True Crime vs True Crime

What makes crimes occur? Greed, poverty, jealousy, hate, rage, psychology, nature vs nurture, ambition…..I’m sure anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists have studied the causes of crime for centuries.

How do crimes occur? Stabbing, poison, rape, drugs, kidnapping, robbery, guns……I’m sure the police, spies, forensic criminologists and others have studied the methods of crimes for centuries.

For victims of crimes, their lives are changed forever.  I have not been a victim of a crime, except for the minor (meaning non-violent and I wasn’t present at the time) crime of burglary.  I can’t imagine the horror nor the aftermath of being victimized and don’t pretend to.  Therefore, I have no right to discuss the effect on the victims.

But what about the readers of “true crime” stories?  People who love to read (or see movies/documentaries/reenactments) about actual crimes are obsessed with them.  I used to be as well.  My fascination started with The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule.  This story of the serial killer Ted Bundy and how he appeared to Ann Rule to be a sensitive, handsome and kind co-worker was incredible to me and was my first glimpse into the idea that serial killers existed.

ann rule the stranger beside me

There are so many examples of true crimes that are available via the media.  From serial killers to sociopaths to crimes of passion, these true stories appeal to the general public.  With the exception of Ted Bundy, who died in 1989, I am not mentioning any other specific criminal here.  I don’t want to give them the attention.

The average reader who voraciously reads true crime stories is reading them from a far distance.  These are fascinating stories that have absolutely nothing to do with us.

All of that changed for me when I was picked for a Grand Jury.  Cases presented to a Grand Jury cannot be discussed.  However, the experience was shocking to me.  The experience highlighted the difference between true crime and true crime.  Between reading about it from a distance without much emotional attachment, to hearing testimony, seeing the victims and the accused in front of you.  Between rooting from the sidelines and having the daunting responsibility to determine if the evidence presented, according to the laws of the state, warranted the next step in the legal process.


No matter what the accusation, no matter who the victim or the accused, the actions and repercussions of these accusations are graphically, vividly and seriously presented and considered. Reading about a true crime story in a book resembles fiction.  Seeing a small part of the ramifications of these crimes are in-your-face reality. Having even a small part in the process of innocent until proven guilty changed my view of society in a way that reading about it never could.

True crime vs true crime.

About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
This entry was posted in crime and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to True Crime vs True Crime

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    I don’t read true crime novels. I prefer fictional crime novels, because even though similar crimes may have occurred in real life, I can at least tell myself it’s fiction. Otherwise I’d find it more difficult to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read about members of a jury for a particularly horrible crime ptactically getting PTSD from the things they heard and saw during the course of a trial.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bea dM says:

    Good post Barb! we’re all presumably readers, and most of use consume crime stuff too. I certainly do as an “antidote” to all the serious reads I have to keep up with both for professional and “lifelong learning” reasons. I’ve overdosed a bit on them lately, and am getting the feeling all this is not good for my emotions, thoughts or karma. Taking a step back. Thank goodness we don’t have juries here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you for the compliment! To me, there is a big difference between crime fiction, which I love, and True Crime books. My jury duty gave me a very different perspective give. Thank you for reading this.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Crime Fiction and True Crime books both are horrifying but there is something about Sir Arthur Doyle Conan that is fascinating. It might be that he was a scientist and physician that inspire him to write his Sherlock Holmes crime dramas. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Joseph Nebus says:

    There is, though, something enlightening about True Crime which even skillful fiction can’t provide. I suppose that it is in the messiness of real life. Not just that the crimes are horrid, but that the facts available to investigators aren’t arranged in ways that fit any narrative sense, and the participants aren’t well-fitted to their roles. A skillfully done True Crime story can explore how the systems of the real world work, and where they strain, and where they fail.

    I don’t discount that a lot of True Crime’s appeal is the rush of peeking in at something horrible from an emotionally safe remove. (To think of the True Crime book I most recently was most-impressed by, what could be safer than reading about a corrupt Manhattan Tenderloin-district cop from before the First World War?) But a work done well can give an understanding of parts of the world we’d rather avoid.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s