Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Louis L'Amour and the American West



According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, "westerns, a genre of novels and short stories, motion pictures, and television and radio shows, are set in the American West, usually in the period from the 1850s to the end of the 19th century. Though basically an American creation, the western had its counterparts in the gaucho literature of Argentina and in tales of the settlement of the Australian outback. The genre reached its greatest popularity in the early and middle decades of the 20th century and declined somewhat thereafter (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/640481/western)."

American writer Louis L'Amour  (March 22, 1908-June 10, 1988) was "the best-selling author of more than 100 books.  He was a world traveler who mined in the West, sailed aboard an East African schooner, lived with bandits in Tibet, and worked as an elephant handlers, a professional boxer, and a fruit picker before embarking on a career as a writer in the 1940s.  His books sold 200 million copies in 20 languages, and at least 30 of his books formed the basis of films.  In 1983 he became the first novelist to receive a Congressional Gold Medal, and in the following year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/328818/Louis-LAmour)."

The Genre Reading Group met last night to discuss his life and work and explore the mystique of the American west for ourselves!


The Haunted Mesa
(powells.com) The Navajo called them the Anasazi: an enigmatic race of southwestern cliff dwellers. For centuries, the sudden disappearance of this proud and noble people has baffled historians. Summoned to a dark desert plateau by a desperate letter form an old friend, renowned investigator Mike Raglan is drawn into a world of mystery, violence, and explosive revelation. Crossing the border beyond the laws of man and nature, he will learn the astonishing legacy of the Anasazi — but not without a price. Set in the contemporary Southwest, The Haunted Mesa draws on Louis L'Amour's extensive knowledge of Indian lore and mysticism. In this extraordinary book L'Amour tells a tale of epic adventure that takes his readers across the most extraordinary frontier they have ever encountered.


Rivers West
(powells.com) His dream was to build magnificent steamboats to ply the rivers of the American frontier. But when Jean Talon began his journey westward, he stumbled upon a deadly conspiracy involving a young woman's search to find her missing brother, and a ruthless band of renegades.  Led by the brazen Baron Torville, this makeshift army of opportunists is plotting a violent takeover of the Louisiana Territory. Jean swears to find a way to stop this daring plan. If he doesn't, it will not only put an end to all his dreams; it will change the course of history and destroy the promise of the American frontier.


The Trail to Seven Pines
(powells.com) Hopalong rides into a firestorm of violence and  betrayal. On the rain-drenched trail to the  lawless town of Seven Pines, Hopalong discovers two men  -- one dead, the other badly wounded. Returning  with medical help, Hopalong finds the wounded man  has been shot through the temple. Who would  commit such a murder? To find out, Hopalong hires on  at Bob Ronson's Rocking R Ranch. There he learns  that more than a thousand cattle have been run off  by men keeping one scheming eye on the ranch and  the other on the monthly stagecoach shipments of  gold. Hopalong is determined to stop those  responsible. But even the best gunfighter needs men he  can trust to watch his back, men willing to risk  their lives to do what's right. With their help,  Hopalong fights to save the Rocking R, only to  find himself the target of a ruthless gunman in a  life-and-death struggle for frontier justice.


Last of the Breed
(powells.com) This is the compelling story of U.S. Air Force Major Joe Mack, a man born out of time. When his experimental aircraft is forced down in Russia and he escapes a Soviet prison camp, he must call upon the ancient skills of his Indian forebears to survive the vast Siberian wilderness. Only one route lies open to Mack: the path of his ancestors, overland to the Bering Strait and across the sea to America. But in pursuit is a legendary tracker, the Yakut native Alekhin, who knows every square foot of the icy frontier—and who knows that to trap his quarry he must think like a Sioux.


Beyond the Great Snow Mountains
(powells.com) From the American West to the Siberian coast, from Hollywood to the boxing ring, here are timeless tales of war, mystery, romance, crime, and punishment as only Louis L'Amour can tell them.  These stories are vintage L'Amour: A hard-bitten cattle driver is pitted against a man trying to steal his woman, the disappearance of a thousand head of cattle, and a plot to frame him for murder....A private eye visits a remote mining town on a case involving a sexy widow, an uneasy lawman, and a fortune in gold buried in an abandoned mine shaft....A country boy with a good right hand must fight not only his vicious opponent in the ring but the ruthless gangsters who'll do anything for profit-even commit cold-blooded murder....A young woman stranded in an isolated harbor must survive the wilderness and a brutal battle of wits with a sadistic fortune hunter.  Here is the trademark blend of action, suspense, historical detail, and unforgettable characters that have made Louis L'Amour one of the world's most extraordinary writers.


