The thrill of celebrity, the intrigue of an unsolved crime, the search for closure and justice; American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson brought it all to TV and then some. While few things have the pop culture impact of that infamous glove, there are plenty of gripping crimes that are worthy of our attention. From stories as well known as Waco and Tupac to twisted tales of murder in the desert, international espionage, and cannibals, these five books all make worthy reads for American Crime Story fans, and fans of its inspiration, The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson.
Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines and the Mojave, by Deanne Stillman
In 1991 two girls were murdered outside Twentynine Palms Marine Corp Base. The Marine in question had recently returned from the Gulf War and found himself readjusting to life in another desert setting. But how did they all find themselves in the same apartment in the middle of the night in Twentynine Palms? Was there something in their pasts, their families, maybe even their cultures that brought this unlikely set together. And what ultimately sealed their fate? What is life really like for those who live outside military bases? What does this rootless culture do to towns, neighbors, even individual families? With so many questions, an amazingly vivid setting, and bigger — even national — implications, Stillman’s exploration is a must read.
The Waco Siege: The History of the Federal Government’s Standoff with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, by Charles River Editors
People may mention the Waco massacre in passing, thinking they know the details, but this story is one that has changed law enforcement in immeasurable ways. With a paper trail running all the way from local law enforcement to then President Bill Clinton, there is much more to this 50 day standoff than meets the eye. With a mix of high profile government involvement, extreme beliefs, and terrifying violence, the Waco Siege is a gripping story of unanswered questions and the cult of personality. In the aftermath of David Koresh’s standoff with authorities, local and national law enforcement agencies have reworked how they respond to large scale situations and domestic terror attacks. This case shaped America, and it is fascinating.
Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest, by Carl Hoffman
Travel back in time to the 1960s and the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, the son of New York Governor, and later Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller (and yes, a member of that famous family). The who’s who connections of the Rockefeller family, the remote terrain, and the still-unanswered questions about Michael Rockefeller’s death make this a most fascinating read. In the same way that most questions will never be resolved in the OJ Simpson trial, we may never know if Rockefeller drowned or was taken — and eaten — by local cannibals in New Guinea. The art that Rockefeller collected and can be found in some of the world’s most famous museums, such as the MET in New York, but this mystery may be his biggest legacy.
LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implications of Death Row Records’ Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal, by Randall Sullivan
Tupac and Biggie, two of the biggest names in the early LA rap scene, are also at the center of some of the most wide-spanning conspiracy theories and fan fantasies. Is Tupac living peacefully on an island somewhere? Were the two killed by rival gangs? The police? Their own label — or maybe a competitor? Russell Poole, a highly decorated LAPD detective, was called on in 1997 to investigate a controversial cop-on-cop shooting that turned into more than he could imagine. Eventually Poole came to discover that the officer killed was tied to Marion “Suge” Knight’s notorious gangsta rap label, and the Bloods street gang. The shocking crossovers between the police, gangs, and the rap industry are as as riveting as they are controversial.
Hard Drive: A Family’s Fight Against Three Countries, by Mary Todd and Christina Villegas
This more recent story is still playing out in three countries, yet no one seems to have the answers. Or do they? What appeared at first to be a standard tech industry job for Dr. Shane Todd turned into an international intelligence nightmare that caught the Chinese government, Singapore police, and one American family in the same net. Dr. Todd was found dead by apparent suicide in his apartment, but among his personal belongings his family discovered an external hard drive with thousands of files that called everything they were told by police into question. The information in those files transformed this story from a tragic suicide to an international saga of mystery, deceit, and coverup. What do you do when all of your attempts to get the truth are thwarted by every level of international government and no one wants to help?
What crime story do you think needs the American Crime Story treatment?