Informant's Note: You can enter to win a free copy of The Crime Book! Click here to enter the CrimeCon-exclusive sweepstakes. Get your entry in before midnight on April 13th and watch for the winner to be announced on April 14th!
If you're a true crime nerd and earnest bibliophile like I am, your bookshelf has probably raised a few eyebrows. Some people collect Nicholas Sparks romances, we collect serial killer memoirs and true crime mysteries. Not good, not bad, just different.
I'm a big fan of the Big Ideas, Simply Explained series, an anthology of books that explain the basics (and more than a few details) about a breadth of topics from politics to philosophy to art history. So when I heard DK Books was adding a volume on crime, I was thrilled. When I heard it would be written in collaboration with best-selling true crime author and investigative journalist Cathy Scott, I may have nearly fainted. Cathy was kind enough to answer some questions about the upcoming edition called The Crime Book.
CC Informant: This looks like the world’s most comprehensive collection of true crime stories, and it excites me because it also includes a lot of info about the science and psychology behind criminal behavior. I would imagine that you’ve absorbed a ton of knowledge about the inner workings of the criminal mind during your career. Is there a particular investigation or experience that you called upon to inform those contributions to the book?
Cathy Scott: When it came to Irish grave robbers Burke and Hare, the psychopathy and intent of their criminal behavior definitely came into play as I wrote their story. Simply put, their crimes are just plain creepy, and the cold-hearted killings they committed that were motivated by one thing—greed—illustrate the uncaring single-mindedness with these particular criminals. Setting aside the lives and families they damaged because of their deadly acts, it’s a fascinating study into what drives people to kill not once, but several times.
CCI: With a compendium of this size and this thorough, is there anything that didn’t make it into the book that you wish had?
Cathy Scott: I can’t think of one crime that’s not represented in The Crime Book. It runs the gamut—from nonviolent cons to gangland-style criminals, to white-collar offenders—with a complete representation starting with the first known homicide committed against a Neanderthal man. Simply put, you can’t make this stuff up.
CCI: I’ve been writing about crime for much less time than you have and sometimes I need a mental break. Were there any parts of the book (or specific cases from your work) that were difficult to get through?
Cathy Scott: As a crime writer, I’ve covered a variety of misdeeds for more than two decades and have been to more homicide scenes than I care to count. And while I don’t think we should ever get used to writing about crime and the perpetrators, some touch me more than others, especially when it comes to writing about children and teenagers. The Green River Killer and the untold number of girls whose lives he took away, struck me as particularly brutal, as well as the crimes committed against a dozen girls by Fred and Rose West. While writing those stories, I occasionally stopped for a few minutes to listen to the birds outside my window and or took my dogs for short walks, just to clear my mind.
CCI: Which cases get under your skin the most in general?
Cathy Scott: Unsolved murders where the evidence seems to be there but the crimes are not prosecuted bother me the most, as with the murder of hip-hop rapper Tupac Shakur. I consider the victims to be underdogs. It’s the reason I’ve written about Shakur’s case for 20 years. Senseless crimes, and not necessarily violent ones, such as illegal drug sales, are also blights on society. So, I’ve always felt it important, as an author and while I was a newspaper reporter, to inform the public about what’s going on in their own communities. As the saying goes, an informed public is vital in a free society.
CCI: What’s something in (or about) the book that true crime enthusiasts may be surprised to learn?
Cathy Scott: The variety of crimes across the world and throughout the ages offers readers fresh perspectives with striking detail about notorious lawlessness, from petty to capital crimes, from the sale of the Roman Empire to the James Gang in the Wild West. What stands out the most for me with the stories in this book is how so many of the criminals got away with their crimes for an untold number of years. Also, the crimes detailed in this book have such diversity that there is something for everyone.
Copies of The Crime Book will be available for purchase at CrimeCon, or you may pre-order the book via Amazon prior to its May 2 premiere date. And don't forget to enter to win a free copy in the CrimeCon-exclusive sweepstakes here!