Truly Criminal

Written by Martin Edwards

Review written by Martin Edwards

Truly Criminal
The History Press
RRP: £12.99
Released: April 6th, 2015

Truly Criminal, published by The History Press, is a collection of new essays by leading writers about real life crimes. Many of the CWA’s members specialise in writing about “true crime” cases, and the CWA has awarded a Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction since 1978. The Dagger has been won by many accomplished exponents of factual crime writing. Yet Truly Criminal is the first Crime Writers’ Association non-fiction anthology for more than forty years – since Blood on My Mind, edited by H.R.F. Keating, and including just ten essays, appeared in 1972.

Contributors include several specialists in true crime, including Linda Stratmann, Diane Janes, and Kate Clarke, who with Bernard Taylor was co-author of Murder at the Priory, shortlisted for the CWA Non-Fiction Dagger in 1988. Paul French, who won the Dagger in 2013 with Murder in Peking, returns to China with his essay.

Several leading novelists are also featured. They include the latest winner of the CWA Diamond Dagger, Catherine Aird, as well as two previous CWA Diamond Dagger winners, Peter Lovesey and Andrew Taylor. The CWA’s membership is increasingly international, and other contributors include Quentin Bates, who lives in Iceland, Jurgen Ehlers from Germany, and Jim Doherty from the US.

There is one exception to the principle that this is a collection of brand new essays, and it is a real find. Thanks to the good office of Barry Pike and Julia Jones of the Margery Allingham Society, we have been able include an essay by Allingham about the Wallace case that was unpublished during her lifetime, and has previously only appeared in the Society’s journal for members. Margery Allingham was a member of the CWA during her lifetime, and the Society sponsors a national short story prize in tandem with the CWA.

The authors discuss many well-known murder cases, including the renowned Wallace case. Other topics covered include the “Brides in the Bath” case, an account of the Maybrick murder (if it was murder), a study of the Moat Farm mystery by a novelist with a distant family connection to it, and an overview of the Rouse case, and its off-shoots in fiction and fact. These explorations of famous crimes appear side by side with little-known stories from places such as Shetland and Kent. Former CWA chair Peter James contributes a foreword, and all in all, the book offers something for everyone who has an interest in the reality of crime, and the strange cases that have fascinated criminologists over so many years.

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