NED KELLY AWARD WINNER 2014 TRUE CRIME
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- It's probably safe to say that John Safran's approach to true crime writing is very different. His style recreates his documentary approach so vividly that I 'see' John leaning in to frame as he explains what has just occurred. Or gripping his hand-held video recorder as he does a 'selfie' to camera. The writing is engaging, with many amusing turns of phrase that paint an interesting picture of what it's like being a 'newbie' sleuth in action.
It's also a really tightly structured book, cleverly revealing more details along the way, making it compulsive to read. I found my own assessments of the key people getting tangled at times. That is a big part of this book - different versions and opinions can leave you perplexed as to what the real truth is. Is there an objective truth? How deep do you want to go? Philosophy rears its ugly head. At one point John expresses this struggle: 'In Mississippi, the more layers of the onion I peel, the more I'm standing in a mess of onion.'
Those who might condemn Safran for his tactics and modus operandi cannot fault his heart. He has followed his ingrained fascination with those who seek to vilify and categorise humans with a zeal that befits the most ardent white supremacist or religious zealot:
"I've been on a piece of elastic my whole life, being drawn closer and closer, to this meeting in this forest today. There is no one in the world - not one of the seven billion - who would appreciate this bizarre scene more than me."
~ Craig Kirchner
When filming his TV series, Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi's most notorious white supremacists, Richard Barrett. A year later, he heard that Barrett had been murdered, and what was more, the killer was black.
At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime?
Seeing his 'Truman Capote moment', he jumped on a plane from Melbourne to Mississippi to cover the trial. Over the next six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder – white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.
Murder in Mississippi is a brilliantly innovative true-crime story. Taking us places only he can, Safran paints an engrossing, revealing portrait of a dead man, his murderer, the place they lived and the process of trying to find out the truth about anything.
In February 2013 the news of successful model Reeva Steenkamp's fatal shooting by her boyfriend and global sporting star Oscar Pistorius stunned the world. Over the ensuing months, as Pistorius appeared in court, applied for bail and was eventually put on trial, every detail that emerged was analysed, debated, justified and digested. The world was haunted by the events as they were repeated and discussed at length. Public perception vacillated from version to version and from hour to hour. Finally, Judge Masipa found him to be not guilty of premeditated murder - but guilty of culpable homicide. Written by Mandy Weiner and Barry Batemen, the go-to journalists on the case for the world's media, Behind the Door is a compelling narrative that meticulously unpacks the evidence that has been so heavily scrutinised on all sides. But more than that, this book seeks to go beyond the facts of the case in search of the wider context behind this shocking tragedy: the back story of the police investigation, the nature of the South African criminal justice system, the culture of violence in South Africa and the need of society to create flawed heroes who are destined to fail. Vivid and gripping, Behind the Door is the most authoritative and insightful account of what really happened behind closed doors that fateful Valentine's morning.
Lupara bianca ('White Shotgun') - an Italian term that refers to a Mafia-style killing, in which no trace of the victim can be found. For thirty years, prize-winning Sicilian journalist Attilio Bolzoni has reported on the shadowy activities of Cosa Nostra. Now, for the first time, he has collected together a powerful anthology of rare interviews, court proceedings and transcripts of phone taps that together capture the essence of this most hidden of secret societies. From the 'traditional' Mafia of the early 20th Century to the 'Maxi' show-trials of the 1980s and beyond, White Shotgun is both a history of modern Sicilian crime, and a book about the twisted logic and language of Cosa Nostra. From the most humble of foot soldiers to famous pentiti ('grasses') and top-level Bosses, this is a portrait of the men who live by a code of silence - in their own words.
After his December 2003 arrest, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was quickly dubbed 'The Angel of Death' by the media. But Cullen was no mercy killer, nor was he a simple monster. He was a favourite son, husband, beloved father, best friend, and celebrated caregiver. Implicated in the deaths of as many as 300 patients, he was also perhaps the most prolific serial killer in American history. Cullen's murderous career in the world's most trusted profession spanned sixteen years and nine hospitals across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Investigative journalist Charles Graeber's portrait of Cullen depicts a surprisingly intelligent and complicated young man whose promising career was overwhelmed by his compulsion to kill, and whose shy demeanor masked a twisted interior life hidden even to his family and friends. Were it not for the hardboiled, unrelenting work of two former Newark homicide detectives racing to put together the pieces of Cullen's professional past, and a fellow nurse willing to put everything at risk, including her job and the safety of her children, there's no telling how many more lives could have been lost. In the tradition of In Cold Blood, The Good Nurse does more than chronicle Cullen's deadly career and the breathless efforts to stop him; it paints an incredibly vivid portrait of madness and offers an urgent, terrifying tale of murder, friendship and betrayal.
Once upon a time in Melbourne there was a gigolo who thought he was a vampire. He bit the tongue off a prostitute and was then murdered in broad daylight on a suburban street. His execution, top brass believed, was organised by police. The aftershocks of this killing - and the murder of a state witness and his wife inside their fortress home - rocked the police force and the Victorian Parliament, vanquished one government, and brought the next to its knees. This is the story of police corruption, for years swept under the carpet to avoid a Royal Commission. It is the story of a police force politicised to the point of paralysis and a witness protection program that buries its mistakes. It involves one crooked policeman still free, and living in a very big house; a drug baron who survived the gangland war, only to be murdered in the state's most secure jail; and battles royale within a police force comprised of thousands of pistol-packing members. This is a story of truth and calumny, justice and entropy, dirty politics and shining courage, real people, dud leaders, egomaniacs, psychopaths, rats, hollow men and corpses. It is a bizarre, tawdry, unbelievable tale. Only every word of it happened.
