The best books about murderers

2 authors have picked their favorite books about murderers and why they recommend each book.

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Shadow Country

By Peter Matthiessen,

Book cover of Shadow Country: A New Rendering of the Watson Legend

Shadow Country is Peter Matthiessen’s tour-de-force, semi-fictional account of life and death in the Ten Thousand Islands region of Florida’s Gulf Coast at the turn of the 20th Century. It is a slightly shorter and reworked version of a trilogy originally published separately – Killing Mr. Watson (1990); Lost Man’s River (1997); and Bone by Bone (1999). Matthiessen’s immediate story is that of Edgar Watson, a planter and outlaw, and his murder by his neighbors, but his broader canvas is the American frontier and the ecological costs of empire. His evocation of a long-lost Florida wilderness and those who exploited and transformed it evokes Dostoevsky, Conrad, and Faulkner, and is among the most powerful works of modern American literature.

Who am I?

I have been writing about nature and nature conservation for nearly 35 years. I have seen it from all angles—government, non-government, private, local—in the US, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. I have written five books about how we can do better at both saving wild places and wild creatures, while also understanding how those efforts must also account for the human communities that depend on those places for their lives and livelihoods. Over the decades I have seen enormous and promising shifts in conservation practices, and although we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis that is entirely of our own making, we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past. 

I wrote...

Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature

By Mark R. Tercek, Jonathan S. Adams,

Book cover of Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature

What is my book about?

Nature is not only the foundation of human well-being, but also the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make. The forests, floodplains, and oyster reefs often seen simply as raw materials or as obstacles to be cleared in the name of progress are, in fact as important to our future prosperity as technology or law, or business innovation.

When is protecting nature a good investment? With stories from the South Pacific to the California coast, from the Andes to the Gulf of Mexico, Nature's Fortune shows how viewing nature as green infrastructure allows for breakthroughs not only in conservation -- protecting freshwater; enhancing fisheries; making cities more livable; and dealing with unavoidable climate change -- but in economic progress, as well.


By David Moody,

Book cover of Hater

This is the novel that inspired me to write my own novels. It’s a wild concept, where a percentage of the population is suddenly overcome by hate. They become Haters, with a driving need to kill anyone who’s not a Hater, who they can identify just by seeing their eyes. Moody takes this idea and grounds it in Danny, a man who’s incredibly human and frustrated with his life. I’ve never before read a book about such a normal person in such an insane predicament. Danny’s not a hero, he’s just doing his best.

Who am I?

I live in sight of an extremely busy highway. On the rare days when I wake up to an empty house, I go look at the cars to confirm that I’m not the last person on Earth. There’s always been this part of me that assumes an unprecedented disaster is coming. The best way to soothe that fear, is to read (and write) books about it. Understanding how people survive, or not, feels like a great way to prepare for the unknown. Plagues are particularly bad, especially those of the biblical sense. Water turning to blood, swarms of insects, prolonged darkness, all of these are lethal under the right circumstances.

I wrote...

Survival Instinct: A Zombie Novel

By Kristal Stittle,

Book cover of Survival Instinct: A Zombie Novel

What is my book about?

On the surface, the city of Leighton is just like any other city: tall buildings, busy streets, and populated by a wide variety of people. It also has rats. These vermin are unlike the average pest, because they are carrying a deadly contagion. Havoc ensues as the devastating virus seeps into the unsuspecting populace, turning friends and family against each other. Atrocities of savage behavior are spreading faster than people can outrun, and the citizens get recklessly desperate. Whether by joining forces, or by standing alone, survival is on everyone’s mind. Unfortunately, not everyone will escape with their life.


By Stephen King,

Book cover of Cell

Did you know Stephen King wrote a zombie book? The undisputed master of horror—even he—has waded into the zombie apocalypse. The heart of this book is a father journeying through the zombie landscape to find his son. As a father many times over now, this theme will never stop being poignant for me. 

