Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Five notable tales of true crime

Errol Morris is an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker. He has directed nine films, including The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line, and most recently, Tabloid.

His new book is A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.

Morris named five top tales of true crime for the Wall Street Journal.  One title on the list:
by Meyer Levin (1956)

'Compulsion' is based on the notorious 1924 murder of Bobby Franks, a 14-year-old Chicago boy, by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two wealthy University of Chicago students hungry for thrills—in particular, for the thrill of committing the perfect crime. They ended up on trial for their lives, but were saved from execution by their defense attorney, Clarence Darrow. There is much of Levin himself in the novel, who wrote himself in as the reporter Sid Silver; he had been a classmate of the accused boys and had covered the case as a young reporter. But in "Compulsion" he is free to get beyond the news and pose deeper questions about the murder. Where Dreiser emphasized sociology, Levin turns to Freud as he seeks out the forces "that could conceivably be called an influence on the two killers who had enjoyed all the privileges that money and indulgent families could bestow." Levin believes that there is something revealing in the connection between crimes and the stories we tell about them. There is the sense that crime is bottomless, that no interpretation is complete. This is a sprawling work, ungainly in its endless quest for the causes of the crime. It's also impossible to put down.
Read about another book on the list.

Also see Errol Morris's five worthy books on photography and reality.

--Marshal Zeringue