Saturday, October 22, 2016

Crime Faction: Fiction based on real crimes; as compiled by Georgine Olson

Two omissions come immediately to mind: The Price of Silence by Kate Wilhelm and The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. But an impressive list.--TM

Crime Faction: 
Fiction based on real crimes
Bury Me Deep by Megan E.  Abbott – based on Winnie Ruth Judd (aka the Trunk Murderess)
The Song is You by Megan E. Abbott- based on 1949 disappearance of actress Jean Spangler, linked to the Black Dahlia killings
To Cut a Long Story Short by Jeffrey Archer - fourteen stories, many of which are based on incidents recounted to the author in his travels throughout the world
Devil's Garden by Ace Atkins - San Francisco, 1921; silent-film actor Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is arrested for murder after a wild party ends in the death of starlet Virginia Rappe
White Shadow by Ace Atkins - based on the Charlie Wall murder case in 1955 Tampa, Florida
Wicked City by Ace Atkins - The murder of a crime-busting attorney in 1954 in Phenix City, Alabama, spurs the community to stand up against the underworld empire that ruled the city
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood - Canadian housemaid murders her employer and his mistress in 1843.
Arthur & George by Julian Barnes – George Edalji, an English lawyer of Indian descent, asks Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for help following his unjust conviction for mutilating horses. 
13 1/2 by Nevada Barr - partially based on the true account of a young boy who killed his entire family with an ax in Rochester, Minnesota
Nemesis: the final case of Eliot Ness:  a novel by William Bernhardt – based on the Cleveland Torso murders
Legion by William Peter Blatty – a sequel to The Exorcist about an apparent copycat killer copying the long-deceased Gemini Killer (based on the real Zodiac Killer)
Psycho by Robert Bloch - loosely based on the early reporting about the discovery of Ed Gein's victims 
The Wettest County in the World: a novel based on a true story by Matt Bondurant - based on the author’s bootlegging relatives and events in the hollows of western Virginia in the mid-1930s
Crippen: a novel of murder by John Boyne - based on the 1910 transatlantic pursuit of Dr. Hawley Crippen for the murder and brutal dismemberment of his wife, Cora.
The Frightened Man by Kenneth M. Cameron— based on Jack the Ripper history
In Cold Blood: a True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences by Truman Capote - the story of the mass murder of a farmer, his wife, and their two children is considered to be the origin of the non-fiction novel. (HV 6533 .K3 .C3)
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey - historically based story of outlaw Ned Kelly and his contentious Irish clan
The Alienist by Caleb Carr - police New York police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt uses  a psychological profile of the criminal to help identify a brutal killer before he strikes again.
The Man Who Was Thursday: a nightmare by G.K. Chesterton — published in 1908,“Thursday” is Lucian Gregory, an anarchistic poet in London 
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie- based on the Lindbergh kidnapping case
George & Rue by George Elliott Clarke – based on the 1949 murder of a taxi driver in New Brunswick, Canada, by Clarke's first cousins
Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch - modeled after the three Ward brothers from upstate New York who work their farm and mind their own business, until one is suspected of fratricide.
Max Allan Collins's Nathan Heller series investigates famous cases:
True Detective - the fatal shooting of Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who was chatting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the time
Stolen Away – the Lindbergh baby kidnapping
Carnal Hours –Canadian millionaire Harry Oakes is murdered and his son-in-law is arrested
Blood and thunder - events leading to the assassination of Louisiana’s Huey Long 
Damned in Paradise –Clarence Darrow’s 1931 defense of a group of men in Hawaii accused of killing a man thought to have been a rapist
Flying Blind - Amelia Earhart begins receiving threatening letters.
Majic Man - retiring Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, thinks someone is out to get him
Angel in Black - the notorious Black Dahlia homicide where victim, Elizabeth Short, is a young woman whom Heller had known in Chicago
Chicago Confidential - In 1950, a congressional investigation into organized crime sparks an all-out mob war that claims the life of Heller’s partner
Bye Bye, Baby - Marilyn Monroe receives threatening phone calls from a movie studio 
Target Lancer - a favor for a friend leads to the murder of a Mafia contact, leading to a conspiracy to assassinate JFK
Dying in the Post-War World  - short stories about murders in '30s, '40s, and '50s Chicago.
Kisses of Death  – several cases including the murder of actress Thelma Todd and the suspicious death of Eddie Gaedel (the only midget to play major-league baseball).
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell - loosely based on the Parkway Murders in Williamsburg.
The House of Lost Souls by F.G. Cottam — hangs on group of Satanists, including real-life novelist Dennis Wheatley and occultist Aleister Crowley involved in child sacrifice in 1930’s
The Great Train Robbery - Michael Crichton - the story of the Great Gold Robbery of 1855, a massive gold heist on a train traveling through England 
Fred and Edie by Jill Dawson - based on the Thompson-Bywaters murder case in which Edith Thompson’s affair with Frederick Bywaters is cut short when Fred fatally stabs Edith's husband
The Devil Himself by Eric Dezenhal - explains the role Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and other mobsters played in ridding New York harbor of spies and preparing for the invasion of Sicily
Goodnight, Sweet Prince by David Dickinson — a tale of blackmail and murder among the royals late in Victoria's reign when the dissolute Prince of Wales’ equally dissolute son is murdered
Room by Emma Donoghue - was inspired by the story of an Austrian man who fathered seven children with his daughter and kept her and three of her children in a secret basement room
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser -based on the Chester Gillette-Grace Brown murder case set in the Adirondacks in the early 1900s 
Another City, Not My Own: a novel in the form of a memoir by Dominick Dunne - a fictional rendering of the O.J. Simpson trial, based on the author's inside coverage of the case 
A Season in Purgatory by Dominick Dunne – inspired by the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley, for which Michael Skakel, the nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, eventually was convicted. 
The Two Mrs. Grenvilles by Dominick Dunne - based on the Woodward murder case of 1955 in which wealthy Billy Woodward was shot to death by his wife in the "Shooting of the Century"
The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy - story of the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short (“Black Dahlia”), wannabe starlet, who makes headlines after she is found gruesomely murdered 
Lizzie Borden by Elizabeth Engstrom - novelization of the Fall River murders
Night Watch by Linda Fairstein - loosely based on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair in which the former director of the World Bank is accused by a hotel chamber-maid of attempted rape.
The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman – based on a 12th century theft involving the arcane work of Al Idrisi, a Muslim geographer, cartographer, and Egyptologist living in Sicily
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - based on NJ's Hall-Mills 1922 murder case involving an Episcopal priest and a member of his choir with whom he was having an affair 
