Four Things All True Crime Authors Should Includeon March 2, 2011 in Pop Culture by Brian Combs
I read a lot of true crime books. For most of the serial killer profiles I add to the podcast, I’ve generally read at least one book from start to finish (I think I read three books for the Gary RIdgway episodes).
Over the years, I’ve built a list of four things that I wish every true crime author would include in their books:
1. Who’s Who List
By their nature, true crime books have a lot of characters. I understand that everyone who contributed to the narrative wants, and deserves, to be mentioned, but it can be a lot to keep up with. Give us a list of all the people mentioned, with a brief synopsis. With a little care, the synopsis can be written so that it has a minimum of spoilers.
This is one that a lot of authors/publishers get right. Include an index of the major players, locations and events, with page references. It makes looking things up much easier.
Many true crime stories are not told in sequential order. This is generally so common threads or concepts can be grouped, and clarity maintained. Still, it can be difficult to keep all the events straight in your head, which is critically important for actually understanding what happened. A simple timeline, with major events listed in the order in which they happened, solves this.
I try to approach true crime stories from a historical perspective. To access the historical accuracy and relevancy, a list of sources must be includes. Preferably attached to the narrative as footnotes. Almost no true crime authors do this, unfortunately.
None of these are particularly difficult, although keeping track of sources might require the author to do some work that he or she should be doing anyways.
There you go. Including these four items would go a long way towards improving the utility and respectability of the true crime genre.
What would you have true crime authors include in their books?