Not Just Evil: Murder, Hollywood, and California’s First Insanity Plea by David George Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Twelve-year-old Marion Parker was kidnapped from her Los Angeles school by an unknown assailant on December 15, 1927. Her body appeared days later, delivered to her father by the killer, who fled with the ransom money. When William Hickman was hunted down and charged with the killing, he admitted to all of it, in terrifying detail, but that was only the start. Hickman’s insanity plea was the first of its kind in the history of California, and the nature of the crime led to a media frenzy unlike any the country had seen.
There are two important elements in this book. One is the account of the true crime and the second is the social aspect where the author explores the reaction to the trial by the movie makers in Hollywood, as well as the general public. Did our modern media set monsters loose among us, or merely bring them out into the open? As the author points out this is still something that we grapple with today. The latest craze being put under the microscope are the bloody and violent computer games and a large part of society blame them for the disruptive youth of today.
At times the book read like a university dissertation, making it rather dry, but on the whole it was really interesting to read a well-balanced, factual account of a true crime and its effect on society.