Hondo
(powells.com) He was etched by the desert’s howling winds, a big, broad-shouldered man who knew the ways of the Apache and the ways of staying alive. She was a woman alone raising a young son on a remote Arizona ranch. And between Hondo Lane and Angie Lowe was the warrior Vittoro, whose people were preparing to rise against the white men. Now the pioneer woman, the gunman, and the Apache warrior are caught in a drama of love, war, and honor.


Hondo (DVD, 1953)
(rottentomatoes.com) Hondo is so "perfect" a John Ford western that many people assume it was directed by John Ford--or at the very least, Andrew McLaglen. Actually the director was suspense expert John Farrow, who worked with the "Duke" only twice in his career (the second film was an oddball war drama, The Sea Chase [55]). In Hondo, John Wayne plays a hard-bitten cavalry scout who is humanized by frontierswoman Geraldine Page and her young son (Lee Aaker, star of TV's Rin Tin Tin). Try as he might, Wayne can't convince Page to move off her land in anticipation of an Apache attack. He leaves her ranch, only to be ambushed by desperado Leo Gordon--who happens to be Page's long-absent husband. Having killed Gordon, Hondo returns to the ranch to protect Page from the Indians, and to rekindle the woman's hesitant love for him. The climactic attack sequence is enhanced by Hondo's 3-D photography, one of the few truly effective utilizations of this much-maligned process. Long unavailable thanks to the labyrinthine legal tangles of the John Wayne estate, Hondo was finally released to videotape in the early 1990s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

I challenge you to read a western this summer!
Holley

Thursday, April 30, 2015

True Crime

The next meeting will be Tuesday, May 26th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion will be the novels of Louis L’Amour.  Pick any of his books and come tell us about it!  Due to a scheduling conflict, our June meeting will be canceled.  On the bright side, you’ll have two whole months to select and read the perfect book on Real Life Adventures for the July meeting.  I’ll be bringing a selection of those for your perusal to the May meeting.

(amazon) During Prohibition, while Al Capone was rising to worldwide prominence as Public Enemy Number One, the townspeople of rural Templeton, Iowa—population just 428—were busy with a bootlegging empire of their own. Led by Joe Irlbeck, the whip-smart and gregarious son of a Bavarian immigrant, the outfit of farmers, small merchants, and even the church monsignor worked together to create a whiskey so excellent it was ordered by name: "Templeton rye."

Just as Al Capone had Eliot Ness, Templeton’s bootleggers had as their own enemy a respected Prohibition agent from the adjacent county named Benjamin Franklin Wilson. Wilson was ardent in his fight against alcohol, and he chased Irlbeck for over a decade. But Irlbeck was not Capone, and Templeton would not be ruled by violence like Chicago.

Gentlemen Bootleggers tells a never-before-told tale of ingenuity, bootstrapping, and perseverance in one small town, showcasing a group of immigrants and first-generation Americans who embraced the ideals of self-reliance, dynamism, and democratic justice. It relies on previously classified Prohibition Bureau investigation files, federal court case files, extensive newspaper archive research, and a recently disclosed interview with kingpin Joe Irlbeck. Unlike other Prohibition-era tales of big-city gangsters, it provides an important reminder that bootlegging wasn’t only about glory and riches, but could be in the service of a higher goal: producing the best whiskey money could buy.

