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WORD: The Library of America’s latest a must-read for ‘True Crime’ aficionados

This fall, The Library of America presents "True Crime: An American Anthology" (October 2008; hardcover; $40.00), the first fully comprehensive collection of the true crime genre. Ranging from the seventeenth century to the present, from William Bradford to Dominick Dunne, True Crime assembles accounts of some of the most notorious criminal cases in American history. Separately, The Library of America, a nonprofit publisher, has recent and upcoming titles on tap from authors as diverse as Phillip K Dick, William Maxwell and Katherine Anne Porter.

True Crime, edited by Harold Schechter, reminds us that Americans have had an uneasy fascination with dark deeds since the earliest European settlements in the New World. This collection reveals the many ways in which American writers have explored crime, the motives that spur it, the shock of its impact on society, and the effort to make sense of the violent extremes of human behavior.

According to Schechter, True Crime does more than titillate readers with gruesome crimes, many of which were headline news in their time but have been since forgotten.

"What critics of the genre fail to realize, of course, is that true crime isn’t just, or even primarily, about titillation. It’s an age-old form of storytelling, deeply rooted in folk tradition that help us to cope with and make sense of the violence that is endemic to both our inner and outer worlds," Schechter said in a press release.

True Crime tells again the stories of infamous cases that still excite interest: the "Kentucky tragedy" of the 1830s, the assassination of President Garfield, the black Dahlia, Leopold and Loeb, and the Lindbergh kidnapping, among many others. Because the passages were written by contemporary authors of the day, readers are given snapshots of how society viewed the carnage at the time, instead of through the prism of hindsight.

It draws upon the writing of literary figures as diverse as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser, James Thurber, Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser, James Thurber, Joseph Mitchell, and Truman Capote.

The Library of America, a nonprofit publisher, is dedicated to publishing, and keeping in print, authoritative editions of America's best and most significant writing. In addition to True Crime, other recent and upcoming titles include Phillip K Dick’s "Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s," William Maxwell’s "Later Novels and Stories," and Katherine Anne Porter’s "Collected Stories and Other Writings." Check out The Library of America website for more information.


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