True Crime under the Magnifying Glass

ladykillerGreat “True Crime” books bring together a compelling story and a talented author. I have been a fan of this genre since my teens. Unfortunately, there are a lot of badly written “ripped from the headlines” true crime titles that are produced simply to make as much money as you can as quickly as possible. This has given some people a negative impression of these books. However, there are a lot of great true crime writers whose stories rival bestselling mystery and thriller novels. Only in these cases, every crazy detail is true. These are some of my favorites.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood is considered by many to be the grandfather of the “True Crime” genre. Novelist Truman Capote wrote about the true shocking murder of  four members of a Kansas farm family in 1959. The book retells the brutal death of the family and follows the investigation, the trial and execution of the perpetrators. In addition to Capote’s haunting prose, it is fascinating to watch the detectives follow clues in an era where forensic investigation was still in its infancy.


The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

If you want your true crime to also give you a history lesson Erik Larson’s stories are never a disappointment. The Devil in the White City, tells two parallel and very different stories that rotate from chapter to chapter. One is about the notorious and some would say “first” serial killer, H.H. Holmes and the other follows the completion of the 1893 World’s Fair. It was surprising and a testament to the skill of the author to find how well the two narratives work together.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kake Summersale.

In 1860 three-year-old Saville Kent is found murdered at his family manor in England. The country is scandalized and demands answers. Scotland Yard sends one of its best, Inspector Jonathan Whicher. Filled with twists and turns, this case would almost destroy him. This is a great read for those that like their mysteries deeply and thoroughly researched. The author looks at the crime from a number of different angles, explores the background of witnesses, discusses numerous newspaper accounts and considers other crimes in England that might have some relevance. If you like every detail explored, this book will work for you.


Columbine by Dave Cullen

Ten years after the tragedy at Columbine High School, journalist Dave Cullen wrote what many considered the definitive book about what actually happened. Cullen takes a close look at many of the rumors that sprang up in the days after the shooting. Many of those rumors have been repeated for years as facts when the truth, which takes much longer to discover,  is much different. This award winning book is full of interviews and documents that shed new light on that dark day in April 1999. If you are interesting in looking for answers about Columbine that might give you a new perspective try A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold. This memoir looks at these tragic events through the eyes of one of the killer’s mother. She discusses her struggle to reconcile the monster that killed his classmates with the child she loved.

Mindhunter (1995) and Law and Disorder (2013) by John E. Douglas

John E. Douglas was one of the first criminal profilers for the FBI. He has written a number of books about the numerous investigations he participated in and has used his expertise to look at notorious cases (solved and unsolved). Douglas does not pull his punches when discussing the brutal and violent details of these crimes. His books are not for the faint of heart. He discusses what investigators look for when profiling a crime and compares what they were looking for to what was eventually found. John E. Douglas is a great read if you are a fan of Criminal Minds, Discovery ID or CSI.

83 Minutes: The Doctor, The Damage and the Shocking Death of Michael Jackson by Matt Richards

In late June 2009, the 24 hours news networks broke in with the shocking news about the death of Michael Jackson. In the months that followed an investigation would culminate with the arrest and later conviction of Jackson’s personal doctor for manslaughter. The story of his death is almost as strange and unconventional as his life. The author takes a look at the winding path that lead to this superstar’s death and if it was a crime or accident. Different readers may come to different conclusions about who was responsible for the singer’s death.


The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy The Shocking Inside Story by Ann Rule

Ann Rule is the queen of True Crime. All of her titles are worth reading. She writes with the skill of an investigative reporter but has a unique ability to humanize the victims who cannot speak for themselves. She is as focused on them as much as she is on the killers. I believe the most interesting of her titles is her first. In The Stranger Beside Me, she talks about the crimes of the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. In a shocking twist, Ann Rule worked with Bundy at a suicide hotline in Washington. As she was following the disappearances of young women across the state and considered writing about the case, she was sitting right next to their murderer, and she liked him.

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

Helter Skelter is another True Crime classic. It was written by the lead prosecutor of Charles Manson and his accomplices. Bugliosi has a great voice and obviously is writing about a case that he lived. If you are interested in courtroom drama of one of the “crimes of the century” this will give you a little bit of everything. This is a great read for fans of the Law and Order TV series.

