True Crime - Origins of The Genre

Origins of The Genre

According to Joyce Carol Oates:

Accounts of true crime have always been enormously popular among readers. The subgenre would seem to appeal to the highly educated as well as the barely educated, to women and men equally. The most famous chronicler of true crime trials in English history is the amateur criminologist William Roughead, a Scots lawyer who between 1889 and 1949 attended every murder trial of significance held in the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, and wrote of them in essays published first in such journals as The Juridical Review and subsequently collected in best-selling books with such titles as Malice Domestic, The Evil That Men Do, What Is Your Verdict?, In Queer Street, Rogues Walk Here, Knave's Looking Glass, Mainly Murder, Murder and More Murder, Nothing But Murder, and many moreā€¦. Roughead's influence was enormous, and since his time "true crime" has become a crowded, flourishing field, though few writers of distinction have been drawn to it.

The works of author Yseult Bridges about British cases; Inspector Dew's I Caught Crippen (1938); and the Notable British Trials series were all works that can be regarded as true crime. Jack Webb's 1958 The Badge (recently republished with an introduction by James Ellroy) embodies elements of the modern true crime story, but Truman Capote's "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood (1965) is usually credited with establishing the modern novelistic style of the genre.

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