True Crime
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Obviously, there are a million books about real-life crime out there that might help budding P.I. writers and fascinate readers.

Some of these just popped into existence, and as quickly vanished. others were standard texts for years, frequently revised and updated. But even outdated books can be fascinating -- and ideal if you're writing a historical mystery.

This is just a start. I'm willing to hear any suggestions or recommendations. Writers, are there any books you've found particularly useful?.

Arranged chronologically

  • Fitzgerald, Col. Maurice,
    Handbook of Criminal Investigation....Buy this book
    Arco, Various editions, 1951-74.
    A well-respected textbook on criminal investigation, billed as "a self-teaching Manual with over 200 questions and answers," which was a standard text, stretching from its first edition way back in 1951 through various editions until at least 1974.

  • Dienstein, William,
    Technics for the Crime Investigator....Buy this book
    Charles C. Thomas, Various editions, 1952-74.
    Another often revised textbook, filed under "Sicial Science/criminology."

  • Kakalik, James S., and Sorrel Wildhorn,
    The Private Police: Security and Danger....Buy this book
    Crane, Russak and company, Various editions 1971-1979.

  • Eastman Kodak Company
    Photographic Surveillance Techniques for Law Enforcement Agencies....Buy this book
    Rochester, New York, Eastman Kodak Company, 1972.
    Talk about good kitschy fun. This slim booklet (24 pages) boasted over 30 black and white photos. I've never seen it, but talk about an opportunity for product placement. "Don't let them skate -- use only Kodak-brand film!"

  • Ackroyd, James,
    The Investigator....Buy this book
    Frederick Muller, 1974.
    Billed as "A Practical Guide to Private Investigation."

  • Newburn, Tim, Tom Williamson and Alan Wright, editors,
    Handbook of Criminal Investigation....Buy this book....Kindle it!
    Willan, 2007.
    Not so much a how-to as a serious and well-written and well-researched look at the wider issues behind criminal investigations, including psychology, the media, approaches to volume crime and critical incidents, based on empirical evidence.

  • Schechter, Harold, editor,
    True Crime: An American Anthology
    .. Buy this book
    Library of America, September 2008.
    Crime is evidently as American as apple pie, and this anthology goes out of its way to prove it, with a boffo selection of red, white and blue mayhem from a star-studded list of contributors that includes everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Jim Thompson.

  • Roth, Randolph,
    American Homicide...Buy this book
    Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, October 2009.
    A wonk-heavy, stat-heavy look into one thing the U.S. certainly leads the world in: murder. History professor Roth comes to a staggering and surprising conclusion about why Americans are number one in killery: it ain't personal, it's political. And then he trots out enough data and meticulous research to back it up. Disturbing, provocative and in your face, this is one academic can of worms that deserves to be opened.

  • Waller, S., editor,
    Serial Killers: Being and Killing
    ....Buy this book
    Wiley-Blackwell, October 2010.
    Part of the popular "Philosophy for Everyone" series, this alternately fascinating and disturbing volume explores the existential, ethical and political questions that our culture's current obsession obviously raises, working its way through an examination of both real and fictional serial killers, including Ian Brady, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer , the Zodiac killer, Dexter and Hannibal Lecter , and serves up the often conflicting insights of philosophers, academics, crime writers and police officers. Best served with a nice bottle of Chianti.

  • Harkup, Kathryn,
    A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. Buy this book..Buy the audio..Kindle it!
    Bloomsbury, U.S.A., September 2015.
    Christie was not only the Grande Dame of Crime Fiction -- she was also the Queen of Poison. More than any other mystery writer, Christie knoew her stuff -- never just slipping a fatal random mickey into someone's cuppa, but using knowledge gleaned from her war-time work in pharmacies to bump off off murder victims with a wide variety of toxic substances. Harkup, a chemist herself, devote each chapter to a specific book and the (often surprising) poison used, providing its historical and scientific background, and the often ingenious ways Christie utilized it. Morbid? Maybe. But utterly fascinating, and a wake up call to those who dismiss Christie out of hand as a mere "cozy" writer. Best served with a nice cup of tea -- but best make it yourself.

  • Caldwell, Laura, & Leslie Klinger,
    Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted...Buy this book. .Kindle it!
    Liveright/W.W. Norton & Company, March 2017.
    An absolutely vital and important book for this new, post-truth world, featuring heartbreaking tale after heartbreaking tale of ordinary citizens thrown in jail for crimes they DIDN'T commit. Truth doesn't matter? Facts don't matter? Read 'em and weep. Contributors include Lee Child, Gary Phillips, Sarah Weinman, Brad Parks, S.J. Rozan, Sara Paretsky, Michael Harvey and Arthur Miller. Now is the time for your tears.


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