"Bloodletters & Badmen": an origin story

...There's not much more to it than that; Jay Robert Nash's seminal encyclopedia of American crime is a big part of my enduring interest in the genre, and to this day, I love a true-crime compendium. Doesn't matter what kind of crime. Heists, gangsters, all in one state, all in one year, if you've got a big ol' doorstop filled with a bunch of little stories, it's coming to my bedside table and probably staying there.

Maybe that's why he doesn't sell very well, maybe the cost to ship one of Nash's absolute units is prohibitive. Maybe the other folks who fondly recall paging through the scandalous tales of bygone crooks also yoinked their parents' dusty copy, and don't need to replace it...or they also recall that Nash's prose is, at best, workmanlike. 

But he did do the work! He did put celebrity slayings and cons/con artists and American murders going back to the colonial era all in one place. He wrote quiz books. He anthologized missing-persons cases and felonious ladies, and Civil War battles, and crime scenes. There are a few writers like Nash, latter-half-of-the-20th types who fell below the horizon in the internet age (Robert Sam Anson is one), but without him, this shop...isn't.

I've got a notable piece of Nashiana hitting the shelves in the next couple of days (hat tip to another valued Exhibit B. shelf denizen, Sarah Weinman, for alerting me to its existence) -- and it should qualify for the ExMas 12%-off promotion, so keep an eye out. - SDB

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