5 must-read books about Dallas’ most notorious criminals

Dallas, home of the biggest churches and the most glamorous strip clubs. We love our good looks and our seedy underbelly. Sharpen your expertise in the latter with these must-read books about Dallas’ most notorious criminals.

Doc Holliday

Doc Holiday was a genteel southern gentleman who came West after a tuberculosis diagnosis and set up a dental practice in what is now the West End of Downtown Dallas. He left the state in 1874 to avoid charges of gambling and gunfighting. There are a couple of good books about Doc, including “Doc Holiday: The Life and the Legend,” which tells the story of the OK Corral and all that jazz, and “Doc Holliday: A Family Portrait,” a biography based on diaries and letters.

Bonnie and Clyde

Fort Worth-based author Jeff Guinn’s “Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde” is a page-turner that takes the reader inside the story of West Dallas’ most famous outlaws. Read the first chapter here.

Benny Binion

Benny Binion, right, in the World Series of Poker in 1974

The truth is stranger than fiction, and few are stranger than Benny Binion. The first half of former Dallas Morning News reporter Doug J. Swanson’s “Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Las Vegas Poker” is set in 1930s Dallas, where Binion ran gambling syndicates, paid off politicians and murdered a competitor and a rival. He later revolutionized Vegas casinos and may still have caches of silver buried in the desert.

Lee Harvey Oswald

Norman Mailer’s “Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery” traces Oak Cliff’s most infamous resident through his lost years in Minsk, which Mailer investigated in 1991.

Richard Speck

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS


This one is really crazy, y’all.

Mass murderer Richard Speck systematically tortured, raped and killed eight student nurses in Chicago in July 1966. Speck was raised in East Dallas, and his sister had put him on a bus to Illinois five months earlier so he could avoid charges of assault and theft in Dallas, where he had been arrested 41 times.

“Born to Raise Hell: The Untold Story of Richard Speck the Man, the Crime, the Trial” was published in 1966 and written from the perspective of Speck’s prison psychiatrist. He contends that Speck was not a psychopath, says a review by Consumed and Judged: “Noticing that Speck seemed to constantly suffer from blinding headaches, [Dr. Marvin] Ziporyn eventually helps Speck remember that on three separate occasions as a teenager in Dallas he had been knocked-out cold by blunt force trauma. That, and a penchant for mixing speed with hard liquor, ‘explains’ why Speck snapped that night and went on a killing spree.”

2 Comments
  1. Go Down Together certainly takes the glamor off of Bonnie and Clyde. They spend most of the book scrambling up and down creek banks together with Bonnie being in terrible shape. I couldn’t finish it. Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good book…it was just too much

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