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Read/Watch List: Slow crime/True Crime/Pulp Noir

   Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 - by: Jessica Fitzpatrick

Here’s a new genre for fans of True Detective and the like: Slow crime. Back in March, Matt Zoller Seitz, TV critic and editor-in-chief of rogerebert.com, described slow-crime in an article for New York Magazine as a genre that reflects more recent groundbreaking entertainment, including True Detective, the podcast Serial, American Crime, The Jinx and The Killing. The most distinctive characteristic of the genre is its pacing and its attention to detail. As opposed to episodic crime shows, which will often neatly wrap a case in the span of 55 minutes, slow crime serials follow one case through an entire season, exposing a larger theme or attitude than the case itself. Slow crime attempts to relate that the facts of the case, slowly revealed over the course of the show, suggest greater implications for society.

Seitz, in terming the genre slow crime, did so to contrast it with more traditional episodic cop dramas, but when I became a fan of True Detective during its first season last year, I connected it with much more seasoned genres of True Crime and Noir or pulp detective fiction. There are similarities: True Crime and Slow Crime address the whole story of a case, taking time to reexamine every detail, to attempt to uncover a truth or reason, a mission that often ends in vain. Similar to Noir or Pulp crime fiction which features a beleaguered detective, a little rough around the edges, who is at odds with the traditional structure, Slow Crime employs experimental methods to solve the crime.

So, since there’s a week between episodes of True Detective, the next season of Serial doesn’t start until the Fall, and it doesn’t look like there will be any more episodes of The Jinx, here’s a reading/ watching list to keep your suspicions piqued.

In cold blood In Cold Blood

A classic of slow/true crime, Capote follows the case of two men sentenced to death for inexplicably murdering a family in western Kansas. Capote began his research for the book before the arrest and conviction, and thus transcribes first-hand accounts of the trial and sentencing, and spends an immense amount of time interviewing the inmates sentenced to death row. The level of grisly detail, as well as the way a cool, measured tone directly and deliberately contrasts the overwhelmingly chaotic horror of the crime, makes this novel the preeminent example of the genre.

To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee and Capote met as children (the character of Dill is actually based on the young Capote) and she accompanied Capote on his assignment to cover the murders in Kansas. Lee's own novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, (her only published work until July 2015,) tackles similar themes of truth and justice. While not as bleak in tone as the others in this list, the setting, the mystery of Boo, Scout’s peculiar perspective and the sinister, base nature of the Ewells', places this novel in the southern-Gothic canon.

Helter Skelter Helter Skelter

Diving back now to the bleak, dark recesses of humanity, the realms of the Yellow King, in Helter Skelter, the number one best-selling true crime narrative, former L.A. District Attorney Vincent Buligosi provides a firsthand account of one of America’s most notorious serial killers, Charles Manson, whom he successfully prosecuted against in 1969. Buligosi’s densely detailed prose, including intimate knowledge of the evidence and the grisly details of the man, his madness and the seven murders he orchestrated and carried out with “The Family”, makes this work a must read for True Detective fans.

The Wire The Wire

Despite being considered one of the greatest American TV dramas, (in my opinion, True Detective has much to thank it for) The Wire debuted in 2002 to only mild reviews. The series’ creator David Simon was already known in television for Homicide, another cult-hit cop show. The Wire, however, achieved something different: the series addressed the issues of law enforcement in the city as it relates to each of five other city institutions. The appeal of the show wasn’t immediate perhaps because of the lack of recognizable markers that made hits out of other cop series. In The Wire, the police equipment wasn’t flashy. The camera work was composed of straightforward shots using no filters (though artfully so). The gang members, drug dealers, politicos and bosses were three-dimensional rather than card board stand-ins for criminals. But perhaps most pertinent to this discussion, it took an entire season to bring down a corrupt entity by exploring the way crime is inevitable as long as no one addresses the deeper problems of inequality and systemic corruption.

Twin Peaks Twin Peaks

FBI Agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle MacLachlan, investigates the murder of teenage homecoming queen Laura Palmer in a small, Washington logging town called Twin Peaks. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Created by filmmakers David Lynch and Mark Frost, the series explores the world that exists below the surface of this seemingly tranquil mountain town. Each character possesses some ulterior motive, disturbing dreams expose truths in the waking world, and, like True Detective, the closer Agent Cooper gets to the truth in his investigation, the darker and more dangerous the journey becomes. The series aired for 30 episodes, between 1990 and 1991, before ABC cancelled it due to lackluster ratings. Since then, the series has garnered a substantial cult following, allowing for a feature-length film related to the series, and an upcoming limited renewal of the series in 2016.

LA Confidential LA Confidential

If you’re looking for something that encapsulates the gritty LA noir-style of the TD s02, try James Ellroy’s LA Confidential. LA Confidential is one of Ellroy’s best known works, because it so aptly captures the sinister underworld of 1950s LA and Hollywood and the complex nature of the investigators pursuing justice, not to mention the highly acclaimed film starring Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe.

Chinatown Chinatown

Polanski’s Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, is another version of the LA noir scene: this time the P. I.’s focus is on the murky background of a wealthy LA industrialist. Plot twists and family secrets abound until Nicholson’s character is so enmeshed it’s no longer clear who‘s in control, similar to the bind Rust Coehle finds himself in as he battles his various demons.

