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Our fascination with murder and serial killers has existed for years. With the evolution and popularity of true crime stories in film and television, there's the books to go with it. These non-fiction crime novels tell the detailed true stories of some of the world's most feared and notorious killers. With some of them still on the loose and murders left unsolved, this only raises our suspicions and peaks more interest about these true stories.
The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Often considered one of the best non-fiction crime novels, this autobiography by Ann Rule captures her early friendship with serial killer Ted Bundy and coming to terms with the revelation of his murders. Rule had met and befriended Bundy while working together at a suicide hotline. Completely unaware of any strange activity, Bundy came across as an intelligent, compassionate person. Rule recollects the trauma, reluctance to believe the evidence, and personal views of a serial killer.
The Last Victim by Jason Moss
Jason Moss offers an inside look with his conversations and relationships with several serial killers, including John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, and Jeffrey Dahmer. As a college student, Moss conducted interviews and wrote letters with the killers for his senior thesis. The book delves into the personal connection Moss developed with Gacy, often talking on the phone and even meeting in prison before his execution. The Last Victim became an instant bestseller and cemented itself as one of the best non-fiction crime novels.
Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
This infamous book by former cartoonist, Robert Graysmith, encompasses the investigation and unsolved murders of the Zodiac killer. The book includes evidence and various theories from Graysmith and detectives who worked on the case. Portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal in the film adaptation, Graysmith also details his days at the San Francisco Chronicle and becoming fascinated with the case, which is still active as of today.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City chronicles the story of Dr. H. H. Holmes, a serial killer and architect of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The book is divided into several parts, focusing on the mental unstableness of Holmes, who worked as a pharmacist and lured his victims to death. Other parts of the book show the struggles of the World's Fair architects. Holmes was said to have built a "World's Fair Hotel," which included a gas chamber, dissecting table, and crematorium in order to dispose the bodies. This bestseller is currently being developed into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Holmes.
Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Written by retired FBI agent, John E. Douglas, Mindhunter follows the history of the FBI's criminal-personality profiling methods developed by interviewing various serial killers. Douglas details the steps they took to determine the way serial killers thought and why they committed the murders. The book in particular follows the case of the Atlanta child killer, Wayne Williams. Mindhunter was developed into a TV series, currently streaming on Netflix.
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugilosi and Curt Gentry
This instant bestseller is one of the essential non-fiction crime novels, detailing the murders and investigation of Charles Manson. The book chronicles the lives of Manson and his followers and their first-hand accounts of the killings of the LaBianca's and Sharon Tate. Helter Skelter remains the bestselling true crime book in history, selling nearly ten million copies.
Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper-Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell
Detailing the accounts of Jack the Ripper, Patricia Cornwell offers several theories as to the identity of the killer. Cornwell theorizes that a painter, Walter Sickert, was indeed the infamous serial killer. The book was heavily criticized in Britain, where Sickert's artwork is popular in certain art circles. While the real identity of Jack the Ripper is still unknown, Cornwell suggests the answer is in Sickert's paintings.
Lost Girls by Robert Kolker
Lost Girls is one of the most critically acclaimed non-fiction crime novels, following the investigation and search for the killer of five sex workers on Long Island. Robert Kolker also details the business of online escorts and the impact of the internet. The killer has yet to be found or identified.
The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows the life and murders of Gary Gilmore in the 1970s. Norman Mailer captures the pain and anguish felt by Gilmore who attempted to clean himself up after serving 13 years in prison for armed robbery. After murdering two men in a robbery, Gilmore was sentenced to death and later became a criminal celebrity for fighting to be executed by the method of his choice. Gilmore chose to be executed by a firing squad, becoming the first judicially executed criminal since 1967.
Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt
One of the most well-known non-fiction crime novels is Mara Leveritt's Devil's Knot. Detailing the story and the trails of the West Memphis Three. When three boys went missing in West Memphis, Arkansas, three teenagers were arrested for the killings. Police pinned their love for heavy metal music as a suggestive motive and Satanic rituals. Due to new evidence, all three were released from prison in 2011. The West Memphis Three story was also detailed in the incredible documentary, Paradise Lost.