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A riveting new anthology series—a year's worth of the most powerful, the most startling, the smartest and most astute, in short, the best crime journalism.
Scouring hundreds of publications, guest editor Nicholas Pileggi, and series editors Otto Penzler and Thomas H. Cook have created a remarkable compilation of the best examples of the most current and vibrant of our literary traditions: crime reporting. Ranging in style from Mark Singer's ribald “The Chicken Warriors,” an up-close look at the tawdry, wildly popular, illegal world of cock-fighting, to David McClintick's harrowing “Fatal Bondage,” the tale of a grifter with an attraction to sado-masochistic sex and serial killing, this collection showcases the wide variety of writing in the field today.
Criminal behavior itself also falls into a spectrum, from the isolated and idiosyncratic misdeed, such as that documented in Skip Hollandsworth's “The Killing of Alydar,” an investigation into the greed that spawned the killing of a thoroughbred horse, to the large-scale malignancies that can shake an entire nation, as recounted in “The Day of the Attack,” Nancy Gibbs's sobering retelling of the events of September 11, 2001.
Good crime writing is never just about the crime or the criminals, so this collection also has moving and often troubling portraits of the victims, their families, and the communities in which they lived, and, in pieces such as D. Graham Burnett's “Anatomy of a Verdict,” a reminder of the immensely difficult process that is coming to judgment.
Entertaining, at times alarming, Best American Crime Writing is compelling evidence of thefurthest reaches of human behavior.
Author Biography: Otto Penzler is the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City and the founder of the Mysterious Press and Otto Penzler Books. He won an Edgar Allan Poe Award for The Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection, and is the editor of The Best American Mystery Stories of the Year and numerous other anthologies.
Thomas H. Cook is the author of eighteen novels, one of which, The Chatham School Affair, won an Edgar for best novel of the year, and two true-crime books, one of which, Blood Echoes, was nominated for an Edgar.
Nicholas Pileggi was a reporter for the New York City Desk of the Associated Press for seventeen years before moving to New York magazine. He is the author of Blye, Private Eye; Wiseguy; and Casino. Wiseguy (aka Goodfellas) and Casino were both turned into films, which Pileggi cowrote with director Martin Scorsese. He lives in New York.
About the Author
Otto Penzler is the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. He was publisher of The Armchair Detective, the founder of the Mysterious Press and the Armchair Detective Library, and created the publishing firm Otto Penzler Books. He is a recipient of an Edgar Award for The Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection and the Ellery Queen Award by the Mystery Writers of America for his many contributions to the field. He is the editor of The Vampire Archives and The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, which was a New York Times bestseller.
Read an Excerpt
E. Jean Carroll
Welcome to Dryden. It's rather gray and soppy. Not that Dryden doesn't look like the finest little town in the universe--with its pretty houses and its own personal George Bailey Agency at No. 5 South Street, it could have come right out of It's a Wonderful Life. (It's rumored the film's director, Frank Capra, was inspired by Dryden.) But the thriving, well-heeled hamlet is situated on the southern edge of New York's Finger Lakes region, under one of the highest cloud-cover ratios in America. This puts the 1,900 inhabitants into two philosophical camps: those who feel the town is rendered more beautiful by the "drama" and "poetry" of the clouds and those who say it's so "gloomy" it's like living in an old lady's underwear drawer.
If you live in Dryden, the kids from Ithaca, that cradle of metropolitan sophistication fifteen miles away, will say you live in a "cow town." ("There's a cow pasture right next to the school!" says one young Ithacan.) But Dryden High School, with its emerald lawns, running tracks, athletic fields, skating pond, pine trees and 732 eager students, is actually a first-rate place to grow up. The glorious pile of salmon-colored bricks stands on a hill looking out on the town, the mountains, the ponds and the honey- and russet-colored fields stretching as far as the eye can see. In the summer, the Purple Lions of Dryden High ride out to the fields and the ponds and build bonfires that singe the boys' bare legs and blow cinders into the girls' hair.
