Southern Fried Crime by Ron Franscell and Gregg Olsen

This little compilation is basically condensed true crime stories set in the Southern United States. I would like to say there are a whole bunch of new and interesting cases to explore here, but it is territory that has been well trodden over the years by many of the true crime authors with which we are all familiar.

The first story concerns Dean Corll, known as the Candyman who terrorized teenagers in Texas. Say that three times fast. Less is known about Corll than most others because the term serial killer had not yet been invented and often he is lumped under mass murder due to his crimes pre-dating the designation.

The Darkest Tower covers Charles Whitman. While what he did was heinous, he also realized that he was having physical and psychiatric symptoms and if the university psychiatrist had perhaps been a bit more pro-active, his brain tumor would have been found before he went on a mass murdering spree at the University of Texas.

Nightmare at Noon covers the Luby’s cafeteria massacre in Texas and is the last story set in that state in this book. Another terrible tragedy and the information here is old stuff.

The next stories are set in Louisiana. The first in the 1940’s concerns an illicit love affair and greed. And in good old southern gothic style, ends in an alligator infested swamp.

The second story is from New Orleans in 1973 and has a bit of politics involving the Black Panthers but ends with a Howard Johnson’s hotel sniper. I had read or seen something of this at one time but did not know the details.

The last Louisiana story was about one of the Baton Rouge serial killers – Derek Todd Lee. This was of passing interest because I have been watching “The Killing Season” on tv and at one time, Derek Todd Lee was one of their suspects. This was a survivors story which is a refreshing change in the true crime scene.

Another alligator infested bayou and love triangle completes the Louisiana portion of this book. This story is another throwback, occurring in 1927 and proving that ugly crime stories occur through the ages.

The book concludes with four stories set in Mississippi. Like the rest of the book, a combination of contemporary stories and historical ones. All par for the course true crime writing.

The whole thing is mildly entertaining and if true crime is a favorite, readers will like a bite sized helping rather than a novel that delves deep into the investigation. The stories are told without all the technical crime fighting details. An easy read.

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