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NJ True Crime: The Good Nurse, The First Family, and The Cases that Haunt Us

11 May

In addition to my love of books I have always had a passion for true crime. From a young age I was addicted to shows like “Dateline,” “48 Hours” and “Forensic Files.” My parents always joked that they knew I had been in the house if they turned on the TV and it was set to ID Discovery.  Not only is True Crime fun to watch on TV, but cooking is more fun (for me!) if I have a True Crime audio book.

With many of our patrons forced to self-isolate and be at home, I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend three of my favorite true crime titles that have a connection to New Jersey.

The books below are all available via eLibraryNj :

The Good Nurse
by Charles Graeber
Good Nurse
Charles Cullen, born in West Orange, NJ, is one of New Jersey’s most prolific serial killers. He was a registered nurse who practiced in Morristown, Livingston, Montclair, and parts of South Jersey and Pennsylvania. Cullen’s victim count is still unknown.

The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia
by Mike Dash
The First Family
Before there was the Genovese Crime Family there was Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello. This book follows Morello and the birth of one of the famous “Five Families” of New York City.

The Cases That Haunt Us: From Jack the Ripper to Jon Benet Ramsey, the FBI’s Legendary Mindhunter Sheds New Light on the Mysteries That Won’t Go Away
by Mark Olshaker and John Douglas
Cases That Haunt Us
This book was written by the detective who inspired the Netflix show “Mind Hunter.” While this book focuses on several cases, one of particular interest to New Jersey natives will be the case of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, otherwise known as the man who allegedly kidnapped the Lindbergh Baby. To this day there is disagreement on who is responsible. Explore the case that made kidnapping between states a federal crime and had a vast cast of investigators including New Jersey Police Superintendent Norman Schwarzkopf.

Written by:
Lindsay Sakmann
Information and Digital Services Librarian

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O’Neill

9 Oct

Mad scientists experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs, undercover CIA agents pretending to be hippies, and sleazy Hollywood lawyers who make Saul Goodman and Lionel Hutz seem honest all populate the pages of Chaos, Tom O’Neill’s magnum opus that often seems too bizarre to be labeled non-fiction. What all of these figures have in common is that they have been connected to the murders of the Manson Family and O’Neill believes that their stories poke some major holes in the official narrative that has been retold so many times in pop culture. As O’Neill delves deeper into the stories of these characters living on the margins of Hollywood and the Haight-Ashbury, he comes to the chilling conclusion that almost everything that has been sold to the public about the Manson Family was based on lies.

The story of the Manson Family and their horrific killing spree known as the Tate-LaBianca Murders has been retold so frequently that when O’Neill began researching the story in 1999 for an article for the 30th anniversary of the killings in the now defunct Premiere magazine, he didn’t think there was anything to say that hadn’t been said hundreds of times before. Manson’s connection to the Beach Boys and the Beatles has become a part of the lore of the dark side of the 1960s counter-culture and the motive for his crimes, a white-supremacist race war he called “Helter Skelter,” was considered settled by lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s true-crime classic of the same name.

Although his editors initially expected a short piece about how Hollywood has changed since the killings, O’Neill’s obsessive research continued for twenty years as he uncovered documents about the Los Angeles Police Department, Manson’s probation officer, the CIA, and even the Warren Commission that left glaring inaccuracies in how Bugliosi sold the Helter Skelter motive to the public. Chaos is compulsively footnoted with these documents for any readers who may be skeptical about O’Neill’s sources.

I don’t want to reveal much more than what I have already said about Chaos. The book is mind-blowing in scope and it’s best that readers start Chaos not knowing much about the shocking discoveries O’Neill uncovers. While readers may feel frustrated that O’Neill is hesitant to draw any definitive conclusions from his research, the joy of reading Chaos is less in figuring out exactly what happened to Charles Manson and more in being alongside O’Neill as he explores the mysterious figures who populate the underbelly of California’s counterculture in 60s and 70s.  Chaos may be one of the most entertaining books of the true crime genre in years.  As well as being available from the Hoboken Public Libary in print, you can borrow it as a digital audiobook from eBCCLS.

Written by
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

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