August 4, 2016

Could You Write True Crime?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

A question often asked of authors is, "Where Do You Get Story Ideas?" Of course, if you write in the genre of True Crime, that is moot. Writing in this genre requires massive amounts of detailed research and interviews. If it's an old case, it can present a myriad of problems you might not realize. 

New York Times best-selling true crime novelist, Caitlin Rother, posted yesterday on Facebook, "Going through 46-year-old Manson case files in the bowels of the LA County court archives. I am literally flipping through pages of history. When clerks wrote notes in their own handwriting. Transcripts made on onion skin paper. Very cool. Sadly almost impossible to use the wand scanner because the battery doesn't last long and wand can't capture a full page without taking files apart, which is not allowed. So taking lots of notes and doing what I can. And still very cool." 

She goes on and explains in the comments of her post, "NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED" in the archives. And no gadgets that plug in. Thus the new wand scanner and my trusty notebook. Hopefully by tomorrow they will find all the missing boxes. Ugh."

Her post is an eye opener into the challenges presented in digging through old criminal case files. As a true crime author you may be required to spend double the time you allotted for research. You will need to be prepared to put in the time to accurately research any book.

With the current NBC TV show, Aquarius a new book revisiting the crimes of Charles Manson has the potential of another best seller for author, Caitlin Rother. I was intrigued by Caitlin's post because the first true crime book I read was Helter Skelter by prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi about the very case Caitlin Rother is researching for her new book. Does the genre petrify me? You bet, but at the same time, it makes me wonder why and how these heinous crimes occurred and especially how the murderers got close enough to their victims to commit the crimes. 

The recently deceased NYT best selling true crime author, Ann Rule, wrote her first book, The Stranger Beside Me with a unique perspective. She had no idea that she while working at a suicide crisis hotline center in Seattle in 1971 her coworker, Ted Bundy was a serial killer. She said in past interviews, "while working together, Rule observed nothing disturbing in Bundy's personality." Bizarre but true. Who would think the person in the next cubicle was a serial killer?

Are you a true crime reader or author? 

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