True Crime is tough to write. If done poorly, it can range from terribly dry to scholocky and sensational. But, when you manage to find the balance, it’s perfect. James Renner is one of those authors who manages to find the perfect balance. But, what makes Renner so great is that he doesn’t just stop at True Crime. He’s also written his fair share of fiction titles, as well. So, for this Author Spotlight, I’ll be dividing up my list into two parts: True Crime and Fiction, in order to highlight both aspects of this amazing author’s writing.
My first introduction to Renner was through his book True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray. This is a chilling read, and utterly fascinating. In this book, Renner shares his experiences as a reporter, and how investigating a case can become an obsession, covering everything from the disappearance of Maura Murray to Renner’s childhood, and the PTSD he developed from his time as a crime reporter. It’s not an easy read, but it’s impossible to put down.
Fair warning, some of the entries in The Serial Killer’s Apprentice are (thankfully) no longer unsolved crimes (such as the abduction of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus). But, even so, this is a fascinating look at a collection of chilling crimes that took place right here in the Cleveland area. From the murders of Dan Ott, Lisa Pruett, and Ramona Krotine, to the mysterious suicide of Joseph Newton Chandler, this book packs both a chilling sense of mystery as well as a local appeal.
Renner credits Amy Mihaljevic for his interest in true crime, ever since he saw her picture on a missing person’s poster as a child, and vowed to find her. Of course, Clevelanders know how the story ends. Amy’s body was discovered in a field, months later, and her killer was never convicted. Amy: My Search for Her Killer, chronicles Renner’s attempts to find answers to a 15 year old cold case and finally bring justice to Amy and her family.
In West Akron, Ohio, there was a strange man, who wore mittens, even in the heat of July. He had no family, no friends, and was known simply as “The Man from Primrose Lane“. And one day, someone murdered him. Four years later, author David Neff is still coming to terms with his wife’s suicide. Desperate for a distraction, when a friend tells him about the Man from Primrose Lane, Neff decides to take on the case and find out what really happened. Needless to say, the answer is far more complicated and dangerous than he could ever have imagined.
History teacher Jack Felter spends his time in his hometown, caring for his aging father, who suffers from dementia, and who is quickly losing his memory. Jack wishes that he could forget, too…about his hometown, the woman he fell in love with, and his former best friend, Tony, who stole her away from him. But, when Tony goes missing, Jack gets pulled into the mystery of what happened to him, teaming up with a paranoid young boy named Cole, who happened to be one of Tony’s last patients before he vanished. Jack and Cole soon find themselves caught up in a mystery that takes them across the country, and a shadowy program known as The Great Forgetting.