1. I, Monster: Serial Killers In Their Own Chilling Words by Tom Philbin
Recently I was going through my massive supply of what I call my “surplus books” (usually purchased in huge lots off of eBay) and came across I, Monster: Serial Killers In Their Own Words by Tom Philbin and thought, “Hmmm, sounds interesting.”
I’ve read an untold amount of books by serial killers. I admit, they fascinate me. But, for the most part, these books have been written from a third person account; a sterile reading environment, in a manner of speaking. So a quick glance through I, Monster made me think it could be different enough to hold my attention.
Well, let me put it this way, “different” and “interesting” are understatements.
Serial killers such as David Berkowitz (a.k.a. Son of Sam), Ted Bundy,Jeffrey Dahmer, Westley Allan Dodd, Albert Fish, John Wayne Gacy, H.H. Holmes, Jack the Ripper, Edmund Kemper, David Parker Ray, and several others have a voice through this book through their writings and/or interviews with detectives.
Although some of the author’s own summaries of some of this cases are so wrong it’s really laughable (i.e., on Ted Bundy, Philbin says he murdered women who parted their hair down the middle “just like his mother.” It’s hard to imagine there is anyone who doesn’t know the parted hair was symbolic of a former girlfriend) but the written or spoken words of these cold-blooded murders are just downright chilling.
Sometimes attempting to justify or other times simply explain their horrific deeds, their stories are riddled with madness, self-righteousness, evil and, more often than should be, indignation at their punishment. Because of the latter, even though the coldness and randomness of their victims chilled me to the core, it was often replaced by an outrage which made sleeping at night much easier.
2. Masters of True Crime: Chilling Stories of Murder and the Macabre edited by R. Barri Flowers
While I much enjoy solo true crime books, every now and then I prefer a collection of short stories. Sometimes I just want the condensed version, know what I mean?
And true crime author R. Barri Flowers has provided just that in the July 2012 release ofMasters of True Crime.
This book contains seventeen true crime short stories from some of the best authors of the genre. Stories and their authors include:
- Terror In East Lansing: The Michigan State University Serial Killer by R. Barri Flowers: Donald Gene Miller seemed like any other MSU student…until his ex-girlfriend disappeared and two other women were brutally murder.
- Twisted Firestarter by Carol Anne Davis: Peter Dinsdale may have been handicapped but he didn’t let his disability slow him down when it came to murder – many, many murders.
- Beauty Slain In Bath: The Titterton Tragedy of 1936 by Harold Schechter:Nancy Titterton was a young aspiring writer when she caught the eye of sexual deviant John Fiorenza.
- The Evil At The Angel In by Linda Rosencrance: A three-way love affair turns deadly when Peter Wlasiuk decides life would be better, and his debts less, without his wife.
- Nightmare on Spanish Creek by Robert Scott: A 1981 mass slaying of the Sharp family becomes known as the cold case of The Keddie Cabin Murders.
- The Grim Keeper by Kathrine Ramsland: A superstitious woman takes her voo-doo to the extreme when she kills three friends and bakes their blood into pies and serves them to others.
- The Alaska Mail-Bomb Conspiracy by Burl Barer: A couple of killers in prison want revenge, so one of them recruits his psychotic and pregnant sister to send a bomb through the mail.
- The Trophy Wife by Camille Kimball: Jamie Laiaddee was successful and looking for love. She found it in a man who called himself Bryan Stuart. Sadly, things aren’t always what they seem.
- The Darkest Hour: Teenagers Who Kill for Love by Amanda Lamb: Friendship and romance turn to jealousy and violence in a secluded mobile home in New Hill, North Carolina, and leaves one teen dead and four others in prison.
- Invitation to Murder: The Brutal Murder of Arizona Heiress Jeanne Tovrea by Ronald J. Watkins: Her stepchildren called Jeanne Tovrea a gold digger, yet one of them orchestrated her murder for money.
- The World’s Worst Woman by Laura James: I think the author best describes it when she says, “If a woman’s wickedness were measured by her social standing, the number of her victims, and the strength and longevity of her infamy, one fatal beauty would emerge as the worst femme fatale in all the recorded annals of the wickedness of womankind:Countess Marie Nicolaevna O’Rourke Tarnovska.”