(amazon) In an era that witnessed the rise of celebrity outlaws like Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger was the most famous and flamboyant of them all. Reports on the man and his misdeeds - spiced with accounts of his swashbuckling bravado and cool daring - provided an America worn down by the Great Depression with a salacious mix of sex and violence that proved irresistible. In Dillinger's Wild Ride, Elliott J. Gorn provides a riveting account of the year between 1933 and 1934, when the Dillinger gang pulled over a dozen bank jobs and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars. A dozen men - police, FBI agents, gangsters, and civilians - lost their lives in the rampage, and American newspapers breathlessly followed every shooting and jail-break. As Dillinger's wild year unfolded, the tale grew larger and larger in newspapers and newsreels, and even today, Dillinger is the subject of pulp literature, serious poetry and fiction, and film. What is the power of his story? Why has it lingered so long? Who was John Dillinger? Gorn illuminates the significance of Dillinger's tremendous fame and the endurance of his legacy, arguing that he represented an American fascination with primitive freedom against social convention. Dillinger's story has much to tell us about our enduring fascination with outlaws, crime and violence, about the complexity of our transition from rural to urban life, and about the transformation of America during the Great Depression.

(amazon) In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era.

Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his enthralling account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only "two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi." The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor's view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers... these elements make for a true crime classic. ?Helter Skelter ?is not merely a spellbinding murder case and courtroom drama but also, in the words of ?The New Republic?, a "social document of rare importance." 50 pages of black-and-white photographs

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
(amazon) On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. 
As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

(amazon) Fatal Vision is the electrifying true story of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, the handsome, Princeton-educated physician convicted of savagely slaying his young pregnant wife and two small children, murders he vehemently denies committing.  Bestselling author Joe McGinniss chronicles every aspect of this horrifying and intricate crime, and probes the life and psyche of the magnetic, all-American Jeffrey MacDonald, a golden boy who seemed destined to have it all. The result is a penetration to the heart of darkness that enshrouded one of the most complex criminal cases ever to capture the attention of the American public. It is a haunting, stunningly suspenseful work that no reader will be able to forget.

(amazon) The "Hillside Strangler" became an everyday headline that frightened Los Angeles for a year or so in the late 1970's. During that year, bodies of young women started showing up on the hillsides around the city. But the horror waned beside the revelations that came to light in what became the longest criminal trial in American history--BEFORE O. J. Simpson's 1994 trial--and one of the most controversial The Hillside Strangler was thought to be one person with a real fast pace in killing. With TWO OF A KIND, Darcy O'Brien gives the inside story and is the first book to make the shocking disclosure that "the Hillside Strangler" was not one man, but two, and not only that -- they were were cousins! In Mr. O'Brien's riveting story examines the relationship between the murderers and the drive behind their hideously evil crimes. It tells the entire story of the Hillside Stranglers as it has never been told before. He begins with the stranglers themselves who just decided one night out of boredom that they hated women and wanted to kill them (even as one strangler was living with a pregnant girlfriend and hiding the truth of his killing spree from her).

(amazon) A portrait of a tortured young man, arrested for a series of kidnappings and rapes, explores the world of a multiple personality, whose traumatic childhood shattered his mind into twenty-four distinct personalities.  Daniel Keyes is also the author of Flowers for Algernon.

Bitter Harvest by Ann Rule
(amazon) In this harrowing New York Times bestseller, Ann Rule is at her masterful best as she winnows horrific truths from the ashes of what seemed like paradise in Prairie Village, Kansas. Rule probes the case of Debora Green, a doctor and a loving mother who seemed to epitomize the dreams of the American heartland. A small-town girl with a genius IQ, she achieved an enviable life: her own medical practice, a handsome physician husband, three perfect children, and an opulent home in an exclusive Kansas City suburb. But when a raging fire destroyed that home and took two lives, the trail of clues led investigators to a stunning conclusion. Piece by piece, Ann Rule digs beneath this placid Midwestern facade to unveil a disturbing portrait of strangely troubled marriages, infidelity, desperation, suicide, and escalating acts of revenge that forever changed dozens of lives.

(amazon) Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981.  Was it murder or self-defense?  For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares.  John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction.  Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.

It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight.  These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else. 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a sublime and seductive reading experience.  Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city has become a modern classic.

(amazon) Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.

At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.

Cruel Death by M. William Phelps
(amazon) It was Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer season. Thousands headed to Ocean City, Maryland, to enjoy its scenic beaches, lively boardwalk, and trendy nightclubs. Among the bright-spirited vacationers was a couple with a much darker idea of fun. Erica Sifrit, a former honor student, was packing a gun in her Coach bag. Her husband, B.J., an ex-Navy SEAL, was trained in violence. What started as a chance encounter with another couple ended with two dismembered victims buried in a Delaware landfill. M. William Phelps updates this modern-day "Bonnie and Clyde" saga to create a haunting account of money, madness, sex, and murder. . . 

