California Literary Review

True Crime

The Death of Conscience in The Onion Field


December 9th, 2019

The stifling, frightening conclusion that we appear to be presented with in The Onion Field is that such a dream really is only a dream, that human beings may, in fact, have no inbuilt or inherent moral conscience, and that they can carry out the most self-evidently horrifying of crimes against one another with no checks, no trepidations, and no regrets.

Movie Review: I Love You Phillip Morris


December 4th, 2010

The rest of the movie follows their dysfunctional love story through prison sentences, Corvettes, illnesses, mansions, and tribulations. The story is part Catch Me If You Can, part The Informant!, and part Get Real. Between bright spots in which Carrey showcases genuine emotion, the story cruises along at a jerky trot, sometimes comical and sometimes just a misstep away.

Book Review: Unbillable Hours: A True Story by Ian Graham


June 7th, 2010

It was an appeal on behalf of Mario Rocha, a Los Angeleno of Mexican descent, who in 1996, at the age of sixteen, had been convicted of the murder of another Latino youth, the result of a shooting that had occurred at a backyard house party. Rocha was given two consecutive life sentences, although he was in fact innocent.

The Weekly Listicle: Best Horror Movie Villains EVER.


April 29th, 2010

This week marks the opening of yet another horror remake: the new Nightmare on Elm Street releases on April 23, with the magnificent Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children) as the king of night terrors Freddy Krueger. Robert Englund lent his spooky, almost silly persona to Krueger in all the previous Nightmare movies (there are […]

Book Review: The Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow


April 8th, 2010

There are cases in which even though relatives of the victims have argued against death for the killers, judges and juries have ordered them executed anyway. Dow writes of a prison chaplain who tried to get his clients to drop their appeals, “expert” witnesses who repeatedly lie while giving testimony, and police who play by their own illegal rules. Dow writes, “Their philosophy seems to be, so far as I can tell, that they are the good guys fighting the forces of death and darkness, and that entitles them to break the rules when they think they need to and lie about it later when they deem it necessary.”

No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech by Lucinda Roy


May 11th, 2009

After mailing a package of video files and documents to NBC, Cho left for Norris Hall at 9:45 a.m. and chained the entrances shut before opening fire in the halls and classrooms. For nine minutes he attacked faculty and students alike, finally committing suicide with a gunshot to his head.

A Saint on Death Row by Thomas Cahill


April 27th, 2009

Dominique’s worst luck was to have been born in Houston, Texas, the principal city of Harris County. Since 1976, Texas has executed more than four times as many prisoners as any other state, and beginning with George W. Bush’s term as governor, it became the death penalty capital of the country. Harris County has committed more people to death than any other in Texas – they’re slap-happy about vengeance.

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption


April 2nd, 2009

When confronted with Cotton in a police lineup, Thompson had nary a shred of doubt that he was the man who had violated her. He went to trial and, after conviction, to jail. The only problem was that Cotton was innocent. As DNA evidence would prove eleven years later, Thompson had in fact been raped by a man named Bobby Poole, who served time for other offenses in the same jail as Cotton.

School Rampage Killers: A Psychological Portrait


October 27th, 2008

The shooter had convinced himself that killing was gutsy and masculine. Based on his misreadings of Nietzsche and from repeated viewings of the Oliver Stone film, Natural Born Killers, he had convinced himself that the killer was a kind of superior being, and that killing constituted a form of “Natural Selection.”

Murdered by Mumia: A Conversation With Maureen Faulkner


January 3rd, 2008

“The man lifted his arm and fired a single shot in Danny’s back. Danny was able to turn and fire one return shot at Abu-Jamal that hit him in the abdomen. Danny then fell onto the sidewalk. Mumia Abu-Jamal approached him as he lay unarmed and wounded on the ground and pointed his 5 shot Charter Arms revolver at Danny. He fired three more shots at him; two pierced his jacket but did not hit him. Jamal then moved closer, bent down and placed his gun to within 6 inches of Danny’s face. He fired his final shot into Danny’s forehead and the bullet came to rest in his brain.”

Profilers, Leading Investigators Take You Inside the Criminal Mind


April 24th, 2007

The science of criminal profiling has exploded on the public consciousness following the publication of Thomas Harris’s trilogy: Manhunter, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal.

Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster by T.J. English


April 24th, 2007

The genius of the Irish who emigrated to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries was to fuse both political clout and criminal enterprise into vast, urban political machines that helped uplift the Irish and create a place for them at the table of American bounty.

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