I just completed Bill James' book, "Popular Crime." James is best known as the man who helped popularize statistical analysis in baseball to the point where someday he should be in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
A couple of years ago, James put out a book on crime. Just when we all figured he did nothing but study baseball, it turns out he's read dozens and dozens and dozens of crime books over the years. "Popular Crime" is something of a recap of a variety of murders, etc. since the 19th century. James is as quirky and entertaining as ever as a writer here, going through some famous cases in rapid-fire style over the course of 460 pages or so.
One part of the book stopped me in my tracks, but it was due to a spectacular coincidence. In a section about the book "In Cold Blood," Truman Capote's book on the murders by Floyd Wells and Richard Hickock, I came across this:
"In Cold Blood was required reading at Shawnee Mission North High School in Mission, Kansas, in the early 1970s. One day a young man was so affected by doing his homework that he dropped the book to the floor, and staggered out of the classroom in a daze. He had figured out, from reading the book, something that his family had never told him. His father was Richard Hickock. He was a baby at the time of the crime. His mother had long since re-married, and he had been adopted many years earlier. But he knew his grandmother, and he pieced the facts together after he saw her name in the book."
At this point in the story, we introduce my sister - who I'm proud to say is the former president of the Shawnee Mission School Board. I'm not sure she was out of college at that point, and was 10 years from even moving to Kansas, so she obviously had no influence on the selection of books in the schools at the time.
I recently read this story to her, and she had never heard it. I mentioned that if she still had any influence with the Shawnee Mission School Board, she should suggest much calmer reading for the today's students. Personally, I think "Rayzor's Edge" by Rob Ray would be the perfect choice. And considering that copies probably can be purchased cheaply out of the remander bins of stores, the school district and its taxpayers could save some money. Talk about a win-win!
All right, the shameless plug is over.
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