North Carolina is home to some famous and bizarre crimes and books about these crimes make fascinating reading. If you enjoy reading about true crime, pick up one of these and enjoy. If you do not usually read this genre, you may still be fascinated by the local color and the chance to learn more about events you may have heard of for years. There are circulating copies and North Carolina Collection copies of these books.
Jerry Bledsoe Books
You may remember Jerry Bledsoe’s lighthearted columns from his career with the News and Record or from the Rhinoceros Times.
Before He Wakes: A True Story of Money, Marriage, Sex and Murder
Barbara Stager was a church leader, widely considered to be a devoted wife. Her husband slept with a gun under his pillow and one night it went off and killed him. It was a terrible accident or so everyone thought. When her second husband died in a similar accident 10 years later, the suspicions began.
Bitter Blood: A True Story of Southern Family Pride, Madness, and Multiple Murder
This story, much of it set in Reidsville and Greensboro, is about Susie Sharp Lynch and her cousin Fritz Klenner. As police closed in on Fritz, a crime suspect, he fled down Highway 150 north of Greensboro with Susie and her sons in the van. The fan exploded, killing everyone. Another version of the story, written by Robert Newsom III, a member of the ill-fated family, is Deadly Kin.
Blood Games: A True Account of Family Murder
Rural Washington, NC, was stunned by the murder of a prominent resident and even more so when suspicion turned toward his son, a student at NC State University, and the son’s friends.
Joe McGinniss Books
Joe McGinniss is not a North Carolinian, but he wrote these two well-known books about North Carolina crimes.
This tells the same story as Bledsoe’s Blood Games.
Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, a Green Beret officer, claimed hippies murdered his wife and children in their Fort Bragg home. However, MacDonald was convicted of the crime and he still claims to be innocent.
Other NC True Crime Stories
Chandler-Willis, Lynn. Unholy Covenant.
This is the story of the murder of Patricia Blakley, a young woman from Pleasant Garden who was married to Ted Kimble. After their home burned and Patricia’s body was found inside, the people of Pleasant Garden were shocked to learn that Patricia had been shot in the head.
Reston, James, Jr. The Innocence of Joan Little: A Southern Mystery.
In 1974, Joan Little confessed she had murdered her jailer with an ice pick while defending herself against sexual assault. The case was made more dramatic by the fact that she was black and he was white.
Rhyne, Nancy. Murder in the Carolinas and More Murder in The Carolinas.
If short accounts of bizarre murders, such as “What the Preacher Saw Through the Transom,” “The House by Lake Norman,” “Murder in the Personals,” and “Arsenic and New Money,” appeal to you, take a look at these two books.
Schutze, Jim. Preacher’s Girl: The Life and Crimes of Blanche Taylor Moore.
Local resident Blanche Taylor Moore was considered by many to be the model of Southern womanhood, yet she fed her husbands and boyfriends milkshakes, made with arsenic.
Simpson, Bland. The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey.
In 1901, 19-year-old Nell Cropsey disappeared from her home in Elizabeth City. She was eventually found dead in the Pasquotank River.
Smith, Trudy J. The Meaning of Our Tears -- The True Story of the Lawson Family Murders, Christmas Day 1929.
On Christmas day 1929, a rural Stokes County tobacco farmer murdered his wife and his children. This book, a revision of White Christmas, Bloody Christmas by M. Bruce Jones, recounts the tale.
West, John Foster. The Ballad of Tom Dula and Lift Up Your Head, Tom Dooley.
These two books are about the hanging of Tom Dula in Statesville in 1868 for the death of his lover. The story behind the crime, entwined with legend, has become part of NC folklore.
Young, Perry Deane. The Untold Story of Frankie Silver.
Frankie Silver was hanged in Morganton in 1833 for the ax murder of her husband. This tale, like that of Dula, has evolved into a legend, and Young tells the real story behind the folklore.