True Crime Book/TV Suggestions for Halloween

True crime, it’s a fascination that chills the soul and yet is a guilty pleasure for many.  While Halloween is about imaginary ghosts and monsters, true crime is about real monsters and the men and women who hunt them.  I want to share a few of the books and television shows that I find both fascinating and interesting, hopefully you will too.

So in the spirit of Halloween…here we go!

joe-kenda One of my favorite shows to watch is, Homicide Hunter:  Joe Kenda.  Joe Kenda is a retired detective from Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Homicide Hunter showcases Joe Kenda who recounts how he has solved various homicides.  It’s Kenda’s narration that makes the show!  He is sarcastic, witty, and sometimes shocking in how he tells his story.  Joe Kenda is the person you want on your case if you’re a victim but not if he’s investigating a crime you’ve committed!  This television show is a great way to see crime solving from a police perspective.

first-48 The First 48 follows real police officers interrogating suspects and conducting real murder investigations.  While the viewer doesn’t see an entire interrogation, we do see enough to witness how police put pressure on suspects, how determined they are to solve a crime, and get justice for the victim and their family.  Watching this show is a real eye-opener and made me a firm believer in having a lawyer present when being questioned!

We all want to be able to spot a serial killer or any other criminal so we can avoid them and stay away from danger!  One of the appeals of true crime books is learning to understand why criminals, like serial killers, want to hunt, hurt, and kill.

Here are two books by former FBI profilers that I found to be both horrifying and interesting.

mind-hunter Mind Hunter is the story of John Douglas, who was an early FBI profiler who worked on several high-profile cases including the Atlanta child murders and Seattle’s Green River killings.  This book details many of the crimes he worked on and discusses serial killers and their profiles.  Mind Hunter shows the personal toll working on these types of crimes take on law enforcement; both their health and in their family life.  The reader gets to see the role that FBI profilers play in helping local law enforcement.  Profilers come in to look at crime scenes and any other information that has been collected and advise local law enforcement on what type of person they are looking for. They also provide feedback on the suspects they are currently investigating, and help develop ways to hunt for their suspect.  A fascinating read!

whoever-fights-monsters Robert Ressler was also an early FBI profiler, and he explains in his book, Whoever Fights Monsters, how he actually went to various prisons and spent hundreds of hours interviewing serial killers finding out what traits they had in common.  This information was used to create profiles that are in use today to profile criminals.  Ressler discusses in detail what serial killers are like and how they can be profiled based on evidence left at the crime scene.  These profiles are meant to be used by local law enforcement to help them tailor how they investigate a crime and hunt down a suspect or weed through the suspects they are investigating.  Another chilling but captivating read!

Reading and watching these books and television shows can be difficult,  unpleasant, and disturbing but what I’ve learned about crime, criminals, law enforcement, and victims makes it worthwhile.   While I don’t enjoy the gruesomeness of horror movies, I do enjoy learning about real situations and real people and these television shows and books provide a true learning experience!

Choosing a Writing Reference Guide

Whether you’re a master wordsmith with a hundred publications or a struggling student who has trouble keeping the active and passive voices straight, you will at some point find yourself either struggling with how to properly structure a sentence, use a word, or drop in punctuation. For those times, it’s a good idea to have a reference guide of some sort. With the new semester starting, students will soon be writing memos, briefs, and seminar papers, and faculty will be diving into the spring submission season, so getting a good reference guide is fairly timely.

First off, getting a copy of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. is not a bad place to start, though it’s not a cure-all. The original text, published in 1918, is considered the authoritative statement on English usage, even if there has been resistance to it in recent years. There have also been updates to it over the last century. The most well-known version is the “Updated and Expanded” edition written by E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web and other stories, which is commercially available through a number of sources (and in its 5th edition). However, the original Strunk text is public domain and available freely on the web in a number of locations. John W. Cowan, a computer programmer who codifies the syntax of programming languages, maintains an updated version of Strunk’s text on his website.

Moving on from The Elements of Style, there are hundreds of guides, publications, tip sheets, and so on with writing, grammar, punctuation, and style advice. I can’t possibly review all of them here, as each writer has their own needs. Instead, let’s assess your needs with the following questions:

  1. What is your general proficiency level? If you are a highly proficient writer, you’re probably good just picking up a fairly mechanical reference book (for academic writers, your fields’ publication manual may be sufficient). If you’re moderately proficient, you’ll want something that’s thorough, but written for more advanced writers. If you struggle at the basic level, consider some of the books written by the test prep companies, as they have exercises and tips targeted towards struggling writers.
  2. What do you struggle with? If you’re struggling at the sentence level (grammar, punctuation), then you’ll want to focus on guides on proper usage. Punctuation and grammar handbooks abound, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble. If you struggle with putting sentences together into paragraphs or sets of paragraphs, you’ll want to find a guide that helps with broader organization and composition. If you write technically sound compositions that fail to be persuasive or impactful, then you may want to consider guides on rhetoric.
  3. What are you trying to write? If you’re struggling at the most basic level, then this question should wait until you’re more comfortable with the ins and outs of general composition. For those who are more advanced, however, this can be a big question. The practices for journalism, fiction writing, and legal writing can be quite different, so you may want to consider a style guide appropriate to what you’re trying to write. For legal writing, there are three books you may want to consider:
    • The Redbook, by Bryan A. Garner — This style guide for legal documents contains extensive guides on usage, grammar, punctuation, style, and formatting, and also includes the specifics on a number of document formats. Currently in its 3d Edition, published by West (978-0-314-28901-8)
    • Academic Legal Writing, by Eugene Volokh — This guide is a little more advanced, and is geared towards those writing seminar papers, law review articles, and other works of scholarship. It’s relatively cheap (around $30 on most online retailers), and has advice from the word-level to the rhetorical-level, as well as tips for finding topics and getting on law review. Currently in its 4th Edition, published by Foundation Press (978-1-59941-750-9)
    • Making Your Case, by Bryan A. Garner and Antonin Scalia — This book is about argumentation, and specifically about the forms of argumentation in the process of a legal case. If you’re fine with the general mechanics of writing, but are having difficulty being persuasive, this is probably a good place to start. Published by Thomson West (978-0-314-18471-9)

Have questions? Feel free to contact me or the Office of Academic Success and we’d be happy to help!


Holiday Reading Lists from the TTU Law Librarians

We here at the Reporter will be taking a few weeks off with the coming holidays, so this will be the last post here until January. We have exciting things happening in the new year that we’re looking forward to sharing when they’re ready to go. However, we won’t be sitting idle until then. As Librarians, we will all be reading over the break. I’ve gathered a few recommendations from the TTU Law Librarians as to what we’ll be reading.

Continue reading “Holiday Reading Lists from the TTU Law Librarians”