True Crime


Whether or not Capote invented something called the “nonfiction novel,” he ushered in the serious, extensive, non-fiction treatment of murder. In the years since In Cold Blood appeared, the genre of true crime regularly appears on the bestseller list. It is related to crime fiction, certainly – but it might equally well be grouped with documentary or read alongside romance fiction. And while its readers have a deep engagement with the genre that is very different from the engagement of readers of crime fiction, its writers are often forced to occupy a position – in relation to victims, criminals and police – that is complex and contradictory.2 In this essay I will be tracing the history and development of this hybrid genre, as well as examining some of the tensions – between reader, writer, criminal and cops – that are at its heart.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2010 Cambridge University Press. This book chapter first appeared in The Cambridge Companion to American Crime Fiction.

Edited by: Catherine Nickerson

Please note that downloads of the chapter are for private/personal use only.

Purchase online at Cambridge University Press.