Wednesday, January 20, 2016

True Crime

by Jorn Lier Horst, Norway

Steven Avery from Making a Mrderer
Documentaries and retellings of real murder cases and crimes seem to be the new international trend in crime genre.
During Christmas I watched the documentary series "Making a murderer" on Netflix. True Crime series like this is as fascinating as they are addicting. One of those who made the most impression on me was "The Staircase" which is offering a rare and revealing inside look at a high-profile murder trial against author Michael Peterson. “Paradise Lost” is another fascinating documentary. The same is “Murder on a Sunday morning”. Two of the latest documentaries that have received considerable attention worldwide are “The Jinx” and the podcast “Serial”.
In cold blood
True Crime is not a new phenomenon. In November 1959 Truman Capote went to the small town of Holcomb to see and describe the scene of the murder of farmer Herbert Clutter and his family. During a few days he got to know everyone who was involved in the investigation of the massacre, and most of the residents in the small town. After the arrest, he visited the two killers in prison and in the months that followed, he spent hundreds of hours with them. The unique story he was told became the documentary novel "In Cold Blood". The book came out in 1966, a year after the death sentence was executed. It was an international success and is considered one of the first examples of the genre True Crime.
While it is somewhat sensationalized by this "peeping", it also has an empathetic side. We want to know something about the people who cause suffering, about people suffering, and about the people who are trying to create some kind of order in the whole. And in the wake of a crime the really big themes in life up often show up: love and hate, betrayal and justice, guilt and atonement.
And it is undeniably fascinating to get a piece of insight into a sick mind, as Capote gives us in “In cold blood”. We are getting a little closer to answering the question most law-abiding citizens will ask them self when they hear about an incident like the one in Holcomb in 1959: How is it possible?
Many of the true crime successes of recent years have also had a clear critical look at prosecutors and the judiciary. "Making a Murderer" is just a recent example. In all these cases, some of those who are supposed to administer justice in our society, failed on the coarsest. Some have lied, been one-eyed or blind, have been cowardly and evasive - and at home on the couch in front of the TV, we feel pretty confident that we'd acted more heroic and truthful in a similar situation.



  1. Indeed, one often wonders at the obvious mistakes 'true life' murderers make. It's been suggested that murder is such an unnatural act that our minds find it hard to act logically in that context. Fortunately none of our fictional villains suffer from that disadvantage!

  2. "True crime" can be a very fascinating subject (and truth CAN be "stranger than fiction" sometimes).

    I've been working off and on (more off than on) towards a short book on the murder of my uncle in 1955. Most of it is on my blog website at, starting at:

    Just keep clicking on the 'next' links to move through it sequentially. I have yet to write the final chapter summarizing, adding personal stories and memories of family members, and concluding the story, but I will. The story so far is complete through the trial.

  3. Jorn, I always find these tales fascinating, especially when they try to get into the mind of the criminal. Thanks for the Netflix suggestions. I love you last sentence.

  4. Jørn, a situation that will inspire thriller/conspiratorial theorist writers for at at least a decade is the current US Presidential nomination process. It's a crime happening right before the potential victims eyes, and yet it goes on...and on...and on.