UNSPEAKABLE ACTS

TRUE TALES OF CRIME, MURDER, DECEIT, AND OBSESSION

A well-chosen sampling of writings from a rapidly expanding and developing field.

A collection of perceptive essays reveals the range of true-crime writing featured in magazines today.

The essays, all published in the past few years, veer away from the typical true-crime formula, which tends to focus, as editor Weinman notes, on “beautiful dead white girls.” In this collection, women are at least as likely to be perpetrators of crime as victims, and the contributors are hyperaware, sometimes to a fault, of their inherent fallibility in reporting the truth of the events they're considering. Weinman, who has vast experience in the genre, divides the book into three sections. The first includes relatively traditional crime stories told from unusual angles. Pamela Colloff's careful, thorough “The Reckoning,” for example, considers the 1966 University of Texas clock tower shooting not from the point of view of the gunman but by looking closely and compassionately at the decadeslong effects of the shooting on Claire Wilson, who was wounded in the tragedy and lost the baby with whom she was eight months pregnant. The provocative second section features essays on the intersection between crime and culture, such as Alex Mar’s incisive examination of two girls seemingly compelled to attempt murder by the internet meme of the “Slender Man.” Over the course of the essay, Mar establishes parallels to the girls who incited the Salem witch trials and another pair of girls in 1950s Australia. The third section widens out to include stories that wouldn't necessarily seem to fit the true-crime formula. These include Jason Fagone's graphic “What Bullets Do to Bodies,” in which he chronicles his experiences with the chief trauma surgeon at a Philadelphia hospital, and Melissa Del Bosque's insightful “Checkpoint Nation,” which explores the question of whether the Border Patrol often oversteps its authority. Other contributors include Michelle Dean, Alice Bolin, and Emma Copley Eisenberg.

A well-chosen sampling of writings from a rapidly expanding and developing field.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-283988-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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