The Best American Crime Writing 2005

The Best American Crime Writing 2005

by James Ellroy, Thomas H. Cook, Otto Penzler

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The 2005 edition of The Best American Crime Writing offers the year's most shocking, compelling, and gripping writing about real-life crime, including Peter Landesman's article about female sex slaves (the most requested and widely read New York Times story of 2004), a piece from The New Yorker by Stephen J. Dubner (the coauthor of


The 2005 edition of The Best American Crime Writing offers the year's most shocking, compelling, and gripping writing about real-life crime, including Peter Landesman's article about female sex slaves (the most requested and widely read New York Times story of 2004), a piece from The New Yorker by Stephen J. Dubner (the coauthor of Freakanomics) about a high-society silver thief, and an extraordinarily memorable "ode to bar fights" written by Jonathan Miles for Men's Journal after he punched an editor at a staff party. But this year's edition includes a bonus — an original essay by James Ellroy detailing his fascination with Joseph Wambaugh and how it fed his obsession with crime — even to the point of selling his own blood to buy Wambaugh's books. Smart, entertaining, and controversial, The Best American Crime Writing is an essential edition to any crime enthusiast's bookshelf.

Editorial Reviews

“Fascinating ... the quality of the writing that’s touted here, and justifiably would be tough to better this collection.”
Bloomberg News
“Great choices [and] great writing … proves truth is indeed stranger than fiction.”
Publishers Weekly
This is a solid and diverse collection of true-crime writing, if devoid of the memorable entries that marked the 2004 edition. The 16 pieces-some by familiar names such as noir master Ellroy, Freakonomics coauthor Stephen J. Dubner and terrorism expert Lawrence Wright-span a wider range of criminal activities, however, from an anatomy of bar fights (perhaps the slightest of the pieces) to the evolving nature of al-Qaeda as evidenced by the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings. Three essays stand out in particular for conveying noteworthy aspects of the criminal mind in a short format. Texas Monthly regular Skip Hollandsworth offers a compelling portrait of a respectable, church-going suburbanite who masterminded numerous burglaries. Dubner's piece also deals with a master burglar who specialized in designer silverware; Ivana Trump was among his victims. Justin Kane and Jason Felch outline the vicissitudes of an elaborate federal investigation of the Ukrainian underworld. Philip Weiss presents outstanding investigative work on a forgotten travesty of justice involving the Peace Corps (though it has less impact than his book on the topic, American Taboo). Anyone interested in true crime should find something to enjoy in this wide-ranging collection. (Sept. 9) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Best American Crime Writing Series
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Best American Crime Writing 2005

The Girls Next Door

Peter Landesman from the New York Times Magazine

The house at 1212 ½ West Front Street in Plainfield, New Jersey, is a conventional midcentury home with slate-gray siding, white trim and Victorian lines. When I stood in front of it on a breezy day in October, I could hear the cries of children from the playground of an elementary school around the corner. American flags fluttered from porches and windows. The neighborhood is a leafy, middle-class Anytown. The house is set back off the street, near two convenience stores and a gift shop. On the door of Superior Supermarket was pasted a sign issued by the Plainfield police: "Safe neighborhoods save lives." The store's manager, who refused to tell me his name, said he never noticed anything unusual about the house, and never heard anything. But David Miranda, the young man behind the counter of Westside Convenience, told me he saw girls from the house roughly once a week. "They came in to buy candy and soda, then went back to the house," he said. The same girls rarely came twice, and they were all very young, Miranda said. They never asked for anything beyond what they were purchasing; they certainly never asked for help. Cars drove up to the house all day; nice cars, all kinds of cars. Dozens of men came and went. "But no one here knew what was really going on," Miranda said. And no one ever asked.

On a tip, the Plainfield police raided the house in February 2002, expecting to find illegal aliens working an underground brothel. What the police found were four girls between the ages of fourteen andseventeen. They were all Mexican nationals without documentation. But they weren't prostitutes; they were sex slaves. The distinction is important: these girls weren't working for profit or a paycheck. They were captives to the traffickers and keepers who controlled their every move. "I consider myself hardened," Mark J. Kelly, now a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security), told me recently. "I spent time in the Marine Corps. But seeing some of the stuff I saw, then heard about, from those girls was a difficult, eye-opening experience."

The police found a squalid, land-based equivalent of a nineteenth-century slave ship, with rancid, doorless bathrooms; bare, putrid mattresses; and a stash of penicillin, "morning after" pills and miso-prostol, an antiulcer medication that can induce abortion. The girls were pale, exhausted, and malnourished.

It turned out that 1212 ½ West Front Street was one of what law-enforcement officials say are dozens of active stash houses and apartments in the New York metropolitan area -- mirroring hundreds more in other major cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago -- where under-age girls and young women from dozens of countries are trafficked and held captive. Most of them -- whether they started out in Eastern Europe or Latin America -- are taken to the United States through Mexico. Some of them have been baited by promises of legitimate jobs and a better life in America; many have been abducted; others have been bought from or abandoned by their impoverished families.

Because of the porousness of the United States-Mexico border and the criminal networks that traverse it, the towns and cities along that border have become the main staging area in an illicit and barbaric industry, whose "products" are women and girls. On both sides of the border, they are rented out for sex for as little as fifteen minutes at a time, dozens of times a day. Sometimes they are sold outright to other traffickers and sex rings, victims and experts say. These sex slaves earn no money, there is nothing voluntary about what they do, and if they try to escape they are often beaten and sometimes killed.

Last September, in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush named sex trafficking as "a special evil," a multibillion-dollar "underground of brutality and lonely fear," a global scourge alongside the AIDS epidemic. Influenced by a coalition of religious organizations, the Bush administration has pushed international action on the global sex trade. The president declared at the United Nations that "those who create these victims and profit from their suffering must be severely punished" and that "those who patronize this industry debase themselves and deepen the misery of others. And governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery."

Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 -- the first U.S. law to recognize that people trafficked against their will are victims of a crime, not illegal aliens -- the U.S. government rates other countries' records on human trafficking and can apply economic sanctions on those that aren't making efforts to improve them. Another piece of legislation, the Protect Act, which Bush signed into law last year, makes it a crime for any person to enter the United States, or for any citizen to travel abroad, for the purpose of sex tourism involving children. The sentences are severe: up to thirty years' imprisonment for each offense.

The thrust of the president's U.N. speech and the scope of the laws passed here to address the sex-trafficking epidemic might suggest that this is a global problem but not particularly an American one. In reality, little has been done to document sex trafficking in this country. In dozens of interviews I conducted with former sex slaves, madams, government and law-enforcement officials, and anti-sex-trade activists for more than four months in Eastern Europe, Mexico, and the United States, the details and breadth of this sordid trade in the United States came to light.

In fact, the United States has become a major importer of sex slaves. Last year, the CIA estimated that between eighteen thousand and twenty thousand people are trafficked annually into the United States. The government has not studied how many of these are victims . . .

The Best American Crime Writing 2005. Copyright � by James Ellroy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. quartet — The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and White Jazz — were international bestsellers. American Tabloid was Time's Novel of the Year in 1995; his memoir My Dark Places was Time's Best Book and a New York Times Notable book for 1996. His novel The Cold Six Thousand was a New York Times Notable Book and Los Angeles Times Best Book for 2001. He lives on the coast of California.

Otto Penzler is the proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop, the founder of the Mysterious Press, the creator of Otto Penzler Books, and the editor of many books and anthologies.

Thomas H. Cook is the author of twenty-three books, including The Chatham School Affair, which won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel, and, most recently, The Last Talk with Lola Faye.

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