- Escape from Fort Pillow by Douglas E. Jones: The name implies softness and it couldn’t be more correct, which is how two maximum security inmates to escape and shed the blood of innocents.
- Matchbook by Michele McPhee: A former champion boxer goes undercover to expose the sports’ dirty deeds and winds up being a patsy when things go wrong – or so he says.
- Murder on Minor Avenue by Lee Lofland: In 1975, James Ruppert murdered his mother, brother, sister-in-law, and his eight nieces and nephews. Twenty years later, just across the street, Tina Mott suffered the same fate when she tried to leave her lazy, drug-addicted boyfriend.
- Lost Innocence: The Murder of a Girl Scout by Phyllis Gobbell: Marcia Trimble set out to deliver Girl Scout cookies in her Nashville neighborhood and no one ever saw her alive again. It would take more than a quarter of a century for her killer to finally be brought to justice.
- Herbert Blitzstein and The Mickey Mouse Mafia by Cathy Scott: Fat Herbie was a well-known mobster but when he’s murdered in what first appears to be a “gangland execution,” the real reason for his murder turns out to be something altogether twisted and finds this case being officially unsolved.
- Deadly Union by Patricia Springer: Denton, Texas, police officer Bobby Lozano saw himself as a ladies man. When the serial adulterer decides to ditch his wife for one of his gals, divorce isn’t the option he has in mind.
Readers of Masters of True Crime will find it well-written and organized with just enough detail to keep you interested, yet minimal enough to keep it light during those times when “just the facts” are all you need.
P.S. Katherine Ramsland does a fantastic job of summing up the attraction of true crime in her Foreword. Thumbs up, Katherine, for putting into words what can be so difficult to explain.
3. Seven Sins: A True Crime Short Story Collection from Village Voice Media
The seven deadly sins. Like me, you’ve probably heard this term all of your life. Some say continuous violation of these sins will send you straight to Hell. In my personal opinion, it’s a religious zealots’ unreasonable demands on human beings.
While my personal opinion really has no relevancy other than a (extremely) minimal refresher course to remind you that the Seven Sins, essentially, covers all aspects of human life and introduce you to theSeven Sins book recently released by Village Voice Media.
Seven Sins is a compilation of true crime stories, both contemporary and historical, covering the gamut of human behavior (er, misbehaviors) such as:
- The Case of the Kidnapped Coed by Alan Prendergast about Theresa Catherine Foster, a University of Colorado engineering student, who was murdered in November 1948. Police were stumped but Perry Mason creator, and some say alter ego, Erle Stanley Gardner believed he had all the answers, announcing these whacked-out “facts” to Colorado residents. Then in walks a woman who claimed her husband Joe Sam Walker was the killer. What should have been a relatively open and shut case turned into a three-ring circus.
- Left for Dead by Nicholas Phillips recounts the January 2011 murder ofAnthony J. Rice, a young African-American man, allegedly mowed down by Reggie Allen, a white guy with an extensive criminal history. With so many witnesses, the question lingers: Why hasn’t Allen been arrested?
- Hell Hole by Paul Rubin focuses on possible proper treatment for mentally ill prisoners as brought about by the Arizona case of Shannon Palmer. Palmer was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who was put into a cell for 26 days with a Jasper Rushing, a man serving life for the murder of his stepfather. Rubin questions the pairing of two obviously different men, current stats about imprisoned mentally ill, and presents possible alternatives to the present-day laws working against the mentally ill.
- Honor Thy Father by Paul Rubin draws focus to “honor killings” with the case of Noor Almaleki an Iraq-born 20 year-old who had completely Americanized her life by moving in with her boyfriend as his mother. Noor’s father, Faleh Almaleki was outraged by his daughter’s behavior and disgusted with the former friends from Iraq who he believed was contributing to his daughter’s downfall. In the name of “honor,” Faleh mowed down his daughter and then attempted to flee prosecution.
- Killer Instinct by Ashley Harrell puts the spotlight on Samantha Spiegel a young California woman in love with the idea of loving a serial killer. There are “murder groupies” and then there is this murder groupie.
- The Scooby-Doo Files by John H. Tucker is the saddest, most disgusting of human behaviors: the sexual abuse of children. Readers take a front row seat into a federal and multi-state investigation into child pornography where Scooby-Doo, a classic children’s cartoon icon, becomes a signal for the most horrific of crimes against children.
