It used to be that the genre of true crime magazines was a powerhouse. Even J. Edgar Hoover subscribed to True Detective Magazine. The articles were often written by reporters covering the cases or by officers themselves, (using pseudonyms). Often times the photographs were pulled right out of the case files or from newspaper archives. For many people, it gave them their first true exposure to the genre. The magazines were pulp quality, gritty, often with sensationalized titles.
In the 1960’s and 70’s readership dropped. The solution that most publishers went with was to attempt to entice readers with covers showing women in various stages of undress, tied up, helpless against their attackers. The magazines were already seen as seedy and the covers didn’t help. After all, reading about murder, rape and robbery was seen as fringe reading. The new covers were appealing more to sex and drug crimes. I actually remember as a kid when they went from being in the rack with every other magazine to being in the exclusive rack with Playboy and Penthouse…and thus out of my reach.
The other thing that killed the true crime magazine was the fact that there was a rise in books on the subject. People often wanted more than just an article on a particular case. As the books increased in sales, proportionally the magazines lost readers. By the 1980’s they had all but disappeared. We’ve been left with only the occasional Life special edition dealing with crimes to fill this gap.
Welcome to the 21st century. A UK publisher, Imagine Publishing, has taken a defibrillator to the genre, pumping in the voltage and releasing a new true crime magazine. I found out about the magazine because I was asked to pen some articles for it (in the second and third issues).
What the editors have done is to take the basic concept of a true crime magazine and make it highly engaging for a contemporary audience. They moved away from the shady-side of true crime visually. They utilize a lot of graphics in the form of maps, blueprints, etc., to really engage the reader visually. They’ve also brought in some strong writers (no, I’m not tooting my own horn here – give me a break). I like the fact there’s book reviews in the issues too.
They are filling a gap in the marketplace rather brilliantly. Finally, those of us that like true crime can secure a monthly fix. For those of you interested, the second issue will have an article on the Daisy Zick murder. What’s new. and in the article, is someone got me the layout of the house so I could provide a new level of detail to the murder scene. The third issue of the magazine will have an article I’ve written on the Colonial Parkway Killings in Williamsburg VA. These crimes have really intrigued me on a number of fronts. Having a serial killer possibly still on the loose is the kind of thing that always attracts my attention.
For me, writing for the magazine is helping me explore some crimes at a more cursory level, without all of the in-depth research I have to do to write a book. It also allows me to present some material that has surfaced after a book has come out, which has been resigned to my blog alone.
If you’re a true crime fan, check it out. In the US, I know they carry this at Barnes & Noble.