It’s no secret that a large percentage of crime fiction is inspired by true life events, which is a more genteel way of saying True Crime. Yup, the guilty pleasure from the back of the mystery section. I really don’t know where the other percentage spring from, but it must be something pulled out of thin air.
Or at least the author might claim such.
Since I know a little bit about TC, I thought I’d assess the year so far and give Killer Year blog readers my pick for the top five stories of the year in which we’re presently mired. If you’re old enough to remember Casey Kasem, conjure his voice as we count down to number one. If your countdown touchstone is TRL’s Carson Daly, I feel sorry for you.
But give it a whirl, anyway.
Number 5: Natelee Holloway and the Aruba story. Jeesh, didn’t we get enough of that? Didn’t carnival barker TV news harpies, Nancy Grace and Greta van Susteren dish us on every nuance of the blond Alabama teen that went missing on a senior party in 2005? The story was the Ever-Ready True Crime story—and for no good reason. It went no where, but generated more empty headlines and finger-pointing than any case in recent memory. There is a reason, of course. Natalee’s blond and pretty. If she had been of color and fat, you’d never heard a peep about her. She is the epitome of the Missing White Girl Syndrome and all its troubling societal baggage. The reason she’s number five, is simply because every list must mention her. It is required.
Number 4: John Mark Karr, the queen who would be king of all TC crimes if he’d had only delivered on what he promised. He’d be number one with a bullet (in his head) if he’d actually killed JonBenet Ramsey as he’d promised while on a sex change mission to Thailand earlier this year. The man is disgusting, sure. What’s more revolting is how ABC and NBC have sucked up to him just to get the exclusive first interview. Limo rides around the old school where he taught in Petaluma, a new suit that showed of his trim (high) waist, and more eye shadow than a Queensryche comeback concert. I wish he’d killed JBR (if you’re not a TC reader, you must know that in the cult of celebrity she commands initials, like say JFK or PDQ.) I want someone to be arrested and put away for that horrendous murder nearly a decade ago. Too bad it happened in Boulder, Colorado. No one there seems to know how to do his or her job.
Number 3: John Grisham writes a TC book and all of a sudden a modern day classic has been released. This is very interesting. The book upon which he relied (and mentions in his acknowledgements) The Dreams of Ada actually was a modern day classic. But it wasn’t written by a mega-selling author and therefore must stay in its place—the literary dustbin. I loved many of Grisham’s early novels (this is not some snobby remark meant to indicate that I don’t care for what he’s done lately; I simply have author ADD), but honestly, why does it take his name to suddenly bring a supernova of brilliance to a genre? Isn’t it funny how crime fiction seems to escape the taint of trash? But really, can you read one more book about a cupcake murder or a crime-solving cat? (Aha! That’s the elusive percentage not inspired by true life events!)
Number 2: Florida rep Mark Foley and his penchant for IM-ing young pages could overtake my top pick for the year so far, should he torpedo the Republicans in the election next month. I don’t mind saying, I’ve got my fingers crossed as I type. Try it. It can be done. Honestly, I don’t know what’s worse, Foley’s disgusting abuse of power, his lust for boys, or his excuse that the bottle is to blame. Have we finally reached the point where the booze excuse (file it with the abuse excuse) no longer holds any credence whatsoever? I’m not without sympathy for those who’ve had traumatic lives, but I’m fed up with feeling sorry for anyone whose own actions account for their troubles. We have free will. We can make choices. My choice would be to exile Foley to Boca Raton, where the average age is 90.
And now the top of the chart for the year so far…
Number 1: It has to be Shasta – as in the little Idaho girl who’d been kidnapped along with her brother by John Edward Duncan. You know the story—the family was murdered by a pedophile creep of the lowest order. Shasta was rescued when an alert Denny’s waitress recognized her and called the police. The trial starts next week. The reason this story is number one, isn’t because of the media that will flock to the Idaho Panhandle to cover it. It isn’t because Nancy and Greta and all the rest will be yapping about it for weeks. Shasta will face Groene in court. Only 9 years old, she’ll testify about what he did to her and her family. This is a story of courage and survival. She might not know it now, but the entire nation stands with her. At least I do. Here’s the thing: Shasta was held captive by evil. She’s going to face it head on and put a stop to all of it. This is not about retribution. It is about courage and how it can come in the form of a child.
It gives me hope.
So really, who knows what will happen with any of these picks? Maybe Grisham’s book will come and go and not be the harbinger of a new trend of novelists switching to nonfiction crime? Maybe Mark Foley will make a comeback five years from now and guest host on Jim Bakker’s TV show? Maybe Natalee will be found? Maybe she’s been sold into slavery in Columbia? Hey, Mark Karr might get that sex change and take a job as schoolteacher somewhere until he’s caught with a student, of course. That’s another story, however. More than anything, I hope Shasta Groene is surrounded by the love of her fragmented family. Maybe they can rise to the occasion, as she has. I hope that when we hear of her ten years from now, she’s a college student somewhere pursuing dreams of her own. And that she’s no longer on anyone’s list.
Author of A Wicked Snow
Available March 2007
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