The best true crime memoirs written by actual participants in the story

Who am I?

During my 45-year career as a newspaper and magazine journalist, I covered a wide range of events on a daily basis. As a police and courts reporter for two daily newspapers, I spent many hours researching and writing about crime and legal affairs. As a reader, I’ve enjoyed true crime. As the target of a true-crime myself in 1980, however, I became more fascinated with the sub-genre of the true-crime memoir in which a participant in a true-crime shares insider details of the story without seeking pity or glorification from the reader through objectivity and self-deprecating humor. It’s a fine line. When an author manages to walk it, however, the result proves inspirational.


I wrote...

Luggage by Kroger: A True Crime Memoir

By Gary Taylor,

Book cover of Luggage by Kroger: A True Crime Memoir

What is my book about?

Luggage by Kroger is my memoir of a year when, as a Houston newspaper reporter, I survived a true-life Fatal Attraction adventure that culminated with my attempted murder in 1980 at the hands of a notorious female attorney. Twice optioned for movies, this story made me the poster boy for true-life Fatal Attraction appearances on Oprah, Regis, 48 Hours, and other television programs. Since its publication in 2008, Luggage by Kroger has been a fixture on the Kindle Store’s lists of bestselling true crime and criminology titles, attracting rave reviews and winning five national book awards.

The books I picked & why

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The Hoax: A Memoir

By Clifford Irving,

Book cover of The Hoax: A Memoir

Why this book?

A rising star in the American book scene of the 1960s, novelist Clifford Irving suddenly claimed his greatest fame in 1972 as a criminal who almost succeeded in the most brazen literary hoax of all time by selling rights to a bogus autobiography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. Exposed and convicted of fraud, Irving spent 16 months in federal prison and returned his $765,000 advance. But he may have had the last laugh with the 1981 publication of this raucous and hilarious inside account of the scam, removing all his skeletons from the closet and shaking them for everyone to see. A movie starring Richard Gere as Irving followed in 2006. Irving died at the age of 87 in 2017.

The Hoax: A Memoir

By Clifford Irving,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hoax as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A "fascinating" memoir-and the inspiration for the movie starring Richard Gere-from the man behind the forged autobiography of Howard Hughes (Time).

Novelist Clifford Irving's no-holds-barred account of his faked autobiography of Howard Hughes-one of the greatest literary hoaxes of the twentieth century-is the ultimate caper story.

The plan was concocted in the early 1970s, when eccentric billionaire Hughes was already living as a recluse in the Bahamas. An American author, Irving pitched the scheme to his friend, fellow writer Richard Suskind: Through forged letters and fake interviews, they would recount Hughes's life "in his own words." Meanwhile, Irving's wife would…


Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang

By William Queen,

Book cover of Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang

Why this book?

Vietnam vet William Queen was capping a 20-year law enforcement career in 1998 when the ATF agent wangled an invitation to join the San Fernando Valley chapter of the notorious Mongols motorcycle club under the code name Billy St. John. He spent the next 28 months rising undercover to the rank of treasurer and vice president, allowing him to provide documents for the arrest and indictment of 54 members by 700 officers in four different states. Queen’s 2005 bestselling true crime memoir of his Mongols days ranges from bone-chilling to side-splitting for terror and laughs. Although Mel Gibson reportedly bought the screen rights, a movie has yet to appear.

Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang

By William Queen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Under and Alone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When veteran law-enforcement officer and lifelong motorcycle lover William Queen penetrated the San Fernando chapter of the notorious Mongols, he was at the mercy of psychopaths who sought to have him prove his fealty by any means necessary, from selling and doing drugs to arms trafficking, driving getaway cars and, in one shocking instance, stitching up the face of a Mongol 'ol' lady' after a brutal beating at the hands of her boyfriend.

Yet despite the constant criminality of the gang, Queen came to see the genuine camaraderie they shared. When his lengthy undercover work totally isolated Queen from his…


Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake

By Frank W. Abagnale, Stan Redding,

Book cover of Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake

Why this book?

Most readers will know this general story through the 2002 blockbuster movie from the controversial 1980 book, directed by Stephen Spielberg and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. But reading the book offers an opportunity to ponder the dilemma of true crime memoir authenticity. Is this a con man author conning book buyers with exaggerations about his cons? Does it matter? Corroborating documentation may be weak, but the entertainment value is strong. Readers can enjoy the ride then debate the merits. It still deserves a spot high on anyone’s list of autobiographical crime adventures.

Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake

By Frank W. Abagnale, Stan Redding,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Catch Me If You Can as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of Frank W. Abagnale, alias Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams and Ringo Monjo, one of the most daring con men, forgers, impostors, and escape artists in history. Dubbed "The Skywayman", he was known by the police of 26 foreign countries and all 50 states in America, living a sumptuous life on the run. In his brief but notorious career, Abagnale donned a pilot's uniform and co-piloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as a member of hospital management, practised law without a license, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed over $2.5 million in forged…


Manchild in the Promised Land

By Claude Brown,

Book cover of Manchild in the Promised Land

Why this book?

In this 1965 memoir, the late Claude Brown recounts his experiences coming of age on the mean streets of Harlem just after World War II as part of that first generation of black refugees from the south to resettle in New York. Besides ranking as a classic of black literature, Manchild provides plenty of adventure for fans of true crime with an inside look at juvenile gangs, incarceration, and, ultimately, the redemption Brown enjoyed, reflecting themes that remain relevant into the current century.

Manchild in the Promised Land

By Claude Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Manchild in the Promised Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This thinly fictionalized account of Claude Brown's childhood as a streetwise criminal trying to survive the toughest streets of Harlem of everyday life for the first generation African American raised in the Northern ghettos of the 1940s and 1950s.


Till Death Us Do Part: A True Murder Mystery

By Vincent Bugliosi, Ken Hurwitz,

Book cover of Till Death Us Do Part: A True Murder Mystery

Why this book?

Best known for Helter Skelter--his classic 1975 true crime memoir on prosecuting the Manson family, former Los Angeles deputy DA Vincent Bugliosi wrote this book later about a complicated but lesser-known double-homicide case he tried in 1966, three years before the Manson murders occurred. As the prosecutor on these cases, Bugliosi boasted access to background details that only an insider can share, merging psychological analysis with trial strategy concerns. Echoing themes of the noir thriller Double Indemnity, this true account unveils the plot of two lovers to murder their respective spouses and explains the complex police work required to catch them.

Till Death Us Do Part: A True Murder Mystery

By Vincent Bugliosi, Ken Hurwitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Till Death Us Do Part as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On December 11, 1966, a mysterious assassin shot Henry Stockton to death, set his house on fire, and left the scene without a trace. A year later, when a woman was found brutally killed, shreds of evidence suggested a connection between the two murders.

In the Palliko-Stockton trial, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi offered a brilliant summation that synthesized for the jury the many inferences and shades of meaning in the testimony, fitting all the pieces together in a mosaic of guilt. But will the jury be persuaded?


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