There’s something so spectacular about a great true crime podcast, which is why a new one seems to pop up almost every day. Just like a great book, each podcast has its own very unique angle and tone that make it memorable. Below is a list of some of my personal favorite true crime podcasts, in no particular order. I’ll admit that I’ve been accumulating this list for a while and I likely haven’t heard of some of the newer ones yet, so feel free to drop a line in the comments if there’s one I’m missing.
Happy listening, true crime fanatics.
2. Someone Who Knows Something
4. Generation Why
5. True Murder
6. Actual Innocence
7. True Crime Garage
11. The Mind of a Murderer
12. True Crime Uncensored with Burl Barer
15. 48 Hours
Have you listened to any of these true crime podcasts? What are your favorites?
P.S. Stay up to date on all things true crime! Sign up for my monthly newsletter.
The inner workings of motorcycle clubs often remain shrouded in mystery. In THE LAST CHICAGO BOSS: My Life with the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club (St. Martin’s Press; On-sale: September 19, 2017), Peter “Big Pete” James reveals how he became the “Godfather” of the Chicago Outlaws, taking readers inside the secretive club. Written with Kerrie Droban, the critically-acclaimed and award-winning author of Prodigal Father, Pagan Son and Vagos, Mongols, and Outlaws, THE LAST CHICAGO BOSS reads like “Sons of Anarchy” come to life. The story is made all the more vivid through never-before-revealed interviews, police files, wiretaps, recordings, and trial transcripts.
Even as a child, Big Pete had grand ambitions. Whether it was besting his father at chess or betting on horse races with his Uncle Tony, Big Pete collected lessons on power, money, and human nature. With nothing less than becoming the boss of Chicago on his mind, Big Pete began working his way into the Outlaws, determined to become a trusted member. Before long, he was a full patch member, working steadily up the ladder. He first set his sights on the Angels, the Outlaws’ main rival. He organized members and launched “Angel Hunts” all over Chicago. As head Outlaw, Big Pete attempted something unprecedented—he persuaded thousands of members of splintered Outlaw clubs to unite. These formerly discontented bikers came together in a new, more powerful, group. They became an extraordinarily commanding criminal syndicate involved in extortion, contract murders, drugs and arms trafficking, money laundering, and assassinations.
Then one day Big Pete found himself doubled over in pain, his body shutting down with fatigue. The diagnosis was cancer—eventually he would have a kidney removed. His cancer would change everything—he realized he could no longer run his club and battle his disease. In a painful process, Big Pete watched his club crumble.
Readers get unprecedented access to the inner workings of a motorcycle club from the perspective of the man who led them in this extraordinary memoir.
About The Authors
Peter “Big Pete” James was known as the “Godfather” of the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club having formed and commanded a coalition of 38 motorcycle clubs and 8 Outlaw Motorcycle Club Chapters in the Chicagoland area in his twenty year career.
Kerrie Droban is the co-author of Prodigal Father, Pagan Son: Growing Up Inside the Dangerous World of the Pagans Motorcycle Club and author of Running with the Devil: The True Story of the ATF’s Infiltration of the Hells Angels, winner of the USA Book News National Book Award for Best Memoir/Autobiography and two-time winner for their True Crime award. She is also the author of Vagos, Mongols & Outlaws: My Infiltration of America’s Deadliest Biker Gangs, which is now a television series entitled “Gangland Undercover” produced by the History Channel. She is a criminal defense attorney in Arizona.
For more information, or to set up an interview with Peter “Big Pete” James and/or Kerrie Droban contact Rebecca Lang, Publicity Manager at Rebecca.Lang@stmartins.com or 646-307-5573
See my list of best true crime books below!
[Excerpts and summaries pulled from respective links.]
1. Sleepers by by Lorenzo Carcaterra
The true story of a group of four boys brought up in New York’s notorious Mafia-run Hell’s Kitchen during the 1960s. After nearly causing a man’s death, they were sent to a reformatory where guards routinely brutalized them, leaving them with nothing but an undying loyalty to one another.
2. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.
3. Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abignale
Known by the police of twenty-six foreign countries and all fifty states as “The Skywayman,” Abagnale lived a sumptuous life on the lam–until the law caught up with him. Now recognized as the nation’s leading authority on financial foul play, Abagnale is a charming rogue whose hilarious, stranger-than-fiction international escapades, and ingenious escapes-including one from an airplane-make Catch Me If You Can an irresistible tale of deceit.
4. Columbine by Dave Cullen
What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.
5. Shot in the Heart by Mikhal Gilmore
Gary Gilmore, the infamous murderer immortalized by Norman Mailer in The Executioner’s Song, campaigned for his own death and was executed by firing squad in 1977. Writer Mikal Gilmore is his younger brother. In Shot in the Heart, he tells the stunning story of their wildly dysfunctional family destroyed by a multigenerational history of child abuse, alcoholism, crime, adultery, and murder. Mikal, burdened with the guilt of being his father’s favorite and the shame of being Gary’s brother, gracefully and painfully relates a murder tale “from inside the house where murder is born… a house that, in some ways, [he has] never been able to leave.” Shot in the Heart is the history of an American family inextricably tied up with violence, and the story of how the children of this family committed murder and murdered themselves in payment for a long lineage of ruin.
6. The Other Side by Lacy Johnson
Lacy Johnson’s rich and poetic memoir, The Other Side, chronicles her brutal kidnapping and imprisonment at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, her dramatic escape, and her hard-fought struggle to recover.
7. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes—the moment she hears him speak of his crimes — she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.
P.S. Looking for another suggestion? My newest book, The Last Chicago Boss: My Life with the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club, is out now!
Last year I discovered something extraordinary, a family secret that blew me away.
I started to watch James Solomon’s fascinating documentary called The Witness about the 1964 Kitty Genovese murder case and the so-called “38 residents of Kew Gardens in Queens, NY who were pilloried in the press for their apparent indifference” to her screams as she was stabbed to death for thirty minutes in the street. In the decades following, Genovese was held up as a tragic victim of “bystander apathy” but the documentary reveals Kitty to be “so much more than her last 30 minutes” and the “38” to be so much more than mere scapegoats.
Particularly fascinating was The New York Times’ original report on those “38 Bad Samaritans” spearheaded by editor A.M. Rosenthal (none other than my Uncle!). Who knew that Rosenthal reported, covered and wrote about the most notorious true crime story of his generation and purposefully misreported the facts because his version made a more compelling story?
That “false story” nearly destroyed Kitty’s brother (who narrated the documentary) as he spent most of his adult life searching for the truth. What he found was surprising; as the brother confronted his sister’s killer in prison, he actually entertained the notion of forgiveness and in the truth suggested that “mercy, rather than danger, might be lying in wait for all of us.”
It is a sobering thought and a reminder to those of us who write true crime, that truth telling is a huge responsibility and has repercussions. In my uncle’s version humanity was cruel and cowardly by nature, but the brother’s documentary reveals the truth:
“Who we really are, and how we might react [when faced with criminal conduct] is a mystery.”
For two years I interviewed The Last Chicago Boss; we spoke every Sunday morning for nearly three hours. Inexplicably, the recording always stopped at 2 hours and 59 minutes. He was dying and I was like his Priest in Confessional, listening intently, offering him prompts, marveling at his plot twists and character developments. He had spent his career avoiding being recorded; the fact that he allowed me to tape our conversations was not only extraordinary but a testament to the trust he placed in me. Be sure to tune in late September when some of those conversations will be replayed on TheLastChicagoBoss.com.
Until then, you can hear more behind the scenes as I discuss with John Taylor on Twisted Podcast the thrills (and perils) of writing The Last Chicago Boss and other true crime “biker books.”