King's The Stand is the grand-daddy of the epic apocalypse book. If you're a fan of The Stand, and of course you are, you will love this book. The Cell is basically The Stand plus zombies. 

But King doesn't just wade into the zombie apocalypse, he re-creates it. There are a number of zombie innovations in this book. First off, the method of transmission for the zombie "virus" is the cell phone. It's King's techno-pessimism or cyber-phobia that elevates this zombie book. King asks us a simple question. Just how far removed are we from these…

Who am I?

S. L. Smith is an author, attorney, and Catholic theologian with deep roots in southern Louisiana. Despite being better known for his work in Catholic theology and history, Smith has also published extensively in the Southern Gothic genre. This crucible of tastes, religion, and location resulted in the Cajun Zombie Chronicles. Beneath the oaks and moss, lie shadows that bite.      

I wrote...

Cajun Zombie Chronicles, Book One: The River Dead

By Scott L. Smith,

Book cover of Cajun Zombie Chronicles, Book One: The River Dead

What is my book about?

Welcome to Cajun country, Louisiana. Home to gators and gumbo, mosquitos and Mardi Gras, zydeco and... zombies. This is zombie survival the Cajun way. Ancient gothic churches become citadels and swamp fortresses. The dead rise from the depths of the Mississippi River in The River Dead.


By Robert Bloch,

Book cover of Psycho

A classic movie and a classic book. Norman Bates is one of the most compelling fictional characters (yes, I know he was based on an actual person) to me. He’s a bit more pathetic in the novel, and we get a better insight into his deranged mind. Norman and his mother are quite the duo in this book, and this is a fairly short, quick, and captivating read. Like the original movie, there are sequels to the novel that don’t really do it justice in my opinion. 

Who am I?

I have a passion for killers in fiction because...well, they're just tons of fun if done right. At one point in my life, real \-life serial killers were very intriguing to me, and though that interest has wane a bit, I still have a strong appreciation for an interesting murderers in fiction. When writing my book, A Shepherd of Wolves, I was heavily influenced by a few works that featured serial killers in lead roles and showed them as complete people. The books I am recommending all had some sort of impact on the story I wanted to tell in my own work. 

I wrote...

A Shepherd of Wolves

By R.J. King,

Book cover of A Shepherd of Wolves

What is my book about?

Edmund Glass has never fit in. His neighbors find him odd and few have ever gotten to truly know him. After years of tempering his appetite, he finally gives in to the beast, taking a life and consuming the victim. Soon, he can’t control himself, taking victim after victim and leaving what’s left of the remains scattered around the small town of St. Anna, South Carolina. Detective Raymond Wright didn’t think a serial killer would ever show up in his hometown, but as Edmund’s body count grows, the detective must question everyone and everything if he’s going to catch a killer who is committing unthinkable acts.


By Scott Sigler,

Book cover of Infected

Possibly one of the best plague books I’ve read, Infected introduces us to an extraterrestrial-created epidemic that soon spreads worldwide. Amazing points of view including scientists with the CDC trying real-time to figure it all out as bodies dissolve in front of them and a pro footballer who is determined to survive even if it means he loses some flesh in the process. Gruesome descriptions, tense action. Thank goodness it’s a trilogy because you’ll want more after the first book.

Who am I?

I am a quiet horror and apocalyptic fiction author with a love for all Horror, but I started with zombies. I have eight published books (three of which are zombie apocalypse novels) and short stories in a handful of zombie anthologies. My favorite movies (Dawn of the Dead remake, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Rammbock: Berlin Undead) populate the zombie subgenre. I’ve participated in several zombie walks, written a zombie song and made a music video for it, and done zombie wound special effects makeup. Several of my plague short stories have won awards, including one about Norwegian sea zombies and another about a child-stealing plague.

I wrote...

Mistakes I Made During the Zombie Apocalypse

By Michelle Kilmer,

Book cover of Mistakes I Made During the Zombie Apocalypse

What is my book about?