A Model Crime: a true fiction by Curtis Gathje - based on a triple murder in 1937 Manhattan
Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton - based on an actual unsolved murder case, a Jane Doe murder from the 1960's where the body was dumped in a quarry.
Hard Twisted by C. Joseph Greaves - a young girl is forced by a charismatic drifter to participate in a crime spree that ends in the notorious Greenville "skeleton murder" trial of 1935.
The Yard by Alex Grecian — filled with fascinating period detail and real historical figures, this showcases the depravity of late Victorian London and the advent of criminology
Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris –the serial killer is based on six real serial killers 
Jazz Bird by Craig Holden - bootlegger, George Remus, kills his socialite wife, once known as the Jazz Bird, in Cincinnati on October 6, 1927 – why; what happened to $80 million?
31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan - draws on primary sources to re-create the murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell in mid-1800s New York and the trial of Burdell's widowed household manager
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan - about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney's love affair, but it does include an account of the murders of seven adults and children by a handyman in 1914
Lizzie by Evan Hunter - novelization of the Fall River murders
The Successor by Ismail Kadare- based on true-life events follows the events surrounding the death of Mehmet Shehu, a hand-picked successor to hated ailing Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – based on the story of a young country maid accused, in 1829, of the murder of her former employer in Iceland. 
The Constant Gardener by John le Carre – this angry novel is loosely based on a real case involving Pfizer's testing of a meningitis drug on Nigerian children 
Compulsion by Meyer Levin - narrates in graphic detail the circumstances surrounding the crime committed by two troubled college students in Chicago- Leopold and Loeb
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman - loosely based on the disappearance of two sisters from a mall in the 1970s
The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long – two families - one black, one white - cross Houston’s color line to clear five black college students charged with murdering a policeman in 1968 (GL)
The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer - based on the case of murderer Gary Gilmore, who insisted on dying for his crime of robbing and killing two men 
To Die For by Joyce Maynard - based on the sensational case of Pamela Smart, a weatherwoman who seduces a teenager and convinces him to murder her in-the-way-of fame husband. 
The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb - reimagines the events surrounding the murder of a North Carolina mountain girl and the hanging of her lover, Tom Dula
The Devil Amongst the Lawyers by Sharyn McCrumb -based a sensationalized 1934 trial involving an Appalachian Virginia teacher's alleged murder of her tyrant father
The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb - based on a crime from the 1830's; 18-year-old Frances "Frankie" Silver was convicted of murdering her husband and cutting him into pieces.
Place of Execution by Val McDermid - two children disappear from the streets of Manchester in 1963; the murderous careers of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady have begun (the Moors Murders)
Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer - about the unsolved murder of Jerry Siegel's father when Siegel was a child and how that might have affected his later creation of Superman
The White City by Alec Michod - based on the Mudgett/Holmes "murder castle" at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Sutton by J.R. Moehringer - based on the life of the famous bank robber, Willie Sutton
Yummy: the last days of a Southside Shorty by Greg Neri - story of an 11-year old Chicago African American gang member who shot a young girl and was then shot by his own gang
Calumet City by Charlie Newton - highly decorated Chicago cop, Patti Black, finds herself implicated in a series of seemingly unrelated crimes in a tale based on real-life events
Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates - based loosely on the Chappaquiddick incident that involved longtime U. S. Senator Ted Kennedy. 
Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates - very loosely based on Jeffrey Dahmer and his predation.
Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace – based on a real-life serial-killer case in post-WWII Japan
Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips – based on the crimes of a real con man, a 1930’s Chicago woman journalist investigates the deaths of a woman and her three children.
Cottonwood by Scott Philips – set in a Kansas town that was home to the Bloody Benders with a plot that includes actual crimes and trials of the 1870s and 1880s 
The Longings of Women by Marge Piercy – the story of Becky, one of the three main women in the book, parallels that of Pamela Smart, accused of conspiring to murder her husband in 1990
The Mystery of Marie Rogêt by Edgar Allan Poe – a short story known for being one of the first mysteries based on a real murder (of a New York cigar girl) and for using Holmes-like logic.
The Pieces from Berlin by Michael Pye - based on a real-life historical figure, a woman who made a fortune dealing in stolen art in wartime Berlin.
Possession by Ann Rule - a fictionalized account of the "Bagby Hot Springs" camper murders that happened a long time ago
Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait – a young girl becomes friends with her elderly neighbor, Lizzie Borden, who was acquitted in the 1892 ax murders of her father and stepmother
A Twist at the End: a novel of O. Henry by Steven Saylor – crimes of the "The Servant Girl Annihilator" who roamed the streets of Austin, Texas a century ago impact a famous author
Tell Me Your Dreams by Sidney Sheldon - based on actual events, three beautiful young women become the prime suspects in a series of brutal killings 
The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve - a photographer is to take photos of an island off the coast of New Hampshire, home to an immigrant family involved in an 1873 ax murder
Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey - Richard III and the princes in the Tower
The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey - a 1940s take on the “kidnapping” of Elizabeth Canning in 1753
Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson – based on the crimes of Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, who killed infants born of baby farming and were executed in London in 1903
The Benson Murder Case by S.S. van Dine - based on the murder of Joseph Elwell in 1920
Mafia Summer: the ballad of Sydney Butcher by E. Duke Vincent - based loosely on events from his own life in the summer of 1950 at the dawn of a new age of organized crime in the U.S.
Outside Valentine by Liza Ward - based on the murders committed by Charles Starkweather in Nebraska and Wyoming in the 1950s; Ward's grandparents were two of Starkweather's victims
Candle of the Wicked by Manly Wade Wellman - novelizes the events leading up to the discovery of the Bender killings.
The Garden 0f Martyrs by Michael C. White - based on actual events from 1806, traces the arrests and executions of two innocent Irish immigrants who are falsely accused of murder.
The Italian Boy by Sarah Wise —based on the story of three men arrested in London in 1831 for attempting to sell the suspiciously fresh cadaver of a teenage boy to a medical college
Dream of Ding Village by Lianke Yan – story of the impoverished village targeted by a blood-selling operation and the catastrophic outbreak of AIDS that decimated the community.

