Hungry for Murder: Interrogating America’s Obsession with True Crime

May 30, 2016 | Vicki Madden

In 1798, Charles Brockden Brown published the first novel written by a professional American author: Wieland: or, The Transformation. Brown’s tale of a patriarch compelled to murder his family under the influence of religious voices was quintessentially gothic. More importantly, however, it was based on a true story. Inspired by the case of James Yates, a New York farmer who murdered his wife and four children after purportedly hearing the voice of God, Brown’s novel attained cult status among nineteenth-century readers, underscoring the American public’s appetite for murder narratives drawn from real life horrors.

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