7 True Crime Books You Need to Read to Believe

Sometimes the most shocking stories are the true ones, and true crime books are filled with unbelievable situations and some of the world's most fascinating individuals. These truly compelling books give unusual insights into crimes and criminals that have shocked the world, sometimes for centuries. From Jack the Ripper to modern gangsters, we have lots of great reads in our list of 7 true crime books you need to read to believe.

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1. The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins

John Pearson

John Pearson's terrific true crime book about two of the UK's most infamous criminals, The Kray twins, has recently been adapted into the film Legend, starring Tom Hardy. Reggie and Ronnie Kray were gangsters with full control over the London criminal scene in the 1960s. In this bestselling biography of their lives, John gives an insight into how these brutal brothers went from rubbing shoulders with celebrities to facing life sentences in prison.

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2. In Cold Blood

Truman Capote

Truman Capote's eerie account of the murders of Herb Clutter and his family by Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock is truly unforgettable. After carrying out interviews with the killers after their eventual arrests, Capote pieced together the shocking story of why and how they committed the murders and how they managed to go on the run for so long without being caught. This is a true crime classic by a world-famous author that will make you think.

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3. They All Love Jack

Bruce Robinson

One of the most elusive criminals in history is brought under the magnifying glass in this fascinating book by writer and director, Bruce Robinson. In They All Love Jack, Bruce presents a compelling theory that Jack the Ripper was in fact a well-respected member of society who managed to carry out his crimes in an elaborate cover-up. Linking the secret organisation of Freemasonry to this infamous serial murder case, Bruce's book is daring and original and will completely convince you of the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

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4. Inside Alcatraz

Jim Quillen

Jim Quillen was incarcerated in Alcatraz after a troubled life as a petty thief and San Quentin State Prison escapee. In this revealing memoir he recounts the infamous 1946 Alcatraz escape attempt and his experiences with 'the Birdman', the prison's most notorious inmate. After his time in Alcatraz, Jim turned his life around and eventually returned to the prison, not as an inmate, but as a volunteer telling visitors about his experiences.

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5. The People V. O.J. Simpson

Jeffrey Toobin

Jeffrey Toobin's account of the infamous O.J. Simpson trial was recently adapted into an award-winning TV series. This compelling and shocking case is described in great detail by Jeffrey and brings to light much of the secret and underhand dealings that happened during the trial. From the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman to the final verdict, this book takes you through the trial that gripped the world.

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6. Killing Pablo

Mark Bowden

This book focuses on how it took both the United States and Columbian governments to find and kill Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord of a notorious cocaine cartel. At the height of his criminal career he was the wealthiest criminal ever and part of the Chamber of Representatives of Columbia in a time where terror reigned. Mark Bowden's fascinating book details the events that led to the death of this infamous criminal.

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7. The New York Times Book of Crime

Edited by Kevin Flynn

This book brings together the most infamous American (and some international) crimes The New York Times has reported on over 164 years of the newspaper's history. Featuring photographs and copies of the original front pages, this book is a brilliant insight for true crime fans and history buffs alike.

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For more unbelievable real stories, check a look through our selection of true crime stories.

  • APJOK
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    A book like no other - the tale of a gripping quest to discover the identity of history's most notorious murderer and a literary high-wire act from the legendary writer and director of Withnail and I. For over a hundred years, 'the mystery of Jack the Ripper' has been a source of unparalleled fascination and horror, spawning an army of obsessive theorists, and endless volumes purporting finally to reveal the identity of the brutal murderer who terrorised Victorian England. But what if there was never really any 'mystery' at all? What if the Ripper was always hiding in plain sight, deliberately leaving a trail of clues to his identity for anyone who cared to look, while cynically mocking those who were supposedly attempting to bring him to justice? In THEY ALL LOVE JACK, the award-winning film director and screenwriter Bruce Robinson exposes the cover-up that enabled one of history's most notorious serial killers to remain at large. More than twelve years in the writing, this is much more than a radical reinterpretation of the Jack the Ripper legend, and an enthralling hunt for the killer. A literary high-wire act reminiscent of Tom Wolfe or Hunter S. Thompson, it is an expressionistic journey through the cesspools of late-Victorian society, a phantasmagoria of highly placed villains, hypocrites and institutionalised corruption. Polemic, forensic investigation, panoramic portrait of an age, underpinned by deep scholarship and delivered in Robinson's inimitably vivid and scabrous prose, THEY ALL LOVE JACK is an absolutely riveting and unique book, demolishing the theories of generations of self-appointed experts - the so-called 'Ripperologists' - to make clear, at last, who really did it; and more importantly, how he managed to get away with it for so long.
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    The classic, bestselling account of the infamous Kray twins, now a major film, starring Tom Hardy. Reggie and Ronnie Kray ruled London's gangland during the 60s with a ruthlessness and viciousness that shocks even now. Building an empire of organised crime that has never been matched, the brothers swindled, extorted and terrorised - while enjoying a glittering celebrity status at the heart of the swinging 60s scene, until their downfall and imprisonment for life.
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    Now a major BBC TV series. The definitive account of the O. J. Simpson trial, The People V. O.J. Simpson is a prodigious feat of reporting that could have been written only by the foremost legal journalist of our time. First published less than a year after the infamous verdict, Jeffrey Toobin explores the secret dealings and manoeuvring on both sides of the case, and how a combination of the prosecution's over-confidence, the defence's shrewdness, and the Los Angeles Police Department's incendiary history with the city's African-American community, gave a jury what it needed: reasonable doubt. Rich in character, as propulsive as a legal thriller, this enduring narrative continues to shock and fascinate with its candid depiction of the human drama that upended the world. The People V. O.J. Simpson tells the whole story, from the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman to the ruthless gamesmanship behind the scenes of the trial of the century.
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    Each day we saw the outside world in all its splendour, and each day that view served as a reminder that we had wasted and ruined our lives. Jim Quillen, AZ586 - a runaway, problem child and petty thief - was jailed several times before his twentieth birthday. In August 1942, after escaping from San Quentin, he was arrested on the run and sentenced to forty-five years in prison, and later transferred to Alcatraz. This is the true story of life inside America's most notorious prison - from terrifying times in solitary confinement to daily encounters with 'the Birdman', and what really happened during the desperate and deadly 1946 escape attempt.
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    Controversial and compelling, "In Cold Blood" reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human. The book that made Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative.
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    Killing Pablo is the inside story of the brutal rise and violent fall of the Colombian cocaine cartel kingpin, whose criminal empire held a nation of thirty million hostage--a reign of terror that would end only with his death. In an intense, up-close account, award-winning journalist Mark Bowden exposes the never-before-revealed details of how U.S. operatives led the sixteen-month manhunt.
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    For 164 years, The New York Times has been a rich source of information about crime. This fascinating compilation captures the full sweep of the newspaper's coverage of the subject and also examines issues like incarceration, organised crime and vice. Chapters are organised by topic and include explanatory material by Flynn to provide context. The book features approximately 40 photographs as well as reproductions of frontpage stories. Although the focus is on the US, important international stories are included.