The Evolution of True Crime Books

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a bookshelf (or ten) full of spine-chilling stories about real-life crimes. Some of which – I’m blowing my own trumpet here – have been written by moi! But have you ever wondered about the history behind these gripping tales and the evolution of true crime books?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and discover how true crime books have evolved over the years. From the earliest accounts of criminals to the modern-day masterpieces that keep us up at night, we’ll explore the rise of this fascinating genre.

So, grab a cuppa, settle in, and join me on a brief journey through the world of true crime literature.

Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (1966) is often credited as the first modern true crime novel, with its meticulously researched account of the brutal murder of a Kansas family.

The Birth of True Crime

The origins of true crime can be traced back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when sensational accounts of criminals and their deeds were published as pamphlets or broadsides.

These early crime stories, known as “Newgate Calendars” or “Penny Dreadfuls,” were incredibly popular, offering readers a thrilling peek into the dark underbelly of society.

The Pioneers

In the 18th and 19th centuries, notable authors like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle contributed to the growing fascination with crime stories.

Their works, though often fictional, were rooted in real-life events and laid the groundwork for the true crime genre as we know it today. These, alongside newspapers printing stories of crime paved the way for the influx of information we see today.

The Evolution of True Crime Books
Credit: Lubos Houska

The Golden Age of Detective Fiction

The early 20th century marked the rise of detective fiction, with authors like Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett captivating readers with their clever sleuths and intricate mysteries.

While not strictly true crime, these stories further fuelled the public’s interest in crime and justice. This later coincided with the release and rise of true crime magazines.

The Rise of Modern True Crime

It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that true crime books began to gain widespread recognition. Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (1966) is often credited as the first modern true crime novel, with its meticulously researched account of the brutal murder of a Kansas family.

This ground-breaking book set the stage for other true crime classics like “Helter Skelter” (1974) by Vincent Bugliosi and “The Stranger Beside Me” (1980) by Ann Rule.

The True Crime Boom

Over the past few decades, true crime books have exploded in popularity, with countless titles published each year. The genre has expanded to include investigative journalism, personal memoirs, and even historical accounts of infamous criminals.

From chilling serial killer sagas to heart-wrenching tales of injustice, there’s something for every true crime fan. The recent rise has coincided with the birth of the internet and the popularity of social media, where information can be shared instantly.

Still Evolving

The evolution of true crime books will continue, from their humble beginnings as sensational pamphlets to the gripping tales that captivate us today. As we’ve seen, this genre has gone through numerous transformations, adapting to the tastes and interests of each generation.

Looking ahead, it’s exciting to imagine how true crime books will continue to evolve, incorporating new perspectives, storytelling techniques, and even emerging technologies to keep us enthralled.

One thing’s for sure: as long as there are true crime fans like us, hungry for compelling stories of crime and justice, this fascinating genre will continue to thrive and expand.

READ NEXT: The Mysterious D.B. Cooper and the FIFTEEN Intriguing Suspects Behind the Infamous Cold Case

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