Thieves, snitches and killers -- oh my! -- in The Best American Crime Reporting 2008

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True tales of crime and punishment.

Consider this a shameless plug -- and a free preview. Every year Otto Penzler, the venerable founder of the Mysterious Press and owner of New York's Mysterious Bookshop, and novelist Thomas H. Cook put together an anthology of true crime writing from the country's top magazines and weeklies. Launched in 2002, the series is a thoughtful skimming of compelling reportage dealing with serial killers and terrorists, con men and supercops -- and this year's edition, The Best American Crime Reporting 2008, includes a feature that originally appeared in Westword.

In addition to an introduction by guest editor Jonathan Kellerman, the collection spotlights a smorgasbord of provocative journalism by the likes of Calvin Trillin, Mark Bowden, Tom Junod, Malcom Gladwell and others. In addition to the slicks – no less than four entries were originally published in The New Yorker – the anthology also acknowledges the meaty crime journalism that has long been a staple of alt-weeklies. Three weeklies are showcased, including the late Cleveland Free Times, Nick Schou's gritty story about a serial killer from OC Weekly, and "The Caged Life," my profile of Aryan Brotherhood leader Thomas Silverstein, who murdered a prison guard 25 years ago and has been in solitary confinement ever since. You can follow the links to Schou's story and mine, and head for the bookstore if you want more true tales of crime and punishment. -- Alan Prendergast

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