In the summer of '96, many bonfires are built. The girls are practicing their cheerleadingroutines and the boys are developing great packs of muscles in the football team's weight room; everybody laughs and everybody roars and the fields around town look like they've been trampled by a pride of actual lions. In fact, the Dryden boys display such grit at the Preseason Invitational football game that fans begin to believe as the players do: that the upcoming season will bring them another division championship. This spirit lasts until about 6:30 p.m. on September 10, when Scott Pace, one of the most brilliant players ever to attend the school, the unofficial leader of the team, a popular, handsome, dark-haired senior, rushes out of football practice to meet his parents and is killed in a car crash.
It is strange. It is sad. But sadder still is the fact that Scott's older brother, Billy, a tall, dazzling Dryden athlete, as loved and admired as Scott, had been killed in a car crash almost exactly one year before. The town is shaken up very badly. But little does anyone dream that Scott Pace's death will be the beginning of one of the strangest high school tragedies of all time: how, in four years, a stouthearted cheerleader named Tiffany Starr will see three football players, three fellow cheerleaders, and the beloved football coach of her little country school all end up dead.
At a home football game, Friday evening, October 4, 1996, three weeks after the death of Scott Pace, townspeople keep talking about the team and the school "recovering" and "pulling together," but the truth is, nobody can deal. To the students of Dryden High, it just feels as if fate or something has messed up in a major way, and everybody seems as unhappy as can be.
The game tonight, in any case, is a change. Tiffany Starr, captain of the Dryden High cheerleaders, arrives. The short-skirted purple uniform looks charming on the well-built girl with the large, sad, blue eyes. Seventeen, a math whiz, way past button-cute, Tiffany is on the student council, is the point guard on the girls' basketball team and has been voted "Best Actress" and "Class Flirt." She hails from the special Starr line of beautiful blonde cheerleaders: her twin sisters, Amber and Amy, graduated from Dryden two years before. Their locally famous father, Dryden High football coach Stephen Starr, has instilled in his daughters a credo that comes down to two words: "Be aggressive!"
And right now the school needs cheering. Though her heart is breaking for Scott, Tiffany wants to lead yells. But as she walks in, the cheerleading squad looks anxiously at her, and one of them says, "Jen and Sarah never showed up at school today."
"What?" says Tiffany.
Tiffany taught Jennifer Bolduc and Sarah Hajney to cheer, and her first thought is that the girls, both juniors on the squad, are off somewhere on a lark. Tiffany knows Sarah's parents are out of town and that Jen spent last night at Sarah's house. For a moment, Tiffany imagines her two friends doing something slightly wicked, like joyriding around Syracuse. "But then I'm like, 'Wait a minute . . .'"
"Being a cheerleader at Dryden is the closest thing to being a movie star as you can get," says Tiffany's sister Amber. "It's like being a world-class gymnast, movie star and model all in one. It is fabulous! Fab-u-lous! It's so much fun! Because we rule."
The Dryden High girls have won their region's cheerleading championships twelve years in a row. The girls' pyramids are such a thrill, the crowd doesn't like it when the cheer ends and the game begins.
"I'm like, 'Hold on, Jen and Sarah would never miss a game,'" Tiffany continues. "So the only thing we can do is just wait for them to arrive. And we wait and we wait. And finally, we walk out to the football game and sit down in the bleachers. We don't cheer that day. Well, we may do some sidelines, but we don't do any big cheers because you can't do the big cheers when you're missing girls."
Jen Bolduc is a "base" in the pyramids (meaning she stands on the ground and supports tiers of girls above her), and Sarah Hajney is a "flyer" (meaning she's hurled into the air). At sixteen, Jen is tall and shapely, a strong, pretty, lovable girl with a crazy grin and a powerful mind. She is a varsity track star, a champion baton twirler, and a volunteer at Cortland Memorial Hospital.
"Jen is a great athlete and a wonderful cheerleader," says Tiffany. "Really strong. And she's so happy! All the time. She's constantly giggling. And she's very creative. When we make Spirit Bags for the football players and fill them up with candy, Jen's Spirit Bags are always the best. And she's silly. Joyful. Goofy. But she's a very determined person."