(amazon) At about 9 oclock on the morning of November 9, 1971, soon after sending her three children off to school, Helen List sat in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee. She was still in her nightgown and slippers.John List came up behind her and put a 9mm German-made Steyr automatic pistol to the side of her head and fired once. She died instantly. The bullet smashed into the opposite wall... John made his way up the stairs to the third floor where his 85-year old mother, Alma, wearing a housedress, was preparing breakfast in her efficiency kitchen She was standing near the storage room that adjoined her kitchen when a 9mm bullet ripped through the side of her scull. Alma List was dead before her body crumpled in a heap on the floor, the righteous carnage had begun.

True Crime Authors of Note:


Remember these TV shows?

America’s Most Wanted, hosted by John Walsh, dramatized true crimes in hopes that viewers could give information leading to the solving of crimes.  It aired for 23 years, from 1988 to 2011.

Unsolved Mysteries, hosted by Robert Stack, investigated mysteries of all kinds ranging from murders to UFO sightings.  It also aired for 23 years, from 1987 to 2010.

Bonnie and Clyde (DVD, 1967)
(rottentomatoes.com) Producer/star Warren Beatty had to convince Warner Bros. to finance this film, which went on to become the studio's second-highest grosser. It also caused major controversy by redefining violence in cinema and casting its criminal protagonists as sympathetic anti-heroes. Based loosely on the true exploits of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker during the 30s, the film begins as Clyde (Beatty) tries to steal the car of Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway)'s mother. Bonnie is excited by Clyde's outlaw demeanor, and he further stimulates her by robbing a store in her presence. Clyde steals a car, with Bonnie in tow, and their legendary crime spree begins. The two move from town to town, pulling off small heists, until they join up with Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman), his shrill wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and a slow-witted gas station attendant named C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard). The new gang robs a bank and Clyde is soon painted in the press as a Depression-era Robin Hood when he allows one bank customer to hold onto his money. Soon the police are on the gang's trail and they are constantly on the run, even kidnapping a Texas Ranger (Denver Pyle) and setting him adrift on a raft, handcuffed, after he spits in Bonnie's face when she kisses him. That same ranger leads a later raid on the gang that leaves Buck dying, Blanche captured, and both Clyde and Bonnie injured. The ever-loyal C.W. takes them to his father's house. C.W.'s father disaproves his son's affiliation with gangsters and enters a plea bargain with the Texas Rangers. A trap is set that ends in one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history. The film made stars out of Beatty and Dunaway, and it also featured the screen debut of Gene Wilder as a mortician briefly captured by the gang. Its portrayal of Bonnie and Clyde as rebels who empathized with the poor working folks of the 1930s struck a chord with the counterculture of the 1960s and helped generate a new, young audience for American movies that carried over into Hollywood's renewal of the 1970s. Its combination of sex and violence with dynamic stars, social relevance, a traditional Hollywood genre, and an appeal to hip young audiences set the pace for many American movies to come. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi

Dead Man Walking (DVD, 1995)
Tim Robbins' second directorial effort (after the political satire Bob Roberts) was this drama based on a true story, which explores the issue of capital punishment. Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) is a nun and teacher living in rural Louisiana. One day, she receives a letter from Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), who is scheduled to be executed soon for the rape and murder of two teenagers. After meeting Matthew, Sister Helen agrees to serve as spiritual counselor and see what she can do to stay the execution. However, Matthew's claims of innocence seem shaky at best, and it's clear he's a reprehensible, amoral racist. When it becomes obvious that Matthew's sentence will be carried out, Sister Helen offers what comfort she can to Matthew, but also tries to guide him to an open admission of the extent of his crimes and an acceptance of divine forgiveness, telling him "I want the last face you see to be the face of love." Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her performance as Sister Prejean, and Sean Penn was similarly nominated for Best Actor as Matthew. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

