Thursday, August 23, 2012


The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Washington, DC
By Ron Franscell
Globe Pequot Press, 2012

Review by Robert A. Waters

Washington, D.C. is where politicians and their hangers-on gather to figure out new ways to tax Americans into poverty. With so much vermin tramping its streets, there’s little wonder that the place is also the crime capital of the world.

The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Washington, DC is the third true crime travel guide published by Ron Franscell and Globe Pequot Press. Each story lists GPS coordinates so the reader can go directly to the scene of the crimes. In addition to the nation’s capital, the book also includes crime and mayhem in Maryland, northern Virginia, and Arlington National Cemetery.

While there is plenty of political intrigue in D.C., there are also straight-out rapes, murders, kidnappings and weird misdemeanors. Franscell describes both notorious and little-known cases, such as what happened to the missing head of U. S Attorney General William Wirt or how a brothel madam ended up buried in the prestigious Congressional Cemetery.

One of the most brutal serial killers in history was born and bred in Washington, D. C. Franscell writes: “Albert Fish (1870-1936) was one sick puppy. Students of serial killers recognize him as one of the cruelest and twisted child killers in American history, a real-life Hannibal Lecter who often ate his victims after inflicting unspeakable atrocities.”

There’s a long chapter on the Lincoln assassination. Those interested have dozens of locations to go check out. It’s amazing that many of the historical sites, such as Ford’s Theatre, are still open to the public.

The Poe House and Museum is open to visitors in Baltimore. One of the world’s most influential authors, Edgar Allan Poe wrote the first detective stories and even penned a thinly disguised true crime book called The Mystery of Marie Roget. Poe famously died as he lived, drunk and incoherent, but left behind a body of work that has influenced authors ever since.

Still in Maryland, there’s the story of a mysterious serial killer named Cabin John and a mass murderer named Orphan Jones. In 1895, thirteen-year-old Sallie Dean was raped and murdered—her killer was pulled from the Caroline County Jail and promptly lynched.

History oozes from this volume.  If I ever travel north to the city of corruption, the one book I’ll take is The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Washington, DC.

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