The Dewey Decimal Classification number for “true crime” books is 364.1, which indicates the topic of a new book club being organized by Sandy Haynes, Norelius Community Library assistant director.
“True crime has been a favorite genre of mine for reading for years and years,” Haynes said. “My husband says he sleeps with one eye open every night. Now he’s really worried because I’m reading books and taking notes.”
Haynes said true crime is a good topic for the book club because the genre is popular in books and on television.
The club will meet at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month for four months, with the first meeting taking place on January 14.
“We thought we’d start a section in the winter because people like to have something to get out for,” she said.
The first meeting of the club will be at Bella Sera Restaurant in Denison.
“You can have hors d’oeuvres, order a meal or you can bring your own drinks,” Haynes said.
The library will provide copies of the books to be read by the club.
“We’re ordering the books through interlibrary loan across the state,” she said. “People just need to come in and sign up.”
Individuals must have a library card to receive copies of the book club books.
A photo ID with a current address is required to get a library card. New residents without an updated ID may use the ID plus a piece of mail with their current address.
Books will be available about a month in advance of each book club meeting, Haynes said.
Three of the four books chosen for the club are about crimes in Iowa. The fourth is about a crime in Missouri.
The first book is “Brother’s Blood,” by Scott Cawelti. The book tells the story of Jerry Mark, who was convicted of the execution-style murders of his brother, sister-in-law, and his young niece and nephew in Cedar Falls.
He was convicted and sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in 1976.
Haynes said the story is interesting because of the subject matter and because some people still say Mark wasn’t the murderer.
The second book is “Villisca,” by Roy Marshall. The book is about the 1912 murder of eight people, by axe, while they slept.
A minister eventually confessed.
Haynes said she was interested in the book in part because she grew up in southwest Iowa.
“Villisca is only 15 miles from where my mother grew up and we had family that lived in Villisca,” she said.
An interesting element of the book is evidence that many other axe murders occurred in small towns along the same railroad tracks.
Haynes said the question for readers is “Do you believe it was the crazy minister they accused, or was it some man they never figured out that did this in multiple towns?’”
“Dead Air,” by Beth Bednar, is the third book the club will read.
The book tells the story of the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit, who was a news anchor for a television station in Mason City.
Police found her car and evidence of a struggle outside her apartment, but Huisentruit remains missing to this day.
The fourth book is “In Broad Daylight,” by Harry N. Maclean, about the murder of Ken Rex McElroy in Skidmore, Missouri, in 1981.
McElroy was accused of dozens of felonies and was convicted of shooting and seriously injuring Skidmore’s 70-year-old grocer.
According to the book, McElroy had terrorized northwest Missouri for more than 20 years. The town and law enforcement were terrified of him.
When McElroy appealed his conviction and was released on bond, he was shot to death in front of more than 45 witnesses.
No one was ever prosecuted for the crime.
Haynes said she was drawn to the book when she learned that McElroy occasionally visited her area of southwest Iowa.
Each of the books chosen for the club has had at least one television program dedicated its subject, she said.
When the book club meets, everything about the books will be open for discussion – from details of the investigations to the writing styles of the authors.
“You don’t have to sign up and come to every one,” Haynes said. “If you’re interested in just one book, you can come and join us one time.”
She said the library wants the club to appeal to men and women, which she thinks the true crime genre will do.
Readers who have not finished the book should be aware that one rule is the ending of the book is fair game for discussion.
Haynes said if the club goes over well, she will dig into the 364.1 section and select books for another four months of the club.
For more information, contact Haynes at Norelius Community Library at 712-263-9355.