For more reading lists, check out our Pinterest page here, or visit our reading room page, here.

   Posted in Books, Reading Room, Resources | No Comments »




Accessing Public Records

   Wednesday, April 4th, 2007 - by: Brian Herzog, Head of Reference

Seal of the State of MassachusettsIn response to the recent local press coverage of "Sunshine Week," the Chelmsford Police Department held a public records seminar on 4/4/07. The seminar was led by Rebecca Murray, an attorney in the Public Records Division of the MA Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office.

The seminar outlined generally what kind of information is available to the public, and how MA government offices should interact with the public when information is requested.

The library was given a copy of A Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law [pdf], which answers most public records questions. However, some highlights from the seminar are below (and on our Public Records handout [pdf]):

  1. Anyone can get public records upon request
  2. Requests can be written (letter, fax, email) or oral (in person only, not over the phone), and must be explicitly stated as a request for public records (although written requests are not required, they are a good idea)
  3. If information in a public record is redacted, the records official must cite the exemption that applies, as well as explain how the exemption applies
  4. A records official cannot ask the requestor their identity or their motivation for requesting the records (however, for practical purposes, providing your contact information will be helpful in delivering the requested records to you)
  5. There may be a reasonable fee charged for providing records, including reproduction and labor costs
  6. A response must be provided in writing within ten days of the original request
    • The response does not need to be the requested records - it may just be an acknowledgement of the receipt of the request
    • Responses should include an estimated timetable for fulfilling the request and any associated fees, or else an explanation of why the request was denied
    • In the case where a fee is assessed, records will not be provided until after the fee has been paid
  7. Any denied request may be appealed to the Public Records Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
    • Appeals must be filed in writing, and must include a copy of the request, a copy of the response, and a cover letter explaining the situation
    • At this stage, the requestor may need to explain why the request was submitted
    • An appeal may be turned down for privacy issues, safety issues, or rejected for commercial or harassment reasons

Library staff can assist patrons in requesting public records, but we have no more right to access them than the general public. Although we may assist in locating the office that holds particular records, it is best if the patron makes the request for records directly. Additional information about this process can be answered by the Public Records Division.

Library Records as Public Records
Up until 1988, Exemption (k) excluded patron records from public libraries from public record. In 1988, the commonwealth repealed this exemption in order to make it a separate law until itself. MA General Law chapter 78 section 7 reads in part:

"...[T]hat part of the records of a public library which reveals the identity and intellectual pursuits of a person using such library shall not be a public record..."

This is also covered by the library's policy on Providing Patron Information. Requests for non-patron records will be handled along the guidelines above and in A Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law publication.

If you have questions on this, or would need help requesting public records, please contact the Reference Desk.

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   Posted in Resources | No Comments »




One Book Chelmsford Banners

   Friday, March 30th, 2007 - by: Brian Herzog, Head of Reference

One Book Chelmsford bannerTo promote our One Book Chelmsford community reading program, featuring Richard Russo's book Empire Falls, the Library is using banners to get the word out.

As you drive around town (especially in the Town Center and around Vinyl Square), keep an eye out for the banners (or check out some photos in the Library's flickr account).

And, keep an eye on the Library's One Book Chelmsford programs webpage, for upcoming One Book Chelmsford events. These include live music in the coffeehouse, book discussions, lectures and talks, walking tours, and more.

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   Posted in Books, One Book, Programs | No Comments »




On File at the Library

   Thursday, March 29th, 2007 - by: Brian Herzog, Head of Reference

A new public document has been given to both the Town Hall and the Library to be made available to the public. This document (a large 3-ring binder) is a copy of the Montgomery Energy Billerica Power Partners, LP Energy Facility Siting Board Petition for the Billerica Energy Center.

The petition concerns the development of a 134-acre site at the intersection of Town Farm Road and Billerica Avenue in North Billerica. Their intention is to build a new power generation facility, to be called the Billerica Energy Center.

To review this document at the library, please contact the Reference Desk.

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   Posted in Resources | No Comments »




Changes in Museum Passes at the Library

   Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 - by: Brian Herzog, Head of Reference

Museum iconIn case you didn't already know, discounted passes for many area museums and parks are available through the library. You can reserve passes through the library's website or by calling the Reference Desk (978-256-5521). There are 17 museums and parks in all, with some of the most popular being the Museum of Science, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Discovery Museums in Acton, and the New England Aquarium. And, the library just added a new pass - the Davis' Farmland & MegaMaze in Sterling.

Also, starting April 1st, 2007, there will be a new system for reserving passes online. All of the same passes and guidelines still apply, but the screens will look a little different. The new system will allow people to view multiple days at a time, and can also send and email to remind you to pick up your pass. Another new feature is that people will be able to delete reservations for passes they no longer want - just click on the "My Passes" link to manage all of the passes you have on request.

Funding for these passes is provided by the Friends of the Chelmsford Library, as well as from individual patrons. Passes are available to all Chelmsford residents and any member of the Friends group. To reserve passes online, you will need your library barcode number (from your library card) and your PIN. Anyone with questions or problems should contact the Reference Desk for assistance.

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   Posted in Friends of the Library, Resources | No Comments »