Ladykiller by Donna Fielder

If you like to explore the dark side of your own hometown then Ladykiller is a must read. When Viki Lozano is found shot in her Denton County home, friends and authorities have a number of questions. Is it suicide or murder? Suspicious eyes fall on her husband, Denton police officer Bobby Lozano. An arrest does not come quickly. This story is full of local color, including a tenacious reporter that helped shine a light on this case when it was going cold. Plot twist: she ended up writing this book. Donna Fielder also wrote about another fascinating local crime in Let’s Kill Mom: Four Texas Teens and a Horrifying Murder Pact.

These are a few of my favorites.  Do you have a recommendations? Let us know in the comments.

~Kimberly – Emily Fowler Central Library

A Couple of Things about February

When I was much younger, I thought of February simply as the shortest month of the year, a month at the end of winter, marking time in anticipation of spring.  But there is quite a bit more to this month.

Last week we observed Valentine’s Day.  It is a time for celebrating being with the people you care about, and a time for lots of candy.  But here is a second take on Valentine’s Day – a time for self improvement.

Now, bear with me on this.   First, let me state that many of us need an excuse to continue any self-improvement projects we may have begun in early Janueat-with-intentionary.  More importantly, it is laudable for us to work towards improving ourselves, and thinking of the people important to us is an impetus for this.  But self-improvement can be a tall order – where to start? Where to find additional inspiration? The library, of course!

Among the most popular items in the library collection are books of self-help and improvement.  Topics range from interpersonal relations and self-motivation to health & wellness and financial success.  To find these, access the library catalog at and select “subject” or “keyword” from the dropdown menu next to the search box.  Relevant subjects include, but are certainly not limited to, Interpersonal relations , Self Help , Self Care – Health , and Conduct of Life .  These will lead you to lists of other, similar subjects or lists of items.  And just as you can surf the Internet, you can surf the catalog. Each record for a book, CD, DVD, etc. contains several links to other, similar, subjects (which lead you to other, similar items.) At the bottom of the page are suggestions of other things you might find interesting and useful.

The subject of self-improvement and inspiration brings me to one of the important things we commemorate in February – the birth of one of the greatest self-made men in American history.

Frederick Douglass was born in Maryland in February, 1818 (although in some of his writings he supposed, from tfrederick-douglass-selected-speeches-and-writingshe evidence available to him, that he had been born in 1817.*)  He learned to read, despite being a slave.  He engendered the trust that allowed him to learn and practice a trade while he was still a slave.  He also suffered severe beatings aautobiographiest the hands of a meaner master, but these did not destroy, and in fact emboldened, his defiance.  He plotted an escape, which was betrayed. But instead of accepting this fate, he later planned another escape.  On September 3, 1838, he made his way to Philadelphia and then New York.

Simply being free wasn’t enough for Douglass.  He lent his talents to the Abolitionist movement.  However, “His white colleagues treated him as a spectacle or a symbol rather than a person….”**  Some felt that audiences would not believe a man so eloquent and who had educated himself to such an extent had ever bblack-hearts-of-meneen a slave.  But he overcame this perception, and through his speeches, writings, and actions  made himself a leader in the struggle for abolition and civil rights.

Recently my colleague Chuck Voellinger, in honor of Black History Month, posted to this blog a piece about the Frederick Douglass school here in Denton.  I encourage you to look astruggle-against-slaveryt that post from February 8.  And I encourage you to explore items about Frederick Douglass, the Abolition Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement  that are available at the Denton Public Library.

Douglass, Frederick, Autobiographies, Library of America, 1994  pp. 140, 476

** Stauffer, John, Giants: the Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, Twelve, 2008  p. 89

Fred Kamman
South Branch

Flat Stanley in Denton


My granddaughter from Mississippi sent me a letter about a language arts project she has in school about Flat Stanley.  She sent a drawing of the character to me and asked for information about our community and to give a description of Flat Stanley’s adventures in Denton.  Here is my response:

Dear Clara,

I love my city and I’m happy to share information with your class at school.  The city of Denton was founded in 1866 and is the county seat of Denton County, Texas.  We currently have a population of over 115,000 people.  We are located at the northern point of what is called “The Golden Triangle” with the city of Dallas at the south-east point and the city of Fort Worth at the south-west point.  We have two universities in town.  The University of North Texas was established in 1890 and Texas Woman’s University followed in 1901.  We hold the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo each Fall and The Arts & Jazz Festival in the Spring.  We have two nicknames; Little D and Redbud capital of Texas.