- Who Killed Edwin Pratt? by Rick Anderson is about the murder of Seattle, Washington, Civil Rights leader Edwin Pratt who was gunned down outside his home. Anderson explores a very real theory as to the reason behind the murder of a man who some considered to be “too white” and was planning to leave his wife for his lily-white girlfriend.
With the exception of one story that seems to go into a bit more of a political-based rant on mental health issues than focusing on the crime,Seven Sins is a fabulous collection of true crime from talented authors that will amaze, disgust, enrage, sadden, amuse, confuse, and frustrate you from beginning to end – or, to put it simply: 7 emotions for 7 sins.
4. Killer Kids updated by Don Lasseter
Killer kids. It’s something we’ll never get used to seeing. The baby-faced killers who grace the front pages of our newspapers and our television screens captivate us, leaving us to shake our heads and ask, “Why?”
True crime veteran writer Don Lasseter brings us the tragic stories of several homicidal children in his book Killer Kids, which was re-published and updated in 1999.
With each of kids not old enough to buy alcohol but convicted of murder, averaging 15 to 20 pages each, the information is just the facts – no in-depth research and reporting, straight out of the court records and news accounts.
As many of you know, this kind of writing is normally referred to by me as “shallow” but when you’re working with a collection of stories, it’s something that more than works – it makes for excellent reading!
Sometimes you just need the condensed version and Killer Kids by Don Lasseter delivers.
5. Killer Babes: From the True Detective Magazine Files edited by David Jacobs
Long ago there was a presumption that women who kill only did so because they “had” to. As time goes on, however, society is coming to realize such is not the actual case in many crimes – although most women will still try to claim a man “made her do it” as their defense, whether it’s that he abused her to the point of no other options or she feared for her life if she didn’t assist in the homicide of her victim. The excuse cup runneth over. (Oh boy, I can already hear the clickety-clack keys sending me hate mail!)
The collection in Killer Babes profiles young and old alike of women who killed and stood trial for their crimes. The finger-pointing, drug addictions, ruthlessness, and homicidal tendencies running rampant among these women will disgust and amaze readers through all 400+ pages.
There’s nothing I love more than true crime short stories and Killer Babes, straight from the True Detective Magazine collection and edited by David Jacobs, was a fantastic read from contributing authors such as Bill G. Cox and Don Lasseter.
This 407 page book offers straight-up recounting of killer women from across the United States. No courtroom dramas. No mind-numbing fillers. Nothing but the facts.
Stories include such infamous cases as Lisa Michelle Lambert, Rosemary Heather Miller, Dora Cisneros, Joy Aylor, and Susan Smith as well as many lesser known, yet just as deadly, femme fatales.
6. Kiss Me Kill Me and Other True Cases: Ann Rules Crime Files:Volume 9
The ninth in a series of true crime author Ann Rule’s case files is an interesting collection of short stories, including:
The 1968 murder of sixteen year-old newlywed and expectant mother Sandy Bowman and the 35 year efforts of detectives to bring her killer to justice;
Dale Carrier, a postman with a most appropriate name, who murdered his teenage wife after she told him she wanted a divorce;
The strange case of Norwegian fishermanKarsten Knutsen who was seduced by a young woman then murdered by her husband, all for a few hundred dollars;
An attack on two young women, which resulted in one’s death, may never have been solved if not for the excited utterance and strong will to survive by one of Steven Terry Meyer‘s victims;
Harvey Murray Glatman was an unattractive little pervert who couldn’t get women on his own, so he turned to photography and dating services as an excuse to get close to those who would have never given him a second glance;
A young girl reluctantly marries her high school sweetheart only to find herself desperate for escape a few years later, but her abusive husband refuses to let her go so easily;
Victoria Legg‘s mother warned her against going out with strangers but Victoria couldn’t say no to Calvin Archer Lansing because he looked so much like her previous boyfriend. Unfortunately, as they say, “Mama knows best”;
A couple in Salem, Oregon, grew considered when they heard shouts from their duplex neighbors but tried to dismiss them. When the husband began mysteriously carrying items to his car and disappears into the night, they follow their instinct and report it to the police – who are temporarily baffled when it’s reported the wife died in a car accident several hundred miles away just that morning;
When a mother is murdered just inches from her sleeping child and her overnight guests brutally attacked, investigators follow a trail to a man and discover a note of his intent to give Byrle Fran Steffens an ultimate: you kill me, or I’ll kill you; and
Julie Ann Miner Weflen was a power station administrator in Spokane, Washington, when she disappeared without a trace in September 1987. Her husband and co-workers still want to know, “Where is Julie?”
