mallett covers many of the well-known cases in Australian criminal history of mother who have murdered their children , including Keli Lane, Kathleen Folbigg and most recently Kristi Abrahams. Mallett, who was a presenter on the recent Channel Ten show Wanted, is also a forensic anthropologist and draws on her expertise to review each case and also add her opinion on the facts, evidence and investigation. However, there’s not much new in the case chapters to draw on. There’s no new insights revealed, which dedicated true crime readers would probably be looking for from this book.

Mallett also details some well-known miscarriages of justice, including Australia’s most notorious case of Lindy Chamberlain as well as shocking cases from her native United Kingdom and Europe.

Mothers Who Murder paints a shocking picture of the cruelty (and evil as Mallett concluded) that women can inflict. To do so on their own flesh and blood is mystifying and perhaps, this is why the topic of mothers who kill their children will always be heavily covered by the media and disseminated by experts and pundits.

This is Mallett’s first book and it is thorough and well-written.

Mothers Who Murder is published by Ebury Press, an imprint of Random House Australia.

 

The Yoga Store Murder by Dan Morse

 

YSMCover3D1I remember reading about this strange and shocking murder when it happened. It stood out in my mind because of where the crime happened – a Lululemon Athletica store.

I’m no stranger to the brand, we have it in Australia where it has gained serious popularity in the past few years. The clothes are pricey and the staff – usually always Canadians on working holidays – are really friendly and very chilled out. It is the last place you’d expect to see a murder.

So this crime, which happened in a retail store in Bethesda, Maryland (America’s most educated small town according to Forbes. This is due to its proximity to Washington DC) was certainly at odds with its zen backdrop.

On March 12, 2011, two young saleswomen were found brutally attacked in the store. One, 30-year-old Jayna Murray, was dead. Her colleague, Brittany Norwood, 28 was found tied up on the bathroom floor.  Norwood told a disturbing story of two masked men coming into the store after the women had closed.  The wanted money but then things turned violent.

“I just remember there being so much blood,” Norwood told investigators.

A terrifying incident…if it was true. Why would masked men want to rob a yoga store? Of course, there was more to the story and police didn’t have to look far for the culprit, despite fears there were two maniacs on the loose in the affluent town. Forensics don’t lie and days later it was revealed that Norwood had brutally murdered Jayna.

The author, Dan Morse, is a crime reporter at the venerable Washington Post and covered this case. From the outset, you know Morse has real journalistic authority of this strange crime. As a journalist myself, this certainly appealed to me and as a true crime reader, I knew I was in for a good read…and I was not disappointed.

The book is exhaustive in its research. It’s really hard work to write a crime book (I wrote one that was published this year and it was a case file book. I am in awe of writers who cover a WHOLE case in one book) and Morse has really written a cracker of a story.

What is most interesting to me is why? What makes a young woman launch such an act of brutality…Jayna had hundreds of wounds on her body. (The case reminds me a bit of that of South Australian teen Jason Downie, who had no previous history of violence yet stabbed to death a 16-year-old girl and her parents that left one of the most bloody scenes police in that state had ever encountered.) And acts of violence by women are always more perplexing as they defy our stereotype of femininity. Morse goes into the “why”, as well as the “how”.

A strange and very sad case.

You follow Dan Morse at:

Twitter: @morsedan AND Facebook: facebook.com/danmorsewriter

Website: theyogastoremurder.com

Love You to Death by Megan Norris

 

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This is the latest book from Australia’s true crime queen. Megan Norris has written a gripping account of Melbourne businessman Chris Soteriou’s life with wife Vicky…and his almost death.

In 2010 as he left his surprise 44th birthday, organised by the sexy, seemingly devoted Vicky, Chris was attacked by a man called Ari Dimitrakis…Vicky’s lover.

Chris was walking arm in arm with Vicky when Dimitrakis stabbed him and slashed his throat.

Vicky, Chris’s wife of 18 years, was manipulative and conniving. She promised Chris she “loved him to death” yet organised for him to die. At the surprise party she fawned all over him while her lover lay in wait to kill Soteriou. At her trial her defence claimed she was suffering from post-natal depression, yet it wasn’t the first time she had tried to have Chris killed, nor was she the model of fidelity to her husband, whom she had three children.

Norris, a veteran courts and crime journalist and freelancer,  goes way beyond what is reported in the news and tracks down new information on this most sensational case.

Soteriou survived to tell his tale and Norris has produced a fascinating, chilling story of an evil woman and misguided love.

Last year Norris released On Father’s Day, which is the devastating account of the murders of three little boys by their father Robert Farquharson.

But Farquharson’s crime is the most extreme, and little understood,  example of family violence – the murder of children to punish the mother. It took seven years, two trials and three appeal hearings (Robert Farquharson was jailed for a minimum of 33 years) for this story to finally be heard and it contains details never before revealed in the trials or media coverage. Norris worked with Cindy Gambino, the boys’ mother, to tell this definitive account of one of the most notorious crimes in Australia.

Love You to Death is published by The Five Mile Press and available online and in bookstores from today.

Hauptmann’s Ladder by Richard T. Cahill Jr

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If you want an exhaustive and meticulously researched account of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping the Hauptmann’s Ladder is THE book to read.

If you’re not familiar with the case (it’s probably one of the most notorious and sensational crimes in American history), in 1932, the infant son of American aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped from the nursery on the second floor of the family’s New Jersey home. A ransom note for $50,000 was found on window sill. (A second ransom note for $70,000 came days later).

The body of the baby, Charles Jr., was found a few months later.