"Jen is always doing funny things," says Amanda Burdick, a fellow cheerleader, "and she's smart. She helps me do my homework. I never once heard her talk crap about people."
Sarah Hajney is an adorable little version of a Botticelli Venus. She's on varsity track and does volunteer work for children with special needs. "She's a knockout," says former Dryden football player Johnny Lopinto. "I remember being at a pool party, and all the girls, like Tiffany and Sarah, had changed into their bathing suits. And I was walking around, and I just like bumped into Sarah and saw her in a bathing suit, and I was just like, 'Oh my God, Sarah! You're so beautiful!'"
As the football game winds down to a loss, and Sarah does not suddenly, in the fourth quarter, come racing across the field with a hilarious story about how Jen got lost in the Banana Republic in Syracuse, the anxious cheerleaders decide to spend the night at their coach's house. "And we go there, and we begin to wait," says Tiffany. "And we wait and we wait and we wait and we wait."
. . .
Before the game is over, a New York State trooper is in Sarah Hajney's house. "I get a phone call on Friday night, October 4, at about--I should say, my wife gets a phone call, because I'm taking the kids to a football game and dropping them off," says Major William Foley of the New York State Police.
Major Foley (at the time of the girls' disappearance he is Captain Foley, zone commander of Troop C Barracks, which heads up the hunt) is a trim man in enormous aviators, a purple tie modeled after the sash of the Roman Praetorian Guard and a crisply ironed, slate-gray uniform. The creases in his trousers are so fierce they look like crowbars are sewn into them.
Sitting with Foley in the state trooper headquarters in Sidney, New York, is the young, nattily dressed Lieutenant Eric Janic, a lead investigator on the girls' disappearance. "I know Mr. and Mrs. Bolduc because I lived in Dryden," says Foley. "Ron Bolduc calls me because he's concerned he's not going to get the appropriate response from the state police. A missing sixteen-year-old girl--this happens all the time. So I call Mr. Bolduc back and say I will look into it. And what I do is, I ask that a fellow by the name of Investigator Bill Bean be sent. This is unusual for us, to send an investigator for a missing girl. We'd normally send a uniformed trooper who'd assess the situation, but in this case [as a favor to Mr. Bolduc], Investigator Bean is the first to arrive at the Hajney residence. And he quickly determines there's cause for concern."
The Hajney house, a snug, one-story dwelling with a big backyard, is outside Dryden, in McLean, a hilly old village settled in 1796. The village houses are done up in a pale gray and mauve and preside over lawns so neat and green they look like carpeting. Wishing wells and statues of geese decorate the yards, flags flutter on porches and there's a farm in the middle of town.
"There are a lot of people, concerned family members, inside the house," says Janic. "And the first obvious fact is: there's a problem in the bathroom."
"There are signs of a struggle," says Foley. "The shower curtain has been pulled down; the soap dish is broken off." On the towel rack is Jen's freshly washed purple-and-white cheerleading skirt. Sarah's skirt is discovered twirled over a drying rack in the basement.
"We start treating it as a crime scene," says Janic. "Sarah's parents have gotten the call [they are in Bar Harbor, Maine, for a four-day vacation] and are on their way back."
The first break in the case occurs almost immediately: The Hajneys' Chevy Lumina, which was missing, is found about seven miles from the house in a parking lot of the Cortland Line Company, a well-known maker of fly-fishing equipment. "The trunk is forced open by one of the uniformed sergeants," says Foley, "because we don't know, of course: are the girls in the trunk?"
The trunk reveals that the girls have, in fact, been inside. Investigators tear the car apart and find, among other things, mud, pine needles, charred wood, blood and diamond-patterned fingerprints suggesting the kidnapper wore gloves, meaning this wasn't some freak accident or a hotheaded crime of passion. This was planned.
Outside the Hajney home, waiting behind the yellow police tape in the cold night, is the other flyer on the cheerleading squad, Katie Savino. Small, with sparkling dark eyes and the merriest laugh, more like a sylph than a human girl, Katie is Sarah's best friend. She watches the troopers go in and out of the house and waits--full of hope--to speak to an official. What no one knows yet is that Katie could have been the third girl in the trunk. She had made plans to spend the night with Sarah and Jen but, at the last moment, decided to stay home.