Ian Ward can’t tell you what it’s like to survive a zombie apocalypse because he is dying in one. From a closet in a second-floor bedroom of an abandoned house, he recounts his tale of “survival” in a backwards journey through the poor choices that put him there.

In an undead world, death is only one mistake away. Mistakes I Made During the Zombie Apocalypse is the anti-survival guide that just might keep you alive.

Fatal Vision

By Joe McGinniss,

Book cover of Fatal Vision: A True Crime Classic

A highly controversial 1983 book about Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald who was accused of murdering his wife and two children in their home in 1970. Initially, MacDonald hired McGuiniss to prove his innocence, but the author eventually changed his mind about the physician’s guilt. He was convicted and the book underscored the perils of writers getting too close to their subjects, especially when they're criminals.

Who am I?

I’m deeply interested in the psychology and emotions behind human violence. I’ve been exploring this subject for the past 35 years in 13 non-fiction books about crime, many of them high-profile cases. I have a passion to understand more about this phenomenon.

I wrote...

Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer

By Stephen Singular,

Book cover of Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer

What is my book about?

Behind a facade of Midwestern normalcy, Dennis Rader hid a life of bloodlust, sadism, and murder beyond imagining. The upstanding family man, Scout leader, and church board president was well liked and trusted by his Wichita community. Kansans -- and all of America -- would never recover from the truth: He was BTK, the madman who bound, tortured, and killed ten victims over the course of three decades. Drawing on extensive interviews, including exclusive access to Rader's pastor and congregation, bestselling author Stephen Singular chronicles the horrific crimes, the investigation, the capture, and confession of BTK -- and, more deeply than any other account, reveals how his 2005 arrest shattered and challenged those in a circle of faith who thought they knew him best.

The World of Lore

By Aaron Mahnke,

Book cover of The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals

The Lore series, based on the World of Lore podcast, is a wonderful collection of the strange, bizarre, and creepy. This particular book focuses on people who gained fame through their disturbing hobbies and unpleasant predilections: serial killers, criminals, psychopaths, and other associated weirdos. I've always been drawn to collections like these, and this is one of the best. Check out the others in the series too.

Who am I?

Sylvia Shults is a librarian by day, a ghost hunter by night, and the “hostess with the mostest ghosties” of the Lights Out podcast. During her twenty-plus-year career in libraries, she has managed to smuggle enough words out in her pockets to put together several books of her own, including 44 Years in Darkness, Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, and Spirits of Christmas. She sits in dark, spooky places so you don't have to, and shares her experiences of her brushes with the other side of the Veil.

I wrote...

Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays

By Sylvia Shults,

Book cover of Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays

What is my book about?

It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring... but are you sure about that? The dark winter nights can hold many secrets, along with tales of both horror and hauntings. In this chilling book, Sylvia Shults has gathered over 120 tales of Yuletide Spirits, Holiday Horrors, and Christmas Catastrophes that give a new meaning to the "dead of winter."

These pages include rollicking legends of holiday helpers with dark sides; gripping accounts of Christmas season fires, train wrecks, and disasters; winter tales of phantoms and haunted houses; and a collection of Christmas spirits that are sure to send a shiver down your spine Hearkening back to the days of the paperback anthologies of the 1960s, you'll be delighted when you unwrap this package on Christmas morning and start turning page after page of eerie and frightening tales. It's the perfect collection for the spookiest time of the year.

Killing Women

By Rod Sadler,

Book cover of Killing Women: The True Story of Serial Killer Don Miller's Reign of Terror

This is a relatively new book, but not only does it take you through the case of serial killer Don Miller it explains how difficult it can be for the survivors to move on with their lives. In general, most people think that once the trial is over  that everyone can move on with their lives, but that’s not always the case. Killers like don Miller come up for parole, and that’s when the second part of the journey continues for these survivors. It becomes really hard to move forward with their lives when they have to relive the murders at every parole hearing until either the killer is released or dies.

Who am I & why this topic?

