In Cold Ink: The Celebrity True Crime Author and Ethical Journalism


The Human Journal has just launched its special issue on Crime Writing, which includes my academic essay on the celebrity true crime author and the ethics of creative nonfiction: ‘In Cold Ink: The Celebrity True Crime Author and Ethical Journalism‘. Below is the abstract:

The genre of true crime has, since its inception, garnered much scholarly attention and come under increased scepticism. Involving factual events with narrative-style writing, the legitimacy and authenticity of many true crime novels has been debated, and the writer’s moral and ethical responsibility has been called into question. A number of authors have achieved a significant degree of fame through writing a true crime novel, including Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter (1974), Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song (1979), James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia (1987), and, more notably, In Cold Blood (1965) written by Truman Capote, whose role in the investigation of the Clutter murders, which made him a celebrity, has since provoked much discussion regarding the author’s motives and the novel’s authenticity. Having gained intimate access to the police reports and interviews with the convicted murderers, many of Capote’s critics accused the author of taking advantage of the condemned men’s stories for the purposes of writing a bestseller, creating a significant link between crime and celebrity. Famously, the more gruesome and detailed the narrative, the more a crime author can benefit both financially and professionally. This paper will explore the problematic link between true crime and authorial celebrity specifically through In Cold Blood – celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2015 – and other famous true crime novels and their authors, offering an analysis on the lucrative relationship between celebrity culture and the genre of true crime, and the ethical considerations that this relationship provokes.

Click here to read the entire essay and the other contributions for the special issue.

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