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The 27 Best True Crime Books Every Person Should Read

5 Books | by Esquire

Because the real world is more terrifying and unsettling than fiction.

Last Call

Last Call

Books

**WINNER OF THE EDGAR® AWARD FOR BEST FACT CRIME**A "terrific, harrowing, true-crime account of an elusive serial killer who preyed upon gay men in the 1990s." -The New York Times (Editor's Pick)"In this astonishing and powerful work of nonfiction, Green meticulously reports on a series of baffling and brutal crimes targeting gay men. It is an investigation filled with twists and turns, but this is much more than a compelling true crime story. Green has shed light on those whose lives for too long have been forgotten, and rescued an important part of American history."-David Grann, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower MoonThe gripping true story, told here for the first time, of the Last Call Killer and the gay community of New York City that he preyed upon.The Townhouse Bar, midtown, July 1992: The piano player seems to know every song ever written, the crowd belts out the lyrics to their favorites, and a man standing nearby is drinking a Scotch and water. The man strikes the piano player as forgettable.He looks bland and inconspicuous. Not at all what you think a serial killer looks like. But that’s what he is, and tonight, he has his sights set on a gray haired man. He will not be his first victim.Nor will he be his last.The Last Call Killer preyed upon gay men in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s and had all the hallmarks of the most notorious serial killers. Yet because of the sexuality of his victims, the skyhigh murder rates, and the AIDS epidemic, his murders have been almost entirely forgotten.This gripping true-crime narrative tells the story of the Last Call Killer and the decades-long chase to find him. And at the same time, it paints a portrait of his victims and a vibrant community navigating threat and resilience.

Savage Appetites

Savage Appetites

Books

A “necessary and brilliant” (NPR) exploration of our cultural fascination with true crime told through four “enthralling” (The New York Times Book Review) narratives of obsession.In Savage Appetites, Rachel Monroe links four criminal roles—Detective, Victim, Defender, and Killer—to four true stories about women driven by obsession. From a frustrated and brilliant heiress crafting crime-scene dollhouses to a young woman who became part of a Manson victim’s family, from a landscape architect in love with a convicted murderer to a Columbine fangirl who planned her own mass shooting, these women are alternately mesmerizing, horrifying, and sympathetic. A revealing study of women’s complicated relationship with true crime and the fear and desire it can inspire, together these stories provide a window into why many women are drawn to crime narratives—even as they also recoil from them. Monroe uses these four cases to trace the history of American crime through the growth of forensic science, the evolving role of victims, the Satanic Panic, the rise of online detectives, and the long shadow of the Columbine shooting. Combining personal narrative, reportage, and a sociological examination of violence and media in the 20th and 21st centuries, Savage Appetites is a “corrective to the genre it interrogates” (The New Statesman), scrupulously exploring empathy, justice, and the persistent appeal of crime.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land

Books

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year A Washington Post Notable Book of the Year One of Amazon’s 20 Best Books of the Year Named one of the Best Books of the Year by Buzzfeed, Bustle, NPR, NYLON, and Thrillist Finalist for the Goodreads Book Award (Nonfiction) Finalist for the Edgar Award (Best Fact Crime) A Book of the Month Club Selection A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Selection “A brisk, captivating and expertly crafted reconstruction of a community living through a time of fear.... Masterful.” —Washington Post The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage. Volunteer firefighters slept at their stations. The arsonist seemed to target abandoned buildings, but local police were stretched too thin to surveil them all. Accomack was desolate—there were hundreds of abandoned buildings. And by the dozen they were burning. “One of the year’s best and most unusual true-crime books” (Christian Science Monitor), American Fire brings to vivid life the reeling county of Accomack. “Ace reporter” (Entertainment Weekly) Monica Hesse spent years investigating the story, emerging with breathtaking portraits of the arsonists—troubled addict Charlie Smith and his girlfriend, Tonya Bundick. Tracing the shift in their relationship from true love to crime spree, Hesse also conjures the once-thriving coastal community, decimated by a punishing economy and increasingly suspicious of their neighbors as the culprits remained at large. Weaving the story into the history of arson in the United States, the critically acclaimed American Fire re-creates the anguished nights this quiet county lit up in flames, evoking a microcosm of rural America—a land half-gutted before the fires began.

The Real Lolita

The Real Lolita

Books

“The Real Lolita is a tour de force of literary detective work. Not only does it shed new light on the terrifying true saga that influenced Nabokov’s masterpiece, it restores the forgotten victim to our consciousness.” —David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower MoonVladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records, and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.Sally Horner’s story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel’s creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.

Party Monster

Party Monster

Books

Now a motion picture starring Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green, Party Monster is a "vastly entertaining, scarily well-written and horrifically funny book" (The Baltimore Sun) that depicts a dazzling, dizzying descent into hell—New York's downtown club scene, where dancing, sex, drugs, and murder were just part of the everyday experience. True crime has never been more fun.When Party Monster was first published, it created a storm of controversy for its startlingly vivid, strikingly fresh, and outrageous depiction of the hedonistic world of the 90s New York City club kids, for whom nothing was too outré—including murder. Nominated for the Edgar Award for best true crime book of the year, it also marked the debut of an audaciously talented writer, James St. James, who himself had been a club kid and close friend and confidant of Michael Alig, the young man convicted of killing the drug dealer known as Angel. This is the inside story of life in clubs like The Tunnel and The Limelight and hanging with leading lights like Keith Haring and RuPaul and the drugs, sex, music, and mayhem that existed during the heyday of New York City club culture.

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