A Good Month For Murder by Del Quentin Wilber
|A Good Month For Murder by Del Quentin Wilber|
|Category: True Crime|
|Reviewer: Sam Tyler|
|Summary: February 2013 was a bad month for the Homicide cops of Prince George’s County. Join them in this bleak and over sensationalised look at the senseless murder of so many in a broken part of America.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? No|
|Pages: 288||Date: June 2016|
I like to read crime fiction in part because it allows me to keep the dark world of murder and mayhem at arms-length, whilst still enjoying the vicarious thrills. After all, this is fiction and therefore a made up death. However, sometimes it is important to have a reality check and read a bit of non-fiction. The problem is with true crime as a genre is that it is sometimes written the same as fiction, although it is 'real’. Is there a place to sensationalise actual death for the entertainment of others?
When Del Quentin Wilber was given permission to shadow the Homicide cops from Prince George’s County, Maryland, he thought he was going to need a year of being embedded to have enough material. However, what followed was one of the bloodiest months in the County’s history as body after body drops. Follow Wilber has he in turn follows the overworked and underpaid officers through this quagmire of misery.
I am partial to a bit of true crime, but if it is to chime with me it either has to be historic or intellectual. This is to give me the excuse not overthink the grimness of the text; it happened a long time ago, or, I am learning about society. What does not sit well with me is a book that is set in the present day about real murder; but seems to read like a crime novel. This is exactly the populist approach that Wilber takes in A Good Month For Murder’’.
Essentially the book is a litany of murders. Most of these deaths are poor black men who are either part of the drugs trade, or victims of it. Ghettoside by Jill Leovy investigated a similar situation, but in this book Leovy tried to pinpoint exactly why the deaths occurred so frequently, Wilber has no such remit. In fact, one of the conclusions that Leovy comes to in her book is that the death of young black Americans is so frequent, because no one in the media seems to really care. Enter Wilber, a journalist by trade, who spends some time in his book investigating the many deaths of black males in February 2013, but disproportionately spends time investigating the deaths of three innocents, adding to the issues.
It is not the balance of the book that depressed me, nor even the very nature of all the unnecessary death, but instead it is Wilber’s writing style. I always find that having too many fiction tropes in non-fiction is disingenuous and annoying. Month’’ reads like a very plodding and slightly disjointed crime novel that has no real conclusion. It is based in fact, but written like fiction. We get to hear the inner monologue of the detectives – how can Wilber know what's in the minds of these men? Yes, the department read the manuscript before releasing it for publishing, but does the author really have the right to tell us what other people are thinking?
In the end Wilber’s style comes across as slightly jocular and a little light for the subject matter. There is no attempt at trying to understand why so many people had to die and instead the book is written as pure voyeuristic entertainment. This may be what many true crime fans are after, but even they may be put off by the fact all this happened just three years ago to real people, with real families. It is a shame that a journalist would write a book so devoid of true investigative journalism, instead writing something that is the book equivalent of making people gather around and poke a corpse.
For a true crime read that has a bit of distance to it try The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter, whilst Ghettoside by Jill Leovy may be flawed, but at least it investigates the reason behind so many deaths amongst young black men.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Good Month For Murder by Del Quentin Wilber at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Good Month For Murder by Del Quentin Wilber at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.