Tuesday, July 17, 2012

true crime reading spree...thoughts along the way

The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans by Rick Geary.

*Why this book? I really don't know what made me pick it up and read at this particular moment in time, but I do remember why I bought it in the first place. There was an NPR story (probably on All Things Considered) about true crime graphic novels. I immediately added all three of the discussed books (this one, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jenson and Jonathan Case, and Torso by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko) to my wish list, and shortly thereafter bought the first two. This one had the additional allure of being set in New Orleans, and I find New Orleans more fascinating than ever since visiting and meeting my dear friend Chris. And on top of all of this, there was the fact that I've read two of Rick Geary's other true crime graphic novels in the past, and enjoyed them both.

*I really love Geary's art. Bold black and white ink work. Not really sure how to describe it, but his books have a very distinctive flair. An example:

*Another common thread in Mr. Geary's true crime graphic novels (at least, in the ones I've read) is that they are very historical. And all relate crimes that have not really been solved.

*Okay, now that I've finished, I can say that all three of his books that I've thus far read, have one more thing in common--they all leave me wanting to learn more. Not sure if this is a good thing (getting my curiosity peeked and all) or a bad thing (not satisfying my curiosity to start with).

Dead by Sunset by Ann Rule.

*Why this book? Okay, this is likely going to sound stupid. Fact is we have way too many books to fit in our new house here. So I've been going through my boxes of books and sorting them into two categories: 1. books I'll likely want to keep, and 2. books that I think I'll be able to get rid of once I read them. And it's my goal to read from the probably get rid of pile at a rate of two to one. Not that I'm going to strict about that or anything, just sort of guideline for me. Anyway, I just blindly reached into a "get rid of" box and pulled out a book, this book. It struck my mood as right, so here I am.

*I've spent much time pondering over just why the heck I even read true crime. I don't read it nearly as much as I used to, but I still rather enjoy it. (You know, in one of those instances where "enjoy" isn't quite the appropriate word.) But you know, I really never have come up with an answer. Yes, I like the mystery and detective work and trials. And yes, I love contemplating the psychology of what makes people act the way they do. But really, beyond that, I just don't have a clue.

*You know how when you watch a horror flick, you're always wanting to yell to the characters, "Stop! Don't _________________!!!!" Well, I've had that same desire reading this book. And of course, the stakes are higher, as this is true stuff. And of course, all my yelling in the world won't change what's already happened.

*Counting my blessings. It's just hard to imagine how some people survive the things they do, how they manage to go about their days and do the things that need done. I'm in awe of the perseverance and determination and courage that people can muster.

*I wouldn't even need all the fingers on a single hand to count the number of times I have felt complete and utter fear in my life to this point. And those few times, were thankfully relatively short-lived, even if they didn't feel that way at the time. I have never ever had to live in a state of fear. And honestly, I don't know how anyone does it. And yet so many do. How heartbreaking is that.

*How does one make sense of deliberate cruelty?

*Okay, finished. I've read several of Ann Rule's books over the years. One thing I really appreciate about her approach is the way she makes victims of crime and their families come alive. Yes, she's writing these books and earning a living doing it, but it is so utterly evident how much she cares about the people she comes to know along the way. And that bringing to life of the people affected by crime is what makes reading a book like this an entirely different experience than say The Axe-Man of New Orleans, which was more a displaying of the facts. For me at least, it's a much more heartbreaking experience.

Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen.

*Another true crime tale told through the graphic novel medium. The art, by Jonathan Case, in Green River Killer, as with The Axe-Man of New Orleans is boldly black and white. And yet the the feel is somehow completely different. Don't ask me to explain, for I'm even worse at talking about art and music than I am at books. But I'm guessing you can see what I mean.

*To the best of my recollection, I had never heard of the town of Burien, Washington prior to reading Dead by Sunset. And here it is again in the very next book I'm reading. Just love weird little coincidences like that.

*The perspective of this book is rather unique. The subtitle "A True Detective Story" is more literal than one might guess. This is the story of a detective, Tom Jensen, the author's father. Tom Jensen was one of the detectives who spent two decades trying to get answers for the families of more than 40 young woman. His commitment and determination and persistence are inspiring. The fact that his son lovingly wrote this book also bears witness to the fact that through it all he tried his damnedest to still be there for his family. Personally, I don't think I would do well in living with the cruelty, the sadness, the horror that he had to deal with if ever these families were to have answers. His outlet when things just got to be too much was remodeling his home. This might sound silly on the surface, but the book portrays some powerful, telling images, and one can't help but hurt for this man. I loved the perspective of this book, and it served as a reminder that there are multitudes of personal stories that make up any human event.

Projects Progress for books mentioned:

--The Axe-Man of New Orleans by Rick Geary:
Unoffical-for-me Reading Challenges--Graphic Novels 2012 Reading Challenge and Serial Killers Reading Challenge and
50x50--#40. Read a book set in each of the 50 states (Louisiana)

--Dead by Sunset by Ann Rule:
Unoffical-for-me Reading Challenges--Non-Fiction, Non-Memoir Reading Challenge and Chunkster Challenge

--Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen:
Unoffical-for-me Reading Challenges--Graphic Novels 2012 Reading Challenge and Serial Killers Reading Challenge and Color-Coded Reading Challenge (green) and
50x50--#40. Read a book set in each of the 50 states (Washington)


Kailana said...

It looks like you are doing very well on your goals, Debi!

Jean said...

I used to read a lot of true crime. I'm not sure why I stopped, perhaps because I was worried about the strange looks I sometimes got while reading it in public. I've never read a graphic novel or nonfiction book, so your reviews of that genre are enlightening to me. Thanks!

Chris said...

Yay for reading a book set in Louisiana \o/ Even though it's a depressing piece of history :p I'm dying to read it now too!! I'm totally with you…I love love love true crime for some reason. Well…not that I LOVE it, but you know what I mean. It's interesting reading…there we go :p His illustrations look really familiar to me..they remind me of something!