American Murder: Criminals, Crimes, and the Media

American Murder by Mike Mayo

Mass murderers, spree killers, outlaws—if they’re notorious enough, Hollywood loves to get ahold of them and turn them into folk heroes or vicious monsters.

Investigating the way Hollywood scoops up notorious criminals and turns them into legends, this entertaining who’s-who guide provides thumbnail sketches of such killers as Ma Barker, Black Beard, Al Capone, John Wesley Hardin, and Charles Starkweather.

Noting that some figures are glamorized in popular culture (Jesse James), while others are demonized (Charles Manson), this encyclopedic collection explores the legends’ emotional truths as depicted in movies, stories, and songs. Facts of the real cases behind these notorious criminals are also presented, including the landmark rulings that pioneered new approaches to criminal justice.


“There is much to praise. … an excellent resource, and is recommended.” —American Reference Books

“There are many true-crime compilations from which to choose, but a stronger focus on movies and how they have altered the legends may make this [book] worth purchasing. It’s likely to be a hit .” —Library Journal

“Written in an informal style . . . this “encyclopedia” offers a rogue’s gallery of famous US killings, killers, and other scoundrels.” —Book News

“Shaping Public Perception. Mayo’s breezy and often-irreverent style sheds some fascinating light on events about which we think we know, and subjects ranging from outlaws and mobsters to serial killers. Despite its grim subject matter, it’s a fun read.” —The Roanoke Times

Books by Mike Mayo