I’ll let Flat Stanley tell you of our adventures together in his letter enclosed.

Sending you all my love,


Dear Clara,

I arrived at grandma’s house.  She had heard of my story in the library, but had never seen a flat boy.  She rushed me to Denton Regional Medical Center.  We arrived at the emergency room.  The doctors performed a CT of my entire body.  “Yes,” they said, “he is flat.”  “Maybe he will grow out of it.”  Grandma took it in stride and said “I know a way to fatten him up.”

Grandma took me to her favorite bakery in Denton.  The bakery has the most delicious foods.  There were cookies, brownies, pies, pastries, muffins, croissants, and bread galore.  Grandma bought enough to last all week.  I’m still flat.

Grandma took me to visit the Denton County Courthouse to see if there was any record of a flat boy in the county before.  No such record.

We then went to the Denton Public Library to read all my books and to do research on new technologies that might help restore me to my original boyhood.  Grandma took me to the maker space, The Forge, at the North Branch Library.  She thought maybe the 3D printer might work.  This 3D printer only makes plastic.  Maybe someday in the future we can make me a 3D boy again.  Grandma is posting my story on the library blog.  Now the citizens of Denton can help.

I have enclosed some pictures of grandma’s and my adventure this week.  I hope to see you again soon.

Best Regards,   Flat Stanley

What do you like best about our community?  How would you try to fix Flat Stanley?  Or would you accept him as he is?  Where would you send Flat Stanley next?  Come read books about Flat Stanley with your children and go on an adventure.

flat-stanley  stanley-flat-again  flat-stanleys-worldwide-adventures

flat-stanleys-worldwide-adventures3  flat-stanleys-worldwide-adventures2

May Beth Everett
Library Assistant II – North Branch Library

In The Weeds 2.8.17: Frederick Douglass School

In honor of Black History Month, this week we will be highlighting the Fred Douglass School. The first “Colored School” was established in 1876 in Quakertown, the African-American community located in what is now known as Quakertown Park just a few blocks northeast from the Square. Located at the corner of Terry and Holt Streets until it burned in 1913, the school was named after famed abolitionist, statesman, social reformer, and writer Frederick Douglass. After the mysterious fire, the school was rebuilt at its current site in Southeast Denton and retained that name until the late 1940s when it was renamed for longtime principal and community leader Fred Moore.

Here is early principal J. T. McDonald:

mcdonald Next we have Mr Fred Moore:


Finally, here is a class photo from 1941 showing the exterior of the building which is still extant at 815 Cross Timber St in Southeast Denton:

1941 Fred Douglas School


“The Quakertown Story”, The Denton Review, Denton County Historical Society, Winter 1991.

“Quakertown: 1870-1922”, Denton County Historical Commission, 1991.

Written by Chuck Voellinger. Questions and comments can be directed to

Denton Public Library Book Sale


In my younger days I wrote a weekly, family-oriented column for the newspaper where I worked. My stories were self-deprecating and unapologetic, funny and always true (albeit a little exaggerated at times).

I once confessed that I was one those guys frantically roaming the aisles at the local pharmacy at 5:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. We didn’t have cell phones so I was already the butt of many red-rose jokes at the three sold-out florists in town.

I was also a Christmas Procrastinator, and though my immediate family was well-claused each year my siblings and others opened many a can of mixed nuts and coffee cups filled with strawberry nougat candies.

All of that changed one year when a friend coerced me into our public library’s book sale. I had no aversion; I just never made time for it. It was an annual event and the tables of books, cassettes and VHS tapes covered the floor of a convention center.

On my way to the baseball books I passed a section of general interest, coffee table-style books. And it hit me. I was standing knee-deep in a trove of nostalgic, sentimental treasures for family and friends. I loaded up, and visiting the sale each year became tradition. Though they are difficult to find nowadays, I once filled my bag with a dozen of those crusty, old yearbooks the encyclopedia companies made. I found yearbooks for every person’s birth year. Those were great birthday presents.

The books you search for and hand-pick are highly personal gifts and show a lot of effort. Add a penned note inside the cover and you make a memory. This past Christmas I gave someone special an aged and well-worn copy of the Grinch. Never mind that I paid a dollar for it at the Friends of the Denton Public Libraries book sale. It was a very special gift.