. . .
Saturday dawns with diaphanous skies. The day is so sunny, so clear, that the natives, accustomed to clouds, find the silver blue blaze almost disorienting. "It's a beautiful day," says Kevin Pristash, a student affairs administrator at State University of New York at Cortland, which is near McLean and Dryden. "And suddenly these posters go up all over town. GIRLS MISSING! It's very eerie. Rumors are rampant. State troopers are everywhere. Helicopters are flying overhead. I go to get gas, and an unmarked car pulls up, and two guys from different police units get out. They're everywhere."
Gary Gelinger, an investigator with the state police, is in McLean interviewing the neighbors of the Hajney family. The first kitchen table at which he is invited to sit on Saturday morning belongs to John and Patricia Andrews. Their six-year-old son, Nicholas, attends Dryden Elementary. From an upstairs bedroom, one can look down into the Hajney's bathroom.
"John Andrews is not behaving appropriately," says Janic. "Isn't answering questions appropriately, doesn't seem to be aware of what's going on in the neighborhood. Investigator Gelinger reports back and just says: 'Nah, this isn't good. The next-door neighbor isn't good at all.'"
Back when he attends Dryden High, John Andrews is a bashful boy. The love of his life is cars. His old man has won a Purple Heart during one of his three tours in Vietnam; he's a "U.S.A. all the way" kind of religious alcoholic who believes in the belt and is strict about his rules. He beats John and his sisters, Ann and Deborah.
At Dryden, John finds a sweetheart, classmate Patricia McGory. They marry, and John joins the air force. At his German base, John allegedly, on two separate occasions, dons a ski mask and gloves and viciously attacks women who are young, attractive and petite. They have long, fair hair and are his neighbors. He's found guilty of the second assault, dishonorably discharged, and sent to Leavenworth.
When John is released, he and Patricia (who, along with his family, insists on his innocence) buy a house in McLean, and he begins working the third shift as a lathe operator at the same company where his mother is employed, the Pall Trinity Micro Corporation, in Cortland. A year later, in August 1996, the Hajneys purchase the house next door to the Andrews, and John quickly becomes obsessed with their beautiful and dashing daughter.
While the troopers are trying to get ahold of military justice records and follow up leads on other suspects, the massive search has alarmed Tiffany Starr and the cheerleading squad. "We keep hearing different rumors all day Saturday after we go home from the coach's," says Tiffany. "The house where I live is five minutes from the place where Sarah and Jen have been kidnapped. Of course I go wild, thinking they're coming to get me next. We've been imagining that they're after cheerleaders. And Saturday night and Sunday it's just me and my mom at home [her twin sisters, Amber and Amy, are away at college], and everybody knows that. By Sunday, I'm freaking out. And I say, 'Mom, we have to leave now! We have to get out of here!' And my mom says, 'Okay, let's go.' And we throw our stuff in bags. I can't be in that house another minute! I'm terrified. I'm sure somebody is gonna break in and we just get in the car and go."
Table of ContentsThe Cheerleaders
by E. Jean Carroll, from Spin
Our Man in Mexico
by Charles Bowden, from GQ
Should Johnny Paul Penry Die?
by Alex Prud’homme, from Talk
by Pat Jordan, from The New Yorker
by David McClintick, from Vanity Fair
Flesh and Blood
by Peter Richmond, from GQ
A Prayer for Tina Marie
by Robert Draper, from GQ
by Peter J. Boyer, from The New Yorker
The Chicken Warriors
by Mark Singer, from The New Yorker
The Crash of EgyptAir 990
by William Langewiesche,
from The Atlantic Monthly
by Doug Most, from Boston Magazine
The Killing of Alydar
by Skip Hollandsworth,
from Texas Monthly
The Chicago Crime Commission
by Robert Kurson, from Esquire
by Atul Gawande, from The New Yorker
by Julian Rubinstein, from Details
The Day of the Attack
by Nancy Gibbs, from Time
Anatomy of a Verdict
by D. Graham Burnett,
from The New York Times Magazine