HALLIE: Rosemary's blog last week about "An American Tragedy" got me thinking about how true crime appalls and inspires. Every day I'm pulling some detail, consciously or otherwise, from the news.
So today, I offer a quiz. See if you know the book and the author of these crime novels based on true crimes. (Answers are at the end.)
1. In postwar LA, burnt-out New York cop and former prizefighter becomes obsessed with a real (and still today) unsolved 1947 torture-murder case.
2. This wildly imaginative novel is based on a true crime, the shooting of a young hustler that took place in Mercer House, one of the Savannah’s grandest mansions.
3. This novel intertwines true stories about an architect who built a shining white dreamscape of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and a murderer who lured victims to gas chambers and crematoriums.
4. The story of an arrogant but oddly likable cad who lives in exile on a Mediterranean island. His wife and child are kidnapped when a debt he owes comes due, and he returns to Ireland to get the money to pay it off. While stealing a painting from an old friend, he brutally murders the household maid with a hammer—not because he has to, but because he can.
5. This novel tells the story of Henry Hill, a gangster who turns evidence on his mafia family and ends up in witness protection.
6. The story of perky, aspiring newscaster Suzanne Maretto who persuades her teenage lover and his buddy to kill her straight-arrow husband.
1) The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy. It is based on the murder of Elizabeth Short, Los Angeles, 1947. In a poignant afterword, the author discloses that his own mother was the victim of an unsolved murder.
2) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. A young druggie/hustler named Danny Hansford was shot to death by a wealthy Jim Williams, a wealthy socialite who hosted Savannah's most lavish parties.
3) Devil in the White City by Erikk Larsonnn. It's characters are based on architect Daniel Burnham built the "White City" and serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes used it to lure victims to his World's Fair Hotel.
4) The Book of Evidence by John Banville is loosely based on a notorious true crime. In 1982, Dubliner Malcolm Edward MacArthur murdered a young nurse, Bridie Gargan, with a hammer in order to steal her car. Eventually he was arrested in the home of a friend who was the Irish government’s chief adviser on legal matters and with whom he was reputedly having a homosexual relationship. Because he admitted to the killing, he was sentenced to life and was never tried, protecting powerful government officials from embarrassment. The incident gave rise to the Irish slang GUBU (Grotesque. Unbelievable. Bizarre. Unprecedented).
5. Wiseguy by Nicholas Pilleggi. The novel was turned into the movie Goodfellas. The real Henry Hill claimed he never killed anyone. Interesting aside: Hill's mother was named Carmela Hill.
6. To Die For by Joyce Maynard. The story is based on Pamela Smart, who conspired with her 15-year-old lover William Flynn and 3 of his friends to kill her husband Gregory Smart in Derry, NH in 1990. She was tried and found guilty of being an accomplice to first-degree murder, and sentenced to life.
So how many did you know? What would you add to the list?