This weekend, delve into these true crime stories for harrowing tales of real-life murders and mysteries. If you’re interested in America’s bloody past, crimes of insanity, murder in the Tudor era, or mysterious disappearances, these #FridayReads selections have a book for you.
Bloody History of America
Is the story of the United States that of George Washington, John Adams and Barack Obama? Or of slave rebel Nat Turner, of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King? Or Sitting Bull and Al Capone? Or Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and OJ Simpson? Of course, it is the story of all these, of both civil war and world war, of gold rush and dust bowl, of the Pilgrim Fathers and religious cults, of Prohibition and the Mafia, of the Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy-era witch-hunts. From the Iroquois and early European settlers to the Revolutionary War and Civil War, from slavery to segregation, from the frontier to the Reservations, “Bloody History of America” is a chronological examination of the United States through politics, labor, big business, crime and culture.
Featuring such varied characters as Thomas Jefferson and John Brown, Bugsy Siegel and J P Morgan, Calamity Jane, Chuck Berry and Bonnie & Clyde, it tells the story of the first ‘new nation’, the first major colony to revolt successfully against colonial rule, and how it became the world’s most powerful country.
Extensively researched and illustrated with 180 color and black-&-white artworks and illustrations, Bloody History of America is a lively and fascinating account of the darker side of the story of the United States.
The Disappearance of Maria Glenn
Taunton, 1817. What seems a simple newspaper report of “elopement gone wrong” turns out to be a rollercoaster story of crime, coercion, illusory triumph and fraudulent defeat. Barrister George Tuckett wakes to discover that his 16-year-old niece Maria Glenn, reputedly the heiress to West Indian sugar plantations, is missing. He discovers that she has been abducted by the Bowditches, a local farming family, who intend to force her to marry one of their sons. Maria is rescued and Tuckett starts investigating the crime himself, uncovering a complex and disturbing web of lies and impersonation.
At a drama-filled trial that is the talk of the country, four people are sentenced to prison. When a cabal of powerful people in Taunton begin a campaign to destroy Maria’s testimony, her supporters fall away and she is openly vilified. Her enemies have her arrested for perjury and, after a ramshackle trial, she is forced to flee into exile. Yet the story of conspiracy and deception does not end there, as Maria and her uncle were to suffer one final and devastating betrayal.
But was Maria telling the truth? Both sides had given utterly different versions of events during the trial – so it was clear that someone had to be lying.
Mad or Bad
In a violent 19th century, desperate attempts by the alienists – a new wave of ‘mad-doctor’ – brought the insanity plea into Victorian courts. Defining psychological conditions in an attempt at acquittal, they faced ridicule, obstruction – even professional ruin – as they strove for acceptance and struggled for change. It left ‘mad people’ hanged for offenses they could not remember, and ‘bad’ people freed on unscrupulous pleas.
Written in accessible language, this book – unlike any before it – retells twenty-five cases, from the renowned to obscure, including an attempt to murder a bemused Queen Victoria; the poisoner Dove and the much-feared magician; the king’s former wet-nurse who slaughtered six children; the worst serial killer in Britain…and more.
A Who’s Who introduces the principal players – lifesaving medics, like Maudsley and Bucknill; intransigent lawyers like Bramwell and Parke., while a convenient Glossary of ‘terms and conditions’: ranging from ‘Insane on Arraignment’ to Her Majesty’s Pleasure, ‘Ticket of Leave’ to ‘Burden of Proof’, helps to explain the outcomes of the cases.
Insanity Conditions presents, in glossary format, the diagnosed maladies put forward in court. Rarely accepted, more often rejected, by those keen on justice in its traditional form.
A History of Debate explains the titular subject – through graspable language and a window in time. How the ones found ‘not guilty on the grounds of insanity’ were curiously handled in Victorian law.
A chapter devoted to madness and women – from hysteria to murder, ‘monthly madness’ to crime. Raising opportune questions about the issue of gender, and exposing the truths of a masculine world.
The Tudor Murder Files
In the Tudor age the murder rate was five times higher than it is today. Now, in this unique true crime guide, The Tudor Murder Files reveals just how bloody and brutal this fascinating era really was.
From the dark days of Henry VIII to the turbulent times of Shakespeare, James Moore’s new book is the first to chart the period’s most gripping murder cases in all their grizzly detail. Featuring tales of domestic slaughter, sexual intrigue and cunning assassinations, as well as murder mysteries worthy of Agatha Christie, the book vividly brings to life the violent crime wave that gripped the 16th century both at home and abroad. Enter a world in which stabbings were rife, guns were used to kill victims for the first time and in which culprits frequently escaped justice.
The book also reveals just how severe some of the penalties could be, with gruesome punishments for those who dared to commit the gravest of crimes. Discover how one murderer was gruesomely ‘pressed to death’, another boiled alive for poisoning his victims and meet some of history’s most notorious serial killers, including one considered so barbaric she was labeled a vampire.