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Book Review of: True Crime Stories
We highly recommend this fascinating Scott Turow book.
Review of True Crime Stories by the editors of People Magazine
|Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author
of over 6,000 articles in print or online.|
Scott Turow wrote the introduction to this book. Turow is one of my favorite authors, and he's one of the few who writes both fiction and non-fiction (and keeps them separate, unlike Michael Moore and Dan Brown). Having read Turow books and having read his writings about how he changed his views on the death penalty, I trust Turow. Therefore, his name on this book made me want to read it.
This work is non-fiction, and it gives credence to the idea that "truth is stranger than fiction." Remember the bizarre OJ Simpson "trial?" I never did watch the television coverage, so I got all of my information after the melodrama had subsided. Of course, you'll find the OJ spectacle covered in this book. Interestingly, I read this book in parallel with listening to a couple of audio books on the same subject (one by two detectives on the case, another by Marcia Clark).
This book left some impressions on me:
The first thing you notice about this book is it looks like a magazine. It's the same size as three or four magazines stacked on top of each other, and it is as photo-centric as any good magazine.
The material in this book comes from the files of People Magazine, so the cases do not represent a cross section of America. They represent a cross section of People Magazine's coverage. And that coverage is primarily movie stars, notable eccentrics, and the ultra-rich.
I've read People Magazine, because you find it in waiting rooms everywhere. To me, it's eye candy and is of little value. I really don't care what various celebrities are doing. They live on a different planet with different rules, and most of them are just plain crazy. This book bears that out.
I was surprised to discover the book has less of a fluff factor than the magazine does. In fact, it's not fluff at all, but a serious treatment of the material. But all the vignettes are short enough that you never get bogged down in any particular story. And here's something you rarely hear from me: The writing is first-rate.
Will you feel uplifted after reading this book? Maybe--that depends on whether you reflect on your own situation and your own circle of friends and loved ones. Will you be more able to see through deception and you might be more aware of dangers around you? Probably.
You will certainly be aware that our "justice" system is far from perfect. But then, we're all imperfect. Whatever petty annoyances you "suffer" with your spouse or other important people in your life, it's good sometimes to put all of that in context. You read this book and you realize that those irritating habits of your friends and loved ones are not worth getting terribly flustered over.
And what about your own foibles? Unless you are future subject material for a book like this, you should take comfort in the fact that you are not as flawed as you may have thought. That's reason enough to get up and face the world each day, to take on it challenges and be satisfied that you have done about as well as anyone can expect you to. We can all strive to be better, but sometimes a look at the dark side of humanity's worst can help us realize that--even with all of our imperfections--we are not so bad after all. And neither are those to whom we express criticism, disappointment, or irritation.
After reading this book, I feel like telling various people I know how much I appreciate them after all. Sometimes contrast, as Martha Stewart (also a subject of this book) might say, is "a good thing."
About these reviews
You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?
I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?
And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.
This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.
My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.
A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.
About your reviewer
About reading style
No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.
Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.