Georgine Olson, for FNSB Libraries
With much assistance from Fiction_L subscribers and the NoveList database

April 30, 2013

Dennis Lien notes on 5 November 2016 via email:


Unknown said...

Probably several by Vin Packer, esp. The Evil Friendship.

Jerry House said...

Bloch's American Gothic.

Anonymous said...

Was The Man Who Was Thursday included by mistake for Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, based on real events involving anarchists in London? Whatever else it is, The Man Who Was Thursday wasn't based om anything realistic. Conrad's Nostromo was also inspired by a real theft of silver and Under Western Eyes has characters based on real Russian anarchists.
The connexions between The Great Gatsby and the Hall-Mills murder case are also remote. On the other hand, Meyer Wolfsheim in that book was directly based on Arnold Rothstein, the man who fixed the 1919 World Series.
A Pin To See The Peepshow by F. Tennyson Jesse was also based on the Bywater-Thompson case.

George said...

I'm impressed with this list! I've read some of these books, but I need to read more!

Todd Mason said...

One thing I wasn't aware of, was that this list was based on what's in the collection at the Fairbanks Public Library, which helps to explain some omissions...Georgine reports that she has ordered a copy of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR for the library, and added the Wilhelm to her list, and I'm passing along these comments to her.

Bill: Definitely! I imagine Meaker and "Anne Perry" never crossed paths too comfortably, if they ever have at all. I gather there was a specific case LOLITA was based on, as well.

Jerry: Shame on me for not immediately thinking of that one.

Anon: Had I allowed myself to think about it, the Chesterton was an odd choice. Conrad was certainly much more directly inspired by espionage at various levels.

George--thee's always so much more we can read!