Where Are They Now? (Warning! May Contain Spoilers!)
- Tina Burris was paroled on April 21, 2004. Her current whereabouts are unknown.
- Barbara Bell was paroled on June 9, 2003.
- Mary Louise Easlon was released on November 8, 2002. Her co-defendant/cousin Thomas Nooner died on September 1, 2001.
- While no updates for Rebecca Smith could be located, her son and co-defendant, Brian Locklear, is scheduled for release in July 2012.
- Valerie Swanson remains incarcerated at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women while Alan Marcotte is still behind bars at Greensville Correctional Center.
- Kristie Nystrom remains behind bars at the Murray Unit of the Gatesville Prison in Texas. According to her a personals ad (no longer available online), she is now college educated and looking to met someone. Her partner-in-crime Brent Brewer was granted a new trial. However, at his retrial, he was found guilty and resentenced to death in August 2009. A date of execution has not been set as of this date.
- Bernice Sykes was released in February 1996, while James Edward Williams remains on death row at Central Prison in North Carolina.
- Melinda Stewart is still incarcerated after being denied parole in October 2010. Her next scheduled parole hearing is set for July 2013. Melinda’s husband/co-defendant Daniel Stewart continues to serve his life sentence at Colorado’s Limon Correctional Facilty. James Catlin also remains behind bars at Sterling Correctional Facity where his sentence will be complete in July 2015.
- Kelly O’Donnell was granted a short reprieve when the death penalty sentenced she received was reversed in 1999. New sentencing information was not located. William “Billy” Gribble is still incarcerated at Greene County Prison in Pennsylvania.
- Rosemary Heather Miller made a mad dash for freedom from a Texas prison in 1996, however her efforts were short lived as she was recaputred three months later in Minnesota. But not before she could conceive a child with an unnamed trucker; a child she named “Chace” because the police were “chasing her.” She placed the child in the care of a prison pen pal turned boyfriend whom wished to adopt the child. Whether the adoption was permitted is unknown. Miller’s last known location was in the Mabel Basset Correctional Facility in Oklahoma.
- Cassandra Williams and Valerie Rhodes both remain behind bars; Williams at Homestead and Rhodes at Lowell Correction Institutions in Florida.
- Lisa Michelle Lambert was transferred to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections after claims of being beaten by other prisoners (according to friends of Lambert’s reports online). Tabby Buck remains behind bars at Pennsylvania Muncy Correctional Facility.
- Carol Weaver is currently housed at Mabel Bassett Prison for Women in Oklahoma.
- Michelle Leslie Hoover received her college degree while incarcerated. Today she is an employed single mother looking to put the past behind her. Alex Garcia will remain in prison for the rest of his life.
- Tammy Molewicz was paroled from prison on January 9, 2003. Her cohort Peggy Kosmin was paroled in June 2003, but not without a hearing before the parole appellate board due to numerous previous parole denials. Today she lives in Marlton, New Jersey.
- Nita Lynn Carter was released July 14, 2006.
- Pamela Sue Sayre is currently housed at Central Virginia Correctional Unit where she is expected to remain until June 6, 2023, unless granted parole before that date.
- Dora Cisneros became somewhat of a celebrity when Oxygen’s Snapped aired an episode about this unique case. Since then, Cisneros case was rejected for hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court. She continues to serve her life sentence in a Federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida.
- Ann Grieco was released in 1999. Her mother, Mary Greico, remains in prison at Lowell Correctional Institution. Marvin Steele continues to serve his life sentence at Hendry Correctional Institution.
- Sylvia White will spend the rest of her life behind bars. She is currently housed at North Carolina Correctional Institution. Ernest Basden was executed by lethal injection on December 6, 2002. He had just turned 50 years old less than a month before his execution. Lynwood Taylor is behind bars at Columbus Correctional Institute in North Carolina.
- James Canaday remains incarcerated at the prison in Clallam Bay, Washington.
- Steven Terry Meyer is still imprisoned at the Airway Heights, Washington, prison.