The Long Story of an LAPD Cold Case

Book review: The Lazarus Files, by Matthew McGough (Amazon / Book Depository) In 2009, a decades-old cold case, the 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen, a young newlywed nurse in Van Nuys, heated up when a suspect was finally arrested. As in many recent cases, new testing of old DNA evidence – here, an allegedly misplaced swab from a bite mark on Sherri’s arm – was … Continue reading The Long Story of an LAPD Cold Case

The Historic Los Angeles Library Fire Sparks a Bigger Story: What Libraries Are to Us

Book review: The Library Book, by Susan Orlean All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here is my story, please listen; here I am, please tell me your story. Journalist and author Susan Orlean began her latest book by investigating the devastating 1986 fire at Central Library in Los Angeles. By the time the fire was … Continue reading The Historic Los Angeles Library Fire Sparks a Bigger Story: What Libraries Are to Us

Writing Her Grandparents’ Lives and a Memoir of Childhood

Book review: On Sunset, by Kathryn Harrison (Amazon Book Depository) Never mind that we live in Los Angeles and that I was born in 1961; my childhood belongs to my mother’s parents, who, in the way of old people, have returned themselves to their pasts, taking me along. Author Kathryn Harrison writes a memoir of a slice of her childhood, a well-adjusted one considering some … Continue reading Writing Her Grandparents’ Lives and a Memoir of Childhood

An Austrian Serial Killer: The Strange Story of “Rehabilitated” Murderer Jack Unterweger

Book review: The Vienna Woods Killer, by John Leake John Leake, an American writer who lived nearly a decade in Vienna, wrote this definitive account of Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger. Unterweger’s is quite the interesting story, not least because the crime of serial murder is far from common in Austria. Combined with his background of alleged rehabilitation and crime spree across Austria and internationally, … Continue reading An Austrian Serial Killer: The Strange Story of “Rehabilitated” Murderer Jack Unterweger

America’s Dead Girl Fixation and Other Obsessions

Book review: Dead Girls, by Alice Bolin (Amazon / Book Depository) Alice Bolin’s debut essay collection opens with a strong and intriguing premise: what is this obsession America (and beyond) has with dead girls? The murdered or missing blonde white ones of media frenzies; the ones that get forgotten after serving as engines for outrage in programs like Serial; the innocent and martyred ones (or else … Continue reading America’s Dead Girl Fixation and Other Obsessions

A Case for a Suspect in One of LA’s Most Notorious Unsolved Murders

Book review: Black Dahlia, Red Rose, by Piu Eatwell (Amazon / Book Depository) More compelling still is the woman at the center of it all. The woman about whom there is so much speculation, but whom nobody really knows. We know that she was young, beautiful, complex, elusive, contradictory. That in her real life she occupied a territory as uncharted and controversial as the film … Continue reading A Case for a Suspect in One of LA’s Most Notorious Unsolved Murders

An Unusual Coming of Age in L.A.

Book review: We Are All Shipwrecks, by Kelly Grey Carlisle If you read history, you could learn where the ideas you took for granted actually came from and, what I found oddly reassuring, that the world had always been a terrible mess. Kelly Grey Carlisle had an unconventional childhood, to put it mildly. In 1976, at three weeks old, while she lay in a dresser drawer … Continue reading An Unusual Coming of Age in L.A.

A Memoir of Murder and the Male Gaze

Book review: The Hot One, by Carolyn Murnick New York magazine editor Carolyn Murnick was childhood best friends with Ashley Ellerin, growing up in suburban New Jersey. Attending different high schools, then Ashley’s relocation to her home state of California, the friendship began developing the natural divide that accompanies growing up and apart. But unlike many similar friendships, the two maintain some level of connection, and … Continue reading A Memoir of Murder and the Male Gaze

Victims of South Central

Book review: The Grim Sleeper, by Christine Pelisek I noticed Christine Pelisek while watching episodes of true crime series People Magazine Investigates. Formerly a reporter for LA Weekly, she now covers crime for People magazine (and looks like a non-terrifying version of weird fashion goblin Rachel Zoe, which is why I always notice her on the show.) I remembered this case both from the news at the time of the murderer’s arrest, but more … Continue reading Victims of South Central

“Insanity is a strange, peculiar thing.”

Book review: Not Just Evil: Murder, Hollywood, and California’s First Insanity Plea by David Wilson (Amazon / Book Depository) Shortly before Christmas in 1927, a twelve-year-old girl was kidnapped from her school in Los Angeles. After a ransom was arranged with her father, Marion Parker’s horrifically mutilated body was returned. Her killer, a young man named William Hickman, was quickly apprehended following a media frenzy and public … Continue reading “Insanity is a strange, peculiar thing.”