The man who revolutionized the way we think about baseball now examines our cultural obsession with murder—delivering a unique, engrossing, brilliant history of tabloid crime in America.
Celebrated writer and contrarian Bill James has voraciously read true crime throughout his life and has been interested in writing a book on the topic for decades. Now, with Popular Crime, James takes readers on an epic journey from Lizzie Borden to the Lindbergh baby, from the Black Dahlia to O. J. Simpson, explaining how crimes have been committed, investigated, prosecuted and written about, and how that has profoundly influenced our culture over the last few centuries— even if we haven’t always taken notice.
Exploring such phenomena as serial murder, the fluctuation of crime rates, the value of evidence, radicalism and crime, prison reform and the hidden ways in which crimes have shaped, or reflected, our society, James chronicles murder and misdeeds from the 1600s to the present day. James pays particular attention to crimes that were sensations during their time but have faded into obscurity, as well as still-famous cases, some that have never been solved, including the Lindbergh kidnapping, the Boston Strangler and JonBenet Ramsey. Satisfyingly sprawling and tremendously entertaining, Popular Crime is a professed amateur’s powerful examination of the incredible impact crime stories have on our society, culture and history.
A fun read!
Popular Crime is a fun book, idiosyncratic and possibly just plain wrong at times, the author's voice shines through and makes it feel like you're having a conversation with a friend rather than reading a scholarly text. This isn't to say that lots of research wasn't done for this book, it is well stocked with interesting info and insights and will (hopefully) spark some discussions about our justice system.
Pretty good. Although James said Michael Jackson was not one of the 100 most famous people in the world and this is simply an insane statement and makes me question the rest of the book, I'm not kidding.
If you love true crime: read this.
I don’t know how to adequately express how well put-together this is. Bill is extremely knowledgeable and had put in the research necessary in order to speak on hundreds of crimes that are significant in history.
My favorite part, though, is that he frequently acknowledges that he’s a fan of crime books first (if you look at his other written works, it’s mostly baseball!) He speaks on different crimes, gives other sources to possibly look into, and sometimes explains the flaws in other writings. A year after the book is published he adds an addendum owning up to the one notable mistake in his book (and adding a couple more crimes that were initially missing from the first edition.)
I have the utmost respect for Bill as a writer and as an expert on crimes throughout history. I did like the Man from the Train better (also by James, and his daughter)- but that is an extensive, exhaustive deep dive into a series of connected crimes from the early 1900’s.
Long story short: read anything Bill writes about crime. He’s the bees knees.