In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn - then a young novelist struggling with fatherhood and a dissolving marriage - set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from an animal shelter in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn deep into the fun-house world of an outlandish, eccentric son of privilege who, one day, would be shockingly unmasked as a brazen serial impostor and brutal double-murderer. This is a one-of-a-kind story of an innocent man duped by a real-life Mr Ripley, taking us on a bizarre and haunting journey from the private club rooms of Manhattan to the courtrooms and prisons of Los Angeles.
Legal proceedings against a former police officer have forced parts of this book to be redacted. Bent law officers exist in every era, sabotaging the work of their colleagues and putting the community at risk. James Morton and Susanna Lobez have illustrated, in several Gangland books, that Australia almost certainly has out-ganged other countries. Now their spotlight is turned on corruption within the police services and identifying which state wins the bent cop handicap. Morton and Lobez examine the problems that started with the First Fleet and spread through to the present day, looking at the trouble caused by greed, power, drink, sex, money and, most recently, drugs. They compare the experience in Australia with corruption in America, England and Hong Kong, concentrating in particular on organised corruption at the highest levels, including judges, lawyers and politicians, through to the petty criminals who work our streets. Which state has the shadiest cops? The answer will surprise you.
The dead talk. To the right listener, they tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died - and who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help justice to be done using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with top-level professionals, ground-breaking research and Val McDermid's own experience to lay bare the secrets of this fascinating science. And, along the way, she wonders at how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine time of death, how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist uncovered the victims of a genocide. In her novels, McDermid has been solving complex crimes and confronting unimaginable evil for years. Now, she's looking at the people who do it for real. It's a journey that will take her to war zones, fire scenes and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.
Criminal, murderer, raconteur, author ...mythmaker? Mark Brandon 'Chopper' Read is undoubtedly Australia's best-known criminal.
Author of many bestselling books about the underworld he inhabited, and subject of a smash-hit film, his story has become part of the country's culture. And Read certainly knew how to spin a yarn. Adam Shand - bestselling author of Big Shots: Carl Williams and the Gangland Murders - disentangles the persona of 'Chopper' from Mark Read, the man. Chopper took over Read's life, made him famous but then refused to let him go.
From Read's religious upbringing and youthful escapades to his 23 years in jail and later careers in the spotlight, Shand delves into Read's life to reveal the truth for the first time. With unparalleled access to lovers, friends and enemies, Shand learns that 'Uncle Chop Chop', Australia's favourite stand-over man, was much more than the 'earless monster' he created.
Over a century ago terror stalked the streets of Whitechapel. Jack the Ripper's brutal campaign of murder panicked Victorian London at the time, but his legacy reaches out to the present day. If anything the story of Jack is now more confusing, obscure and mysterious than ever. With each passing generation, new theories and suspects spring up, adding a new page to a legend that has turned Jack from a historical figure into a mythical character who has become a star of folklore, literature and cinema. Within these pages Victor Stapleton embarks on a quest to uncover the real tale of Jack the Ripper, retracing his bloody tracks through the foggy alleys of London to finally reveal the true story of Jack the Ripper.
2 February 1101: Ranulf Flambard, the first person to be locked in the Tower of London, chose this day to make his escape. 24 March 1873: Mary Ann Cotton, thought to have poisoned three husbands, a lover, eight children and seven stepchildren, is taken to be hanged. 9 November 1888: The mutilated body of Mary Jane Kelly, thought to be the fifth victim of Jack the Ripper, is found in her room in Whitechapel. This volume contains 365 amazing and incredible true crimes from British history. With infamous names - Crippen, Seddon, Haigh, Ellis - alongside lesser-known examples from the British pantheon of crime, it will fascinate, chill and surprise readers everywhere.
The 2007 disappearance of a three-year-old Madeleine McCann from her bed in Portugal proved an instant, worldwide sensation. There's been nothing like it since America's Lindbergh kidnapping eighty years ago. Award-winning authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan have produced the first independent, objective account of the case. They have examined the released Portuguese files, conducted in-depth interviews and original research to answer the questions: What can we really know about this most emotive of cases? What can we learn from it? The Portuguese police probe ran into a dead end. Parents Gerry and Kate McCann, however, have never given up the search for Madeleine. They blitzed the media, hired private detectives, kept the case in the public eye. Speculation that the McCanns played a role in their daughter's fate, the authors demonstrate, is unfounded. Scotland Yard's 'investigative review', ordered by the Prime Minister and begun in 2011, identified some 200 potential leads. The Yard's suspects have included a mystery paedophile who preyed on other British children. The Detective Chief Inspector heading the probe has said the little girl may still be alive. The McCann family's private tragedy has touched millions around the world and aroused sometimes dark controversy. Looking for Madeleine is the most definitive account possible.