True Crime A To Z: L

Welcome to Best Evidence’s crime-alphabet project! Not sure what the hell we’re doing here? Start at the beginning! And it’s never too late to add your own thoughts.

Today, we reach the halfway point of this project with a couple of foreseeable picks…and a couple you might not have thought of. [waves cheerfully from the Lucan wikihole Margaret just dispatched me down] What fresh L is this? Read on.

SDB: The Last Rampage. Gary Tison is one of the most hateful subjects in true crime, in the sniffy Southern sense of that word; other criminals are crueller or more lethal, but you’ll have a tough time finding a more concentrated piece of shit than Tison…and yet, the story of his escape is riveting and suspenseful. Amazon says James W. Clarke’s book has been called “the In Cold Blood of the American West,” and I’m fine with that. I can’t speak to the various films made of the story, although one of these days I’m going to do a Brief comparing and contrasting…but the book manages to be a nail-biter even though you know the outcome already. If you liked Norco ’80, you’ll love Clarke’s Last Rampage. (Honorable mentions to Law & Order’s first season, which consistently ripped from the local headlines of my childhood and adolescence; and to directors Bart Layton (American Animals; The Imposter) and Spike Lee. I feel like Lee isn’t in the conversation enough in the genre, but between 4 Little Girls, When The Levees Broke, and the imperfect but intense Summer Of Sam’s flawless rendition of a crazy-making NYC heatwave, he should be.)

Susan Howard: Lindbergh baby kidnapping. The phrase “Crime of the Century” gets thrown around a lot, but the 1932 kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. fits the bill. (Honorable mentions: Leopold and Loeb; Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker; Leonard Lake.)

Margaret Howie: Lord Lucan. Lucan’s whereabouts are like Jimmy Hoffa’s, a combination of a cultural MacGuffin and ready-baked punchline. But unlike Hoffa, Lucan has no other achievements to his name aside from a doozy of a disappearance. A wastrel aristocrat who skated by on wealth and privilege, “Lucky” Lucan was a legendary gambler who racked up losses but had enough high-society allure to be considered for the role of James Bond. Ultimately, he was a shabby piece of work who stalked and attacked his estranged wife, then (most likely) killed his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett. But shortly after Rivett’s murder, Lucan evaporated off the face of the earth. The speculation cottage industry that sprang up in his wake has kept making headlines for decades, with the Daily Mail reporting a sighting as recently as this January. Take it with an ocean’s worth of salt. (Honorable mentions: Leaving Neverland (2019); Lorena (2019); The Laramie Project (2002).)

Kevin Smokler: Lost Girls. Robert Kolker's 2012 first book, about an unsolved serial killer operating on Long Island, ingeniously chose the victims’ families as its main characters. His confident, effortless and deeply moral attempt to tell their stories and sit with their horrific bond to each other has Lost Girls fast assuming a place on a modern true-crime Mount Rushmore. 

True Crime A To Z is available to all subscribers…and we’d love your input! Comment on our picks, and tell an interested friend!

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