How to Write & Sell True Crime by Gary Provost

By Gary Provost

It all begins with a newspaper article depiciting an unthinkable crime in a neighborhood neighborhood. From those headlines, a talented author can weave a full-length booklet - constructing the characters, opting for the causes, reporting at the judgment. That author might be you.

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These people will probably go along with whatever the victim decides. If the victim is dead, chances are you will find friends or relatives who are willing to talk about him. People who knew the victim. Again, this is not a problem. Unless the victim was Grizzly Adams or someone equally hermitic, he had a lot of acquaintances, and some of them will talk to you. The prosecutor on the case. If the prosecutor thinks you are going to write a “miscarriage of justice” story, he will not be anxious to help you.

We also mean Helter Skelter, The Stranger Beside Me, Bad Blood, The Boston Strangler, The Hillside Strangler, Son, Nutcracker, At Mother’s Request, and Fatal Vision, to name just a few of the best known ones. There are hundreds more, because true crime has long been one of the most popular types of book. In fact, as I write this we are in the midst of a true crime boom. Bitter Blood by Jerry Bledsoe and Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule have only recently departed from the best-seller lists, each after residing there for many months.

If there’s a good story in New Jersey, for example, I’m going to know about it because my mother-in-law, Margie, sends me clippings from the Newark Star-Ledger every couple of months. Two years ago my brother Allan, who lives in Florida, sent me a small story from the Miami Herald, about a waitress at a pancake house who had been sent to death row, and reading that clipping became my first step toward writing Without Mercy. (It helps to have a brother who’s a true crime aficionado. Also, note that I have written one Florida book and am writing another, but I have not yet written an Alaska book.

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