This seems like a watershed moment for true crime. The genre flicks are filling up the big screen as well as TV screens. Books are multiplying so fast even a serious blogger-reviewer can’t keep track. And now comes the massacre at Virginia Tech.
We want to credit the people who write for and edit the TrueCrimeBlog and CrimeBlog.US with keeping their response to the Virginia mess both informative and thoughtful. In her entry, Laura James, who is a senior contributor to Crimeblog and has her own historic true crime blog CLEWS, reminds us that this rampage is not unprecedented in American history going back as far as the 1920s. In 1927 in Bath, Michican, an angry and no-doubt mentally ill school trustee blew up a school full of students, then himself and the school superintendent, killing 45 students and townspeople.
If that event, which spawned at least two books, was mentioned in the coverage of the atrocity at Virginia Tech, I missed it. The TV anchors were, instead, intent on calling this week’s tragedy the “the worst school shooting” in American history, or the worst shooting at any location in the history of the country.
The story of the Bath School Disaster suggests there must be multiple reasons for people to do insanely destructive things. Limiting the impact of modern video games and media coverage that encourages copycat killers might help forestall some acts of violence. But the way that the human thought process sometimes goes awry ultimately causes the damage.
At the same web site, true crime author Kathryn Casey succinctly captured the terrible personal impact of these events in her guest blog at CrimeBlog.US., title “Making sense of losses.” Her point, ultimately, is that some people whose family members are killed in these events can go on to turn their experiences into “painful” personal “gains.” She takes note of the effort of a mother of a young woman who was brutally murdered to encourage the Texas legislature to provide counseling to jurors who must learn all the details of such crimes.
Of course, if readers here are dedicated true crime surfers of the Internet, they have undoubtedly discovered these entries themselves before coming to this site. But I couldn’t help but applaud the perspective of these two bloggers. They have advanced our theme of finding important lessons in the crimes that plague our lives.
To further that end, I offer up brief reviews of two books in the entry below. The books focus on what I think are truly instructional stories of two quite different types.
BUT FIRST A NOTE: I plan to continue the practice of leading readers to news stories and other blog entries that I think are informative --- usually items from small newspapers or blogs that are missing from the mainstream media. My excuse for not being more creative is that I’m deeply involved in other writing projects. And I’m caught up in reading Helena Huntington Smith’s 1966 work, “The War on Powder River” published by the University of Nebraska Press. It’s the story of a seminal conflict in the history of the American West, culminating in the killing of Nate Champion, who Smith describes as “the king of cattle thieves and the bravest man in Johnson County.” One day I’ll post some thoughts about that conflict and it’s importance in Western Literature. But more on that later. The point of this aside is to remind readers that if they want to be alerted when a new posting is made here, linking them to a story I fiend interesting, I believe Google will do that. Or maybe most readers are already overwhelmed with true crime stimulus, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s become enough to make me rethink my own involvement. I’ll try hard not to be duplicative