A German immigrant Bruno Hauptmann was arrested for extortion and later charged with the murder of Charles Jr. He was executed in the electric chair in 1936.

The significance of the book’s title is a reference to the ladder that was used to gain access to the child’s bedroom.

The author Richard T. Cahill Jr has researched the case for over 20 years. It is a case where there are theories that Hauptmann was innocent and the victim of corruption and a cover-up. However Cahill presents the cold, hard facts of the case and draws upon documentary evidence, even including evidence and information that has never before been revealed.

The Lindbergh case is fascinating, frightening and an important part of America’s social history. This book is a very intelligent read that transcends true crime.

Hauptmann’s Ladder is published by Kent University Press

Cold Justice Season 2

There are some great true crime programs out there and Cold Justice is one of them. I am absolutely intrigued by cold cases and am in awe of the dedicated professionals who help to solve these crimes.

Produced for cable network TNTDrama, Cold Justice is a few episodes into the second series and runs (on US TV) until July 25.


 

The cold cases featured on the series get investigated as you watch. The crack team of prosecutor Kelly Siegler and CSI Yolanda McClary travel to towns across America to help solves cold cases where families and loved ones had otherwise given up hope.

One upcoming episode “Sunspot Highway” (to air July 25) focuses on the case of a discarded body along a remote mountain road. The team race to determine who in the woman’s life could have committed the heinous crime.​

(In Australia Cold Justice Season 1 is currently on air on the Crime + Investigation Channel.)

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Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo

I am really, really enjoying Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo. I am trying to read more crime fiction (when I find an author I love get so excited!) at the moment and while I still love my true crime, I like to keep an eye on what’s happening in the world of fiction.

I was sent a great selection of crime fiction by the good people at Dymocks booksellers. I was really excited to receive this surprise package and Jo Nesbo’s Cockroaches was among the selection.

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I have never read Jo Nesbo before. I don’t know why it has taken me so long (that’s kind of what happens when you read so much true crime!).

Cockroaches is one of Nesbo’s early novels featuring Harry Hole. Like most great crime protaganists, Hole,  an Oslo-based detective  is a loner, a loose cannon and he has some really unorthodox investigation methods. In Cockroaches, Hole arrives in Bangkok to investigate the death of the Norwegian ambassador.

I’m about a quarter way into this book and it is riveting.

Nesbo is Finnish and has sold more than 3 million of his books in his homeland – 23 million in other parts of the world. Nesbo is one of the leaders of Scandinavian Noir (ScandiNoir) as the genre is popularly known.

I’m looking forward to reading more Jo Nesbo

Source: Dymocks.com.au
Source: Dymocks.com.au

Been a bit quiet here

Hi everyone. I felt the need to explain why posts have been a little sporadic at True Crime Reader.

I am head down into writing my second book, which will have more of an international crime flavour.

My first book Murder in Suburbia is going well and I’m getting lots of feedback from readers. Thanks to everyone for the support.

Writing books is HARD. I’m finding is harder to write my second now that i know how much work and research goes into it. I had absolutely NO idea (which was probably a good thing) when I embarked on writing Murder in Suburbia.

I’ll get back into regular posts asap. In the meantime, please keep in touch and let me know what books you are reading at the moment!

 

 

The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter

The Mad Sculptor - Final Cover - Hi-Res

The mad Sculptor is an absolutely fascinating book by author Harold Schechter. Released last week, the book tells the story of a grisly triple murder at one of New York’s most prestigious addresses. I am absolutely mad (pardon the pun) for researching historic newspapers so this book had instant appeal to me. Here’s the dish on this book:

Beekman Place had a curious way of making it into the tabloids in the 1930s: “SKYSCRAPER SLAYER,” “BEAUTY SLAIN IN BATHTUB” read the headlines. On Easter Sunday in 1937, the discovery of a grisly triple homicide at Beekman Place would rock the neighborhood yet again—and enthrall the nation. The young man who committed the murders would come to be known in the annals of American crime as the Mad Sculptor.

Caught up in the Easter Sunday slayings was a bizarre and sensationalistic cast of characters, seemingly cooked up in a tabloid editor’s overheated imagination. The charismatic perpetrator, Roger Irwin, was a brilliant young sculptor who had studied with some of the masters of the era. But with his genius also came a deeply disturbed psyche; Irwin was obsessed with sexual self-mutilation and was frequently overcome by outbursts of violent rage.

Irwin’s primary victim, Veronica Gedeon, was a figure from the world of pulp fantasy—a stunning photographer’s model whose scandalous seminude pinups would titillate the public for weeks after her death. Irwin’s defense attorney, Samuel Leibowitz, was a courtroom celebrity with an unmatched record of acquittals and clients ranging from Al Capone to the Scottsboro Boys. And Dr. Fredric Wertham, psychiatrist and forensic scientist, befriended Irwin years before the murders and had predicted them in a public lecture months before the crime.

Based on extensive research and archival records, The Mad Sculptor recounts the chilling story of the Easter Sunday murders—a case that sparked a nationwide manhunt and endures as one of the most engrossing American crime dramas of the twentieth century.

I asked Harold Schechter a question about how things have changed with the media since the 1930s:

QUESTION: Describe how you view the evolution of media and journalism since the time of the Beekman Place murders.

ANSWER: One word: technology. In the 1930s, the public was forced to gratify its prurient interest with daily newspapers. Now we have 24/7 cable TV coverage and the Internet.

 NOTE: if your are lucky enough to be in NYC, Harold will be appearing at The Mysterious Bookshop on February 27.