What is our Fascination with Crime and True Crime?

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In today’s world, you cannot pick up newspaper or turn on the evening news without hearing about someone being assaulted, stabbed or shot, it really can be a depressing world to live in with the amount of brutal crime and criminal acts that occur on a daily basis. Then come along the truly horrific news reports that are just so unbelievably bizarre or gruesome that we just cannot help but be fascinated by and listen just that little bit harder and read more about what happened.

That also applies to our reading habits. People the world over just love to read about crime and criminology and get enjoyment from it. So, the question is, why do we read books about crime, especially true crime, and find them so fascinating and even entertaining? I personally love reading crime books, with most featuring serial killers and murderers. I also like reading a lot of true crime accounts.

My fascination started with the most infamous serial killer that the world has probably seen: Jack the Ripper. I love reading about Jack the Ripper as I find it fascinating how he got away with his crimes. The mystery behind who was he (or maybe it was woman?). Why were the crimes committed and then suddenly stopped (or at the least no more were attributed to him)? Was he a man that just hated women/prostitutes? Was the killer a member of the Royal Family (as one of the theories suggests) or was he a Royal surgeon? Maybe the American H. H. Holmes was Jack the Ripper? We may never know the answers to these questions, but the mystery behind it all makes it so fascinating. It’s not about the blood and gore but more of the who and why.

I also find books about Dennis Nilsen, Fred & Rose West, Harold Shipman, Ted Bundy and other seemingly normal people that were unmasked as evil serial killers fascinating. How these people functioned in everyday life and only mistakes leading to their arrests and the true horror of the crimes only revealed then.

Then there are books about criminals such as The Krays, Frankie Fraser, Al Capone and a whole host more. There are plenty of criminals that have written books or had books written about them. These are just the true stories, the fiction crime stories genre is huge – I love reading books by M.W. Craven, J.D. Barker, Chris Carter at the darker end of crime thriller genre for example, and people like James Patterson at the lighter end, but there are far too many authors to mention. There are certainly plenty of books on the market to whet anybody’s appetite and constantly feed it.

So why the fascination? It’s not like we want to hear these stories on the news or want to read about criminal acts in the newspapers, but when they appear we seemingly just can’t help ourselves. Maybe we just want to know what makes these people tick? Or how to keep ourselves safe from this type of person? Maybe we need to know what drives them so that we can spot it in others and try to do something about it? Maybe fear alone is the driving force behind trying to understand these people? Or maybe it’s something as simple as we like to be scared, but in a controlled and safe way? I honestly don’t know.

I don’t why I love reading crime books, fiction and non-fiction, but I do and I enjoy it: the thrills, excitement and even revulsion. The fiction books make excellent reading, safe in the knowledge that the events within the book are not true. The non-fiction books are just fascinating, with the truth, a lot of the time, being a lot stranger and more bizarre than the fiction writers can come up with.

The crime genre, fiction and non-fiction, is here to stay and is getting bigger all the time. It has everything from children’s mystery stories, including books that I loved a child with: The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, cosy mysteries like those by Shaun Baines, to outright exciting and even gory crime thrillers by M.W. Craven, Richard Montanari, Chris Carter and then there are the non-fiction titles that are probably more scary than their fiction counterparts, because they are true!

So why are we so fascinated by crime fiction and true crime stories? Everyone will have their own reasons; excitement, thrills, scares, knowledge, the need to understand etc. What is your reason? Or maybe you stay away from this genre completely. Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.

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