Fair play disclaimer. I write for WildBlue Press and was provided a digital copy of this book to review at my option. I chose to write this review because, well, I liked the book.
I recently wrote a blog post on people who visit crime scenes. I was behind the curve – Ron Francell recognized this a long time ago. His “Outlaw” series of books explore a city or region, unearthing long lost true crime treasures. These books are a gentle mix of history, true crime, and travel guide – a unique if not compelling combination. I’ve read two of his books in this series and the new one, Outlaw Los Angeles, was a rollercoaster ride through the sordid and violent history of LA. As with all of the books in the series, Ron provides GPS coordinates of crime scenes and grave sites for those that want to experience the locale themselves.
I have long maintained that if you want to know the history of a city or its people, look to the crimes that defined them. Franscell has done an outstanding job of taking us through the eerie and sometimes bizarre past of the City of Angels. I went in looking for the crimes I knew about, the Black Dahlia, for example. What stunned me were the number of crimes I knew nothing about. Even with Discovery ID covering so many historical crimes, Franscell has dug up a myriad of intriguing and captivating true crime yarns.
The coverage of cold cases in the book was good, balancing storytelling with facts. Franscell provides a good overview of them, often outlining the various suspects. You have to bear in mind with some of these cases the numbers of suspects could be long and tedious. The author, thankfully, does not delve into every crackpot theory.
None of these are very long, making this a perfect beach read. Ron knows just how deep to take the reader into the subject, without diving down any rabbit holes. His prose are witting and wry at times, with obvious care to entertain the reader. I found myself humbled at some of his text in the Manson chapter. Franscell sets the bar pretty high for those of us in the genre.
It was a smart move to dedicate a chapter to Charles Manson. To have included it any other fashion would have been a distraction. With all of the locations he has tagged in the text, you are tricked into realizing the scope of the Manson family’s reign of terror.
This is not the kind of true crime book that breaks new ground, nor does it claim that it does. Instead it provides a wonderful tapestry of the darker side of Los Angeles in a comprehensive and entertaining format. Outlaw Los Angeles is a tour guide for every true crime fan that visits the city – written by one of the contemporary masters of the craft.
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