When writing about true crime it is important for me to write about the victim’s lives before, during, and even after the crime happened. Unlike the rest of us, after the trial ends, their life continues dealing with the after-effects including parole hearings for the murderer. I've written 12 true crime books and I am the host and producer of the popular true crime history radio show House of Mystery on NBC news talk radio network throughout the U.S. & Canada. I am autistic and I have a master’s degree in Music from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a bachelor of Arts in Criminology from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. 

I wrote...

Murder Times Six: The True Story of the Wells Gray Murders

By Alan R. Warren,

Book cover of Murder Times Six: The True Story of the Wells Gray Murders

What is my book about?

On August 2, 1982, three generations of a family set out on a camping trip – Bob and Jackie Johnson, their two daughters, Janet, 13 and Karen, 11, and Jackie's parents, George, and Edith Bentley. A month later, the Johnson family car was found off a mountainside logging road near Wells Gray Park completely burned out. In the back seat were the incinerated remains of four adults, and in the trunk were the two girls.

Murder Times Six shines a spotlight on the crime that captured the attention of a nation, recounts the narrative of a complex police investigation, and discusses whether a convicted mass murderer should ever be allowed to leave the confines of an institution. Most importantly, it tells the story of one family forever changed.

The Outlander

By Gil Adamson,

Book cover of The Outlander: A Novel

An astonishing book whose main character is known only as “the widow” until far into the narrative, and whose flight across the western wilderness, in 1903, is as lyrical, brutal, and visceral as a reader could want. This is a book whose writing stops you dead, even while you can’t wait to turn the page.  

Who am I?

I grew up in a quiet farming valley in Connecticut, but I moved to a wilderness farm in the maritime provinces of Canada, surrounded by spruce forests and close to the Bay of Fundy. My favourite places are those where there is more sky, seemingly, than land; more birds than people; more wind-blown fields than houses. My favourite books take us to landscapes where people must come to terms with environments whose extreme circumstances are challenges in and of themselves.

I wrote...

The Sea Captain's Wife

By Beth Powning,

Book cover of The Sea Captain's Wife

What is my book about?

Growing up on the Bay of Fundy in the 1860s, Azuba Galloway is determined to escape the confines of her town and live at sea. When she captures the heart of Captain Nathaniel Bradstock, she is sure her dreams are about to be realized, only to have pregnancy intervene. But when Azuba becomes embroiled in a scandal, Nathaniel must bring his young family abroad to save his reputation. Azuba gets her wish, but at what price?

Alone in a male world, and juggling the splendor of foreign ports with the terror of the open seas, Azuba must fight to keep her family together. The Sea Captain's Wife will captivate readers and critics alike.

The Light in the Ruins

By Chris Bohjalian,

Book cover of The Light in the Ruins

I loved learning about what happened in Italy when the Germans occupied it. In this story, a wealthy Italian family becomes too close to the Germans by inviting them to search the secret ruins behind their villa for antiquities. This relationship has deadly consequences years later as members of the family are killed. The book goes back and forth between 1943 and 1955 until we learn why someone is seeking revenge.  

Who am I?

I love to write stories of historical injustice, so this is mainly the genre I read. In recent years, many new novels merely rehashed the same theme, such as the horror show known as Auschwitz or the other camps. Although those are worthy of the people who died there, I’m always on the hunt for a fresh story that has never been told about those tragic years. 

I wrote...

When We Were Brave

By Karla M. Jay,

Book cover of When We Were Brave

What is my book about?

When We Were Brave tells three little-remembered stories that weave together and beg to be heard. We find a conflicted SS officer, Wilhelm Falk, who risks everything to escape the Wehrmacht and get out the message about the death camps. Izaak is a young Jewish boy whose positive outlook is challenged daily as each new perilous situation comes along. American citizens, Herbert Müller, and his family are sent back to the hellish landscape of Germany because of the DNA coursing through their veins. In the panorama of World War II, these are the high-stakes plots and endearing characters whose braided fates we pray will work out in the end.

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