1 August 2013

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes and Lost At Sea

Author: David Grann and Jon Ronson
Year published: 2010 and 2012
Pages: 352 and 471
Time It Took To Read: A couple of days each

This week, I've read two collections of journalism back to back. Both collections focus on mysteries and curious real life stories.
David Grann is an American journalist. His book claims to be about mysteries and intrigues, but not all of the stories are particularly mysterious in the traditional sense - for example, the mystery in one story is why people choose to work as sandhogs.I was hoping for more murder, but some of the stories are fascinating nonetheless. One explains how a prison gang took over most of the prisons in the US, and another looks at the life of a man who spent most of his life on the run from the police, another looks at the life of a man who spent years impersonating teenage runaways for the attention. The stories, however, are dry, factual and faintly dull at times.
Jon Ronson is a British journalist, who writes for Guardian and GQ. His collection also concentrates on mysterious people, but with a huge dollop of humour and sensitivity.  He explores a few savage murders, people giving away their kidneys altruistically for God, the suicide of a man driven into debt by mounting credit card bills, and most interestingly, into the sexual abuse trial against Jonathan King. This latter case is topical, considering Operation Yewtree. Although Jonathan King was prosecuted in 2000, some of the comments made by people around him are startling. "Poor Jonathan: we all did it." is a typical comment. Apparently, sexually exploiting children really was entirely acceptable in celebrity 70s culture. Tam Paton - who was successfully prosecuted in the early 80s - argues that they were only convicted because they abused boys, and it would have been allowed to pass if they'd abused girls. Alas, it seems there may be some truth in that.
I don't really recommend the David Grann book. It was good, but compared to Ronson, dull. Ronson sparkles by comparison and his writing is compelling.I plan to read his Psychopath Test next.

Book count: 36/50

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