By Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian
When lecturing to college students, history professor Judith Shaw advised including murder and sex. That was the surefire way of getting—and keeping—the students’ attention. The same holds true for catching the eye of readers. Recently our display of cozy little mysteries just sat there but once I changed it out to true crime, two titles were taken after only 30 minutes. Murders, especially with regional ties, are popular choices for many.
Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” is the granddaddy of the true crime genre and the fact that it took place in Kansas makes it even more eerie to read. However, if you want to learn about more than that one crime, you have a number of choices. “Beyond Cold Blood: the KBI from Ma Barker to BTK” by Larry Welch, the tenth director of the agency, is the first history of the KBI, spanning the years 1937 to 2007.
“Shadow on the Hill” by Diana Staresinic-Deane recounts a brutal murder in 1925 Coffey County. Books about more recent murders include Ann Rule’s book “Bitter Harvest” (about the mother in Prairie Village accused of killing her children in 1995) and several different titles about the BTK serial killer in Wichita during the 1970’s until his capture in the 1990’s.
But the most popular in our corner of the state is definitely the Benders. The mystery surrounding the murderous family in the Cherryvale area certainly piques the interest of many. Everyone has their favorite theory of who Ma, Pa, John, and Kate were and where they ended up. I suspect that if they had been caught, the interest in them would have died long ago. Instead, the story lives on.
You can hear more about them a week from Sunday, October 29th, when Max McCoy will be at the library to present “Bloody: The Story of the Benders in Kansas,” which will include an update on plans to excavate the land where they lived and killed unsuspecting passersby.