Did I mention that the Friends’ next quarterly book sale is this Saturday, Feb. 4, beginning at 10 a.m.? Almost everything in the sale costs 50 cents or a dollar. And as the staff member who inspects every donation to the library, I am confident telling you there are some treasures in there. Don’t forget, Valentine’s Day is coming up in 10 or 11 days, sometime around then. You should stop by the sale at North Branch Library, 3020 N. Locust, on Saturday to say hello.


The Library Has Poetry

T.S. Eliot loved the library.

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”

– T.S. Eliot

From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (Poem by T.S. Eliot)
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;”

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.
Is it perfume from a dress that makes me so digress?
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker.
Squeeze the universe into a ball.
I have to do the library blog.
I think I’ll promote poetry.
No, I am not Prince Hamlet.
I am full of high sentence but a bit obtuse.
I grow old. I grow old.
Do I dare to eat a peach?
I have heard the mermaids singing each to each
’til human voices wake us and we drown.
The library has poetry.

Check it out.
Bill Smith
South Branch

New Year, New Language

How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Maybe I should have chosen eating better or exercising more, but my resolution this year was to finish learning Spanish. I say finish, but really I just want to learn it. If you’re like me, you probably took some Spanish in high school. Maybe college, too. You memorized all the conjugations for the different verb forms, knew the difference between ser and estar (sort of), and you were beginning to hear familiar phrases in some Spanish you overheard around town. Then, you got on with your life and promptly forgot everything you learned. Or maybe you’ve never spoken a word of Spanish (or any other language besides English) in your life. Now what?

Enter Pronunciator, a new language learning software package available through the Denton Public Library. Late last year, I began experimenting with software like Mango Languages and Duolingo (two different online language learning platforms).  They were okay, but my New Year’s resolution needed something new and fresh, something more in-depth, so I gave Pronunciator a try. I’m really glad I did.

The first thing I did was go to the Denton Public Library’s website ( From there, I navigated to the online catalog and then selected the Research Tools link. That led me to a page where I could select a Language Learning link, which led to Pronunciator. It sounds like a lot of clicking, but once you get to this point, things get a lot more streamlined.

You can either choose an option called Instant Access or you can register as a user. I clicked on the Register link, which allowed me to download the amazing app that goes along with the software. Just enter your email address and create a password, and then you can download the app. A quick note: remember that your “Student Name” is actually your email address. That threw me for a minute.

Now to the actual software. You will find 80 different languages to choose from, including two different Spanish language learning options: Spanish (Spain) and Spanish (Latin America). I chose the Latin American option because, like the song says, I’ve never been to Spain. Once you get to the root menu for your chosen language, you’ll find a wide range of choices, including Postcards, Drills, Quizzes, Audio, Phrasebook, and ProRadio. Each section has different options, and lessons can be downloaded for offline use.

Like many other language learning software packages, Pronunciator scores you on how well you pronounce words and phrases. I never got higher than 47%, which is probably about right. The ProRadio function allows users to listen to popular Spanish songs in a variety of genres, bridging the gap between language and culture in a simple yet ingenious way. It might also be a great way to dance off those extra holiday pounds while learning some Spanish vocabulary.

Now to the best part: ProLive Conversation Classes. These classes are scheduled for certain times during the week and feature a living, breathing instructor you can interact with in real time. The classes are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and they are limited to five students each. Having participated in one of these classes, I have some advice. If you go through the app, you also have to have the Go to Meeting app downloaded on your device. When I tried to download it, I realized I didn’t have the latest iOS software for my iPhone, so I couldn’t download it in time for the class.

But guess what? No problem! I jumped on my computer, called a phone number, and I was video chatting online as the audio came through my telephone. It was so cool! You can also interact using a headset, but I did not have one handy. The class I attended included the instructor, myself, and three other students. We played vocabulary building games, talked with each other, and it was all in Spanish! I think there were about four or five English words that were used in the entire 30 minutes that I participated. It was a stress-free way to practice listening to and pronouncing Spanish. I was impressed by both the functionality of the software as well as the knowledge and demeanor of the instructor.

This is it. This is your year. Go for it. No matter what your New Year’s resolution may have been, try Pronunciator as soon as possible. Regardless of where you are in your language-learning journey, this is a great tool you can use from home. Plus, it’s free of charge with your Denton Public Library card. So unlike that new gym membership you got in January, it won’t hurt a bit or cost a thing. ¡Buena suerte!


Kerol Harrod
Emily Fowler Central Library