The Girl Next Door (DVD, 1997)
(rottentomatoes) Based on the harrowingbest-seller by author Jack Ketchum, director Gregory Wilson's The Girl Next Door presents a fictionalized account of the shocking ordeal endured by Sylvia Likens -- an innocent Indiana teen who was systematically tortured, raped, and murdered by a suburban divorcée and a group of neighborhood children in 1965. Shortly after losing their parents in a deadly car accident, Meg Laughlin (Blythe Auffarth) and her younger sister, Susan (Madeline Taylor), are sent to live in the Indiana home of Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker) and her three sons, Willie (Graham Patrick Martin), Donny (Benjamin Ross Kaplan), and Ralphie (Austin Williams). Upon arriving in the quiet suburban neighborhood, Meg quickly forges a warm bond with local neighbor boy David Moran (Daniel Manche). Strangely, Ruth seems to harbor some sort of unknown grudge against her pretty young charge, and it isn't long before events in the Chandler home begin to take an ominous turn. Now, as Ruth Chandler begins her slow descent into madness, the basement of a typical middle-class home is about to become the scene of a crime that would shock and repulse an entire nation.

An American Crime (DVD, 2007)
(rottentomatoes) The true story of a young girl held captive by her insane caretaker comes to life in this disturbing film from Ella Enchanted director Tommy O'Haver. Hard Candy's Ellen Page stars as Sylvia Likens a teenager who, along with her sister, is left to live temporarily with seemingly-mild-mannered housewife Gertrude Baniszewski, played by Catherine Keener. Unfortunately for Sylvia, Gertrude soon snaps and holds her hostage in harsh conditions until the former's eventual death. Bradley Whitford costars as the prosecutor tasked with trying the case against Baniszewski.

(amazon) In the horrifying annals of American crime, the infamous names of brutal killers such as Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, and Berkowitz are writ large in the imaginations of a public both horrified and hypnotized by their monstrous, murderous acts. But for every celebrity psychopath who’s gotten ink for spilling blood, there’s a bevy of all-but-forgotten homicidal fiends studding the bloody margins of U.S. history. The law gave them their just desserts, but now the hugely acclaimed author of The Serial Killer Files and The Whole Death Catalog gives them their dark due in this absolutely riveting true-crime treasury. Among America’s most cold-blooded you’ll meet
 
• Robert Irwin, “The Mad Sculptor”: He longed to use his carving skills on the woman he loved—but had to settle for making short work of her mother and sister instead.
 
• Peter Robinson, “The Tell-Tale Heart Killer”: It took two days and four tries for him to finish off his victim, but no time at all for keen-eyed cops to spot the fatal flaw in his floor plan.
 
• Anton Probst, “The Monster in the Shape of a Man”: The ax-murdering immigrant’s systematic slaughter of all eight members of a Pennsylvania farm family matched the savagery of the Manson murders a century later.
 
• Edward H. Ruloff, “The Man of Two Lives”: A genuine Jekyll and Hyde, his brilliant scholarship disguised his bloodthirsty brutality, and his oversized brain gave new meaning to “mastermind.”
 
Spurred by profit, passion, paranoia, or perverse pleasure, these killers—the Witch of Staten Island, the Smutty Nose Butcher, the Bluebeard of Quiet Dell, and many others—span three centuries and a host of harrowing murder methods. Dramatized in the pages of penny dreadfuls, sensationalized in tabloid headlines, and immortalized in “murder ballads” and classic fiction by Edgar Allan Poe and Theodore Dreiser, the demonic denizens of Psycho USA may be long gone to the gallows—but this insidiously irresistible slice of gothic Americana will ensure that they’ll no longer be forgotten.

(amazon) Here is the ultimate book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the non-name Anonymous, by the writer the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.”

The narrative brims with details unearthed from within a notoriously mysterious subculture, whose semi-legendary tricksters—such as Topiary, tflow, Anachaos, and Sabu—emerge as complex, diverse, politically and culturally sophisticated people. Propelled by years of chats and encounters with a multitude of hackers, including imprisoned activist Jeremy Hammond and the double agent who helped put him away, Hector Monsegur, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy is filled with insights into the meaning of digital activism and little understood facets of culture in the Internet age, including the history of “trolling,” the ethics and metaphysics of hacking, and the origins and manifold meanings of “the lulz.”

