cover image Starkweather: The Untold Story of the Killing Spree That Changed America

Starkweather: The Untold Story of the Killing Spree That Changed America

Harry N. MacLean. Counterpoint, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-1-64009-541-0

Edgar winner MacLean (In Broad Daylight) delivers a magisterial study of the infamous murders committed by 19-year-old Charles Starkweather across Nebraska and Wyoming in the 1950s. From November 1957 to January 1958, while accompanied by his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, Starkweather killed 11 people (primarily in Lincoln, Nebr.) including Fugate’s mother, stepfather, and two-year-old sister. The reverberations of those murders, MacLean asserts, helped create the concept of the serial killer and provided inspiration for Bruce Springsteen’s song “Nebraska,” Oliver Stone’s film Natural Born Killers, and other works of pop culture. MacLean, who grew up in Nebraska and whose older brother had been Starkweather’s classmate, remained haunted by the killings and fascinated by unanswered questions about Fugate’s involvement for much of his life, poring over articles and trial transcripts for insights. Using that research—plus an in-person interview with Fugate that he conducted in 2022 after tracking her down in a Nebraska nursing home—MacLean pieces together a propulsive account that nails down concrete details from the “ten different versions” of events Starkweather provided in official documents, and presents crucial context about his and Fugate’s early lives. The result is an instant true crime classic. Agent: Paul Bresnick, Paul Bresnick Literary. (Nov.)