Tag Archives: true crime

Book Review: True Crime

by Hope Madden

“Every girl in the world was taught not to trust her gut. Every girl in the world knew she was the fool in the play.”

Samantha Kolesnik’s insightful first novel, True Crime, hypnotizes as it repels. Like a string of memories playing across the narrator’s mind during a long and loose car ride, the novella delivers a Southern gothic tale that calls to mind Flannery O’Connor or Shirley Jackson. The grim poetry of Kolesnik’s writing style, however, is uniquely hers.

As Suzy meanders through some of the more eventful times in her young life, you realize this is a narrator with the potential to  be unreliable if she valued anyone’s opinion enough to lie. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Her story is mainly being articulated for her own benefit, a way to measure her culpability, evaluate her options, reflect on root causes and wrestle with the monster within.

True Crime is hardly an exercise in existential angst, though, and that’s mainly because Suzy is such an enigmatic and yet utterly straightforward character. Kolesnik’s prose is empathetic but not forgiving, which creates a fascinating atmosphere.

The approach of depicting events as memories allows Kolesnik the poetic license to focus just on the moments Suzy finds most compelling—the truth behind the details, the cause and effect, the timeline and technical details are rendered irrelevant. In their place Kolesnik offers a dead eyed but dreamlike depiction of the ugliest side of life.

What sets the piece apart from others of the same subgenre is the insight Kolesnik offers through the eyes of this young woman. She is both victim and beast in degrees that frustrate and inform, her narrative containing moments of genuine clarity concerning victimhood and the female form that rarely emerge in horror fiction.

Kolesnik’s style, her ability to create something that’s simultaneously aimless and meticulous, entrances as it delivers a quick, effective punch. In its own way an indictment of true crime culture that has overtaken the nation, the writing feels quietly but deeply fascinated by the compulsion to wade into a grisly reality.

Like the contents of the magazines Suzy so loves, Kolesnik’s tale contains a horrible beauty you can’t seem to look away from.

True Crime is available January 15, 2020 from Grindhouse Press.

You can also preorder on Amazon.

Every Dog Has His Day

The Dog

By Christie Robb

Hollywood is captivated by bank robbers: John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Patty Hearst, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…

And John Wojtowicz, aka the Dog.

Not familiar? He’s the inspiration for the 1975 Al Pacino movie Dog Day Afternoon.

The Gateway Film Center is showing the latest of three documentaries on Wojtowicz, The Dog, starting Friday, August 22nd—the 42nd anniversary of the day Wojtowicz robbed a Chase Manhattan bank in order to finance his partner’s sex change operation.

The documentary offers the perspective of the progressively ailing Wojtowicz as well as those of his “wives” (both female and male), mother, eye witnesses, hostages, reporters, and gay rights activists. Directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren position Wojtowicz in the context of the burgeoning gay liberation movement, reminding the viewer how eye-opening this event was to many of the television viewers and local bystanders who watched the robbery and subsequent hostage negotiation unfold live. The Stonewall Riots had only happened three years previously.

Wojtowicz gave a good performance during the robbery—threating to beat up police for calling him a faggot, visiting with his adoring mother, having pizza delivered to the bank, throwing thousands of dollars out of the door, and French kissing a man at the bank threshold while still holding hostages. Wojtowicz was primed for theatricality; he went to a screening of The Godfather to psych himself up for the robbery.

And Wojtowicz, gives a good performance here. He describes himself both as a “romantic” and a “pervert” and narrates events leading up to the robbery and his life in its aftermath with a jovial demeanor that often jars with his subject matter. Several times I had to blink and process what just happened. (Is he narrating a butcher knife suicide attempt while smiling and wearing a puffer coat? Did he just offer a blowjob to a walrus?)

Berg and Keraudren leave it up to the audience to form their own conclusions about Wojtowicz. Romantic, willing to face prison to make his partner’s dream come true, as he maintains? Controlling, chauvinistic, sex addict, as interviews with his partners make it seem? A man clinging to his 15 minutes of fame? An ex-con with limited options, making a buck off the crime that prevents him from following his preferred career path in finance?

His story is indeed captivating and probably worth giving him another 15 minutes of fame.