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True Crime

Along with murder mysteries and legal thrillers, particularly the works of John Grisham and Scott Turow—whose books sell millions and are often turned into profitable movies—true crime literature has soared in popularity. True crime was first made popular by Truman Capote's (1924–1984) nonfiction novel In Cold Blood. The book chillingly retold the story of a Kansas family's brutal murder and the men who killed them. Capote's work was the beginning of what has been called the "New Journalism," in which scenes are developed dramatically, and dialogue is recreated from reports. True crime books steadily gained popularity and by 1983 Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss sold 2.3 million copies. True crime author Ann Rule, who knew serial killer Ted Bundy (1946–1989) and wrote books about him, has found immense success in the industry.

True crime books usually have bold-colored paperback covers and crime scene photographs inside. Some of the most popular true crime books involve organized crime. Americans have always been fascinated with organized crime, especially the Mafia. Movies such as The Godfather trilogy based on the novels of Mario Puzo (1920–1999) and books like Way of the Wiseguy were extraordinarily popular, as was the 1950s television series "The Untouchables," based on the cases of FBI investigator Elliot Ness (1903–1957) and his pursuit of 1920s gangsters.

As televised action, legal dramas continued to be popular in the 1980s and 1990s. "L.A. Law" glamorized a corporate law firm and was reportedly responsible for a sharp increase in law school applications. In 1989 NBC introduced the first "Law & Order" series, which portrayed crime investigation from the point of view of both law enforcement and prosecutors. The series was so successful it has produced several spin-offs. Other networks produced similar programs, such as the popular CBS series "CSI" (Crime Scene Investigation).

Legal dramas like the "The Practice" on ABC and even comedies like "Ally McBeal" on Fox succeeded as the American viewing public continued to relish the action of the courtroom and the lives of lawyers and prosecutors.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawMedia - History Of The Media And The Courts, Tried In The Media, The Crime Of The Century