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Crime in literature, True crime stories -- History and criticism, True crime stories -- Moral and ethical aspects, True crime stories -- Influence


True crime is a genre that has existed for centuries, adapting to social and literary trends as they come and go. The 21st century, particularly in the last five years, has seen true crime explode in popularity across different forms of media. As the omnipresence of true crime grows, so to do the ethical dilemmas presented by this often controversial genre. This paper examines what readers perceive to be the common ethical problems with true crime and uses this information to create a preliminary ethical standard for true-crime literature.

A comparison of the ethical concerns raised in scholarly sources with a sentiment analysis of the Goodreads reviews of Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark reveal that a significant number of readers do acknowledge questions of ethics in true-crime literature. These concerns indicate that a preliminary ethical standard for true crime would require that the book be well-researched, clear, humanizing, non-sensationalist, non-glorifying, and socially aware.


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Paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Writing: Book Publishing.

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