True crime books. I guess the heyday of the true crime book in the second half of the twentieth century was the early 1980s until sometime in the latter half of the '90s. We old guys can remember the days when bookstores had whole sections devoted to true crime, and writers like Jack Olsen, Ann Rule, and Carlton Stowers were getting big bucks, not to mention great acclaim, for their nonfiction accounts of various awful crimes. (Maybe the boom goes back even earlier than I think, back to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.) At any rate, the market now has shrunk. Ann Rule is still selling fairly well, but the true crime book has gone the way of the western and the horror novel. It's a vanishing genre.
What brought this to mind is a book called Death in a Texas Desert by Carlton Stowers. Stowers is a guy who's won two Edgars for true crime, and he's an excellent writer. But this collection of nonfiction pieces (collected from articles Stowers wrote for the Dallas Observer) was published The Republic of Texas Press, and it will probably have an audience far smaller than Stowers had for his other true crime books.
And that's too bad, as all the pieces make engrossing reading. The one I like best is about the "real killer" in the O. J. Simpson case. Stowers writes about Dallas p.i. Bill Dear, who's devoted years of his time and a lot of his money to studying the case. Dear (and Stowers) present a persuasive argument that O. J.'s son might very well have committed the murders that everyone believes O. J. did.
You probably won't see this book on the shelves at your local bookseller's store, but if you do, it's well worth a look. Or you could check it out here.