(amazon)   Future Crimes provides a mind-blowing glimpse into the dark side of technological innovation and the unintended consequences of our connected world. Goodman offers a way out with clear steps we must take to survive the progress unfolding before us. Provocative, thrilling, and ultimately empowering, Future Crimes will serve as an urgent call to action that shows how we can take back control over our own devices and harness technology’s tremendous power for the betterment of humanity—before it’s too late.

Imitation Game (DVD, 2014)
(rottentomatoes) During the winter of 1952, British authorities entered the home of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to investigate a reported burglary. They instead ended up arresting Turing himself on charges of 'gross indecency', an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality - little did officials know, they were actually incriminating the pioneer of modern-day computing. Famously leading a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, he was credited with cracking the so-called unbreakable codes of Germany's World War II Enigma machine. An intense and haunting portrayal of a brilliant, complicated man, The Imitation Game follows a genius who under nail-biting pressure helped to shorten the war and, in turn, save thousands of lives. (c) Weinstein

(amazon) The Day of the Locust meets The Devil in the White City and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this juicy, untold Hollywood story: an addictive true tale of ambition, scandal, intrigue, murder, and the creation of the modern film industry.
By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America’s new favorite pastime, and one of the nation’s largest industries. Never before had a medium possessed such power to influence. Yet Hollywood’s glittering ascendancy was threatened by a string of headline-grabbing tragedies—including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now.
In a fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him—including three beautiful, ambitious actresses; a grasping stage mother; a devoted valet; and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet. And overseeing this entire landscape of intrigue was Adolph Zukor, the brilliant and ruthless founder of Paramount, locked in a struggle for control of the industry and desperate to conceal the truth about the crime. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly-minted legends and starlets already past their prime—a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.
A true story recreated with the suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a storyteller at the peak of his powers—and the solution to a crime that has stumped detectives and historians for nearly a century.

UPDATE!!!  Yesterday, April 29th, Tinseltown won the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime!!!

(amazon) London, 1913. An exquisite strand of pale pink pearls, worth more than the Hope Diamond, has been bought by a Hatton Garden broker, capturing the attention of both jewelers and thieves. In transit to London from Paris, the necklace vanishes without a trace.
 
Joseph Grizzard, “the King of Fences,” is the leader of a vast gang of thieves in London’s East End. Having risen from the deadly streets to become a wealthy family man, Grizzard still cannot resist the sport of crime, and the pearl necklace proves an irresistible challenge.
 
Inspector Alfred Ward has joined the brand-new division of the Metropolitan Police known as “detectives.” Having caught some of the great murderers of Victorian London, Ward is now charged with finding the missing pearls and the thief who stole them.
 
In the spirit of The Great Train Robbery, this is the true story of a psychological cat-and-mouse game. Thoroughly researched and compellingly colorful, The Great Pearl Heist is a gripping narrative account of this little-known, yet extraordinary crime.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin
(amazon) The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: grab Lincoln's body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd --and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln's tomb on election night: November 7, 1876.

The Birmingham Horrors by William Stanley Hoole)
(The old-fashioned subtitle) Being a complete and accurate account of Richard R. Hawes’s murder of his wife, Emma, and daughters, May and Irene, in Birmingham, Alabama, on December 3-4, 1888, and his casting their iron-weighted bodies into the lakes at East Lake and Lakeview, together with the subsequent story of the Great Birmingham Riot of December 8 during which an attempt was made by two thousand irate citizens to storm the jail and lynch the accused murderer, resulting in the massacre of a dozen citizens and the wounding of many more, and the mustering out of the Alabama State Militia, and the eventual trial, conviction, and public hanging of Hawes on February 28, 1890.  (This is a 1980 reprint of a late 1800’s original publication)

Bugsy (DVD, 1991)
(rottentomatoes) Brutal and batty as a March hare, notorious gangster Bugsy Siegel played a crucial role in making Las Vegas the gambling capitol of the United States. This arresting biopic starring Warren Beatty offers a remarkably cliché-free look at the mobster's life and times.

American Crime Story (Forthcoming TV show)

Slated to debut in October 2015, this new show from the creators of, and following the same format as, American Horror Story, plans to focus each 10-episode season on a different real-life crime. The first season will tackle the O.J. Simpson trial.

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