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Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 3, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416552731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416552734
  • ASIN: B005SN4RYO
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,194,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“An engagingly written history of well-publicized deadly crimes.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For true-crime afficianados, this book is a hoot. James has to be the least starchy serious writer I’ve run across in years. He has the gift of writing the way a person talks—no easy task, believe me—giving Popular Crime a folksy, conversational feel.”—The New York Times Book Review



“A very entertaining book, and it will instigate arguments even as it scores many important points.”—The Washington Post

“Running through Popular Crime is an exploration of the enduring popularity of true crime. James' thought-provoking meditations elevate his book far above any routine recitation of facts.”—The Seattle Times

About the Author

Bill James made his mark in the 1970s and 1980s with his Baseball Abstracts. He has been tearing down preconceived notions about America's national pastime ever since. He is currently the Senior Advisor on Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox. James lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, Susan McCarthy, and three children.

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Customer Reviews

Skip this book.
Charles R. Miller
James gives his generally snotty opinion of books about the case (sometimes he quotes passages just to illustrate the low quality of the writing).
Amazon Customer
I don't know where he gets some of these ideas, except possibly out of his nether regions.
I. Zawilski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 51 people found the following review helpful By T. Frank on May 14, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've been reading Bill James since the 1982 Baseball Abstract, so I was going to read this, too.

Ironically, James is at his best in this book when he just has fun thinking outside the box and plays detective, challenging conventional wisdom on a variety of random crime cases. When he tries to play sabremetrician, however, the results are embarrassing. There's a murder-classification system that he must have created for data analysis, but then there's no data analysis--perhaps because he correctly realized there was little quantifiable about the series of anecdotes. He tries to create a 100-point guide to guilt or innocence, but the metrics are all pulled out of thin air and are entirely unpersuasive.

But it is good to hear James expose the emperor's clothes on a feature of the American justice system: how much it is a gameshow of obfuscation on both sides, and how little criminal trials have to do with the truth. There are the obvious examples of recent Los Angeles celebrity cases, but the book earns its keep when it explores the historical record with tales of the corruption of Clarence Darrow and other noted criminal defense attorneys.

The book is entirely readable, but it's less a coherent book than a series of anecdotes: your eccentric uncle shooting the breeze about things he wants to talk about on the subject of crime and crime books. One gets the sense that the book wasn't published because it was finished, but it was finished because it was time to be published. So we see themes raised and dropped without rhyme or reason; the organization is chronological. Chronological, but not systematic: for example, the Stanford White case is disposed of quickly with the assumption that the reader already knows about it. (I don't, so I felt let down.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By David Dubbert on May 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book a lot, but I think I would have been better served by understanding exactly what it is before I started. It's subtitled, "Reflections on the Celebration of Violence," and the key word here is "reflections." This book is effectively hundreds of pages made up of a huge number of reflections. A reader searching for a single theme, or thesis that James is positing will be disappointed. Instead, readers should think of it as more of an invitation to go along for the ride as James thinks through a lot of the crimes that have gained popular attention throughout our American history. That's not to say that there aren't a couple of general themes, but the value in this book is simply the opportunity to see and think about these crimes the way Bill James does. He's a fiercely independent thinker, and isn't afraid to weigh in on these issues, though he makes a modest attempt to remain humble in light of his lack of practical experience in these matters. In the end, the book was anything but a waste of time, though I can't really say that I now understand crime in America any better than I did before. That's not the point of the book, of course. But I think I could forgive you for thinking that it's what the book was supposed to be about.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on September 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
Reading this book is like being in the same room with the author, and for some that must be a virtue, for he creates an intimate tone as though he were telling only you what's on his mind. But the room is a bar and he's like one of those taproom windbags who won't shut up until they've proven how brilliant they are a thousand times, and you just can't get away. If you object to some point he's making, or some twist in his argument that doesn't hold up, he just tells you how stupid you are and once again, how he revolutionized thinking about baseball and now he has a similar gimmick with crime. Even when I agreed with him (as in the Jonbenet Ramsey case) I kept squirming, thinking if this jackass is on my side, then maybe I'm on the wrong side. But usually he's found the answer long ago, and it's often the predictable one. James isn't much for subtlety, for the simple reason that most criminals are not brain scientists, no, most of them do what seems like the easy way out. On the other hand then there's Sam Sheppard. James must have had a fit when he saw The Fugitive with its not very hidden subtext that Sheppard was railroaded. I wish I was with him when the TV show came on the air and seen his rage well up. He's sort of an angry guy, but he's got the answer to everything, and if he doesn't, then the case itself doesn't merit inclusion in a book on popular crime. One of those elastic categories that will fit everything James wants to tell you about, and one that excludes everything he's grown stale on. Oh well, I should have read the Amazon reviews in the first place before plunging into a book with such high expectations.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Chris Ward VINE VOICE on July 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
If you're a reader of true crime books, or a person who watches movies about non-fictional murders, you'll enjoy this discursive and entertaining meditation on (mostly) murder. Bill James is clearly a devotee of American crime, its history and its quirks; here he holds forth on about three dozen famous cases from the last century or so. I've read books on many of these cases, and James always has some amusing and often compelling (and contrarian) analysis to offer.

Lizzie Borden, the Lindbergh Baby, Sam Shepard, the Boston Strangler, JonBenet Ramsay-- these and dozens of others are covered in some detail. James is an inveterate wise-ass, so his commentary is larded with humor as well as trenchant scholarship. His love of statistics stands him in good stead throughout. He applies common-sense argumentation to bolster his opinions, and I enjoyed the book right up to the last chapters. There, he becomes prescriptive and polemical, telling us how to rescue our penal system-- the preachiness is less appealing than what goes before.

Overall, a really fun read for crime aficionados. If you fall into that category, you'll find much to admire-- and to argue with-- in this fine book.
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