True crime is a non-fiction literary and film genre in which the author examines an actual crime and details the actions of real people.
The crimes most commonly include murder, with tales of serial killers dominating the genre. But true crime works have also focused on other subjects, for instance police memoirs, and more recently reality police TV shows. Depending on the writer, true crime can adhere strictly to well-established facts in journalistic fashion, or can be highly speculative. Others may reflect years of thoughtful research and inquiry and may have considerable literary merit. Still others revisit historic crimes (or alleged crimes) and propose solutions, such as books examining political assassinations, well-known unsolved murders, or the deaths of celebrities.
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 more. Roughead's influence was enormous and since his time "true crime" has become a crowded, flourishing field.
An American pioneer of the genre was Edmund Pearson, who was influenced in his style of writing about crime by Thomas De Quincey. Pearson published a series of books of this type starting with Studies in Murder in 1924 and concluding with More Studies in Murder in 1936. Before being collected in his books, Pearson's true crime stories typically appeared in "high-class magazines such as Liberty, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair"; this aspect distinguished Pearson's crime narratives from those found in the penny press.
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. Truman Capote's "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood (1965) is usually credited with establishing the modern novelistic style of the genre and the one that rocketed it to enormous profitability.
Murder and Mayhem is a sub-genre within the broader true crime genre. Author Jeremy Josephs has written two books within this category – Murder in the Family: the Inside Story of the Jersey Murders and Hungerford – One Man’s Massacre.
Both feature regularly within Amazon’s best selling True Crime listings.