Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: Bonnie Bucqueroux's Speaking of Murder

Mason area author Bonnie Bucqueroux's new paperback book is only 120 pages long but it packs a powerful punch.

        "Speaking of Murder" (Crime News Press, $5.95) is subtitled "Media Autopsies of Famous Crime Cases."  It deals with an unusual subject, examining the sensationalized treatment of major crime cases by an assortment of different media.

        Although it's heavily footnoted and includes a detailed index, this isn't your ordinary textbook - it's a fascinating book that can be enjoyed by the average reader who has an interest in true crime cases.
        It focuses on three major crimes that received extensive coverage by the press involving Fatty Arbuckle, Kitty Genovese and Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood."

        Bucqueroux examines the press treatment of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, accused in 1921 of assaulting Virginia Rappe, who died four days later.

        Arbuckle, one of the world's best loved and highly paid comedians, was put under an intense media spotlight and stood trial three times for the crime.

        In an age with no scandal magazines, entertainment television shows or computer networks, newspapers received significant attention.

        Media frenzy in the 1920's was incredible, with slanted banner headlines and biased news stories about the case abounding.

        The author systematically details flaws in reporting and the tendency to exaggerate unsupported facts; journalistic ethics are deeply probed.

        In March 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was brutally raped and stabbed to death near her Queens, N.Y. apartment by a stranger.

        A New York Times newspaper reporter discovered that there were 38 witnesses who heard her screams during the half-hour attack but did virtually nothing.

        The author, who carefully examines the extensive coverage of the case, details the assorted social and legal issues involved.

        The last section of the book is devoted to the horrifying 1964 murder case in Kansas where four members of a family were brutally murdered.

        Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" was released as a "non-fiction novel" which dealt with the horrific case, the later arrest, trial and execution of the two depraved killers.  The tremendous toll it took on Capote and his career is expertly analyzed.

        Bucqueroux continues teaching at MSU's School of Journalism where she served as coordinator of the Victims and Media Program.

        This is the first of 4 projected volumes; the next book will focus on Cleveland physician Sam Shepard, serial killer Donald Gene Miller and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

        For mor information, visit her website: www.speakingofmurder.wordpress.com

      Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987. 

This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, September 2, 2012.

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