True crime isn’t just about the salacious details of crimes and murders. Well-written and thoughtful true crime memoirs have a lot to teach readers about criminal history, the motives behind criminal actions, and perhaps most importantly victim and survivor stories. The five true crime memoirs on this list cover very different types of criminal activity, but what they all have in common is that they’re well-researched, thought-provoking, and respectful of the people who were affected by these crimes.
Georgia Tann was known for selling babies out of her home in Memphis, Tennessee. Though her clients were often wealthy celebrities, no one knew the gritty truth of how or where she obtained the children she “adopted” out to new parents. The Baby Thief tells the story of how Tann began selling children, and what drove her to commit such an unthinkable crime. Tann’s shocking story helped form modern adoption laws, making children everywhere just a bit safer from those who wish to profit off of the underprivileged. This narrative investigation explores Tann’s story, as well as the historical moment that allowed for such a crime.
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Few people can say they had a first-row seat to some of the most notorious crimes in history. Roberto Escobar, however, was family to Columbia’s infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. In The Accountant’s Story, Escobar writes about his brother in intimate detail, describing how the cartel worked and profited while also portraying Pablo as a human with emotions. This personal story puts a face on true crime, which allows readers to better connect with the subject matter and understand how some people are driven to do heinous things. Escobar writes about the fabulous wealth Pablo and his cartel experienced–often hiding cash in strange places just because they ran out of places to store it––while also emphasizing the violence that earned them that money. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the Columbian drug trade, and the crimes that made it all possible.
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The high powered men of drug cartels are, at the end of the day, just men. And those men have beautiful wives that help them hide their crimes. In Cartel Wives, Mia Flores tells the true story of her and her sister Olivia, wives to two high-ranking drug traffickers who later became US informants. Even though the sisters experienced the extreme wealth and notoriety that comes with being married to cartel royalty, they sacrificed their comfort in order to cooperate with the government and, ultimately, to do what they felt was just. Look inside the Mexican drug cartel from the perspective of the women married to it, and experience the roller coaster ride from criminal to an informant in Cartel Wives.
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On the Run tells the story of Henry Hill’s children, who were forced to grow up in the mob and witness the multiple sides of their mob boss father. Hill, the inspiration for famous mob films like Goodfellas, lived a hard life and often subjected his children to danger. Gina and Greg Hill have described their childhood well, explaining how living in constant fear of the mafia their father worked for and dealing with their father’s flaming temper and personal struggles, took a toll on their personal lives. Anyone interested in how the mafia works, on both a structural and personal level, should check out On the Run. After all, mobsters are just family men at heart.
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Once a casino king in Las Vegas, Steve Wynn has a troubling, crime-ridden reputation that just doesn’t add up. Local reporter John Smith originally wrote Running Scared in 1995, exposing Steve Wynn’s mysterious and illicit past as a mogul of Las Vegas. Smith’s reporting indicates a deep understanding of the casino business and offers readers an inside look at a world few ever experience firsthand. This is the story Steve Wynn doesn’t want you to hear, the story that caused him to sue the original publisher and push them out of business. Now you, too, can discover how Wynn took over Las Vegas and built a casino empire, all while living an incredibly wealthy and fabulous life in one of America’s wildest cities.
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