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9 chats with top true-crime authors

A con man extraordinaire who fell for an epic Big Con. A killing – along with a blimp crash, race riot and transit strike – that turned Chicago upside down. The brutal murders of beautiful young British women in 2000 Japan and 1937 China. And the legacies of the worst school massacre in American history (not Newtown) and of that horrific day at Columbine High. The pointless and immensely tragic assassination of a now-forgotten president. The eternal fascination of Alcatraz. Plus a man named Roosevelt who tried, in vain, to turn back the violence and vice of New York City in the 1880s and 1890s. Over the past year, I interviewed authors who have tackled each one of these topics. With a couple exceptions, their books were published in 2012. And with no exceptions, all are great – if sometimes harrowing – reads. Here are excerpts from our chats. Click on the links to read the full interviews.

By Randy Dotinga

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1. Candice Millard on the killing of a president

"It took me three years to work on the book, two years of doing research, and I was far into it by the time I wrote his death scene. I called my husband in tears.  "I didn't want to write it. That's ridiculous: It's been 130 years since he died. But I felt like I knew him. I cared about him, and I admired him, and I was surprised by all of that."

 –Candice Millard, author of "Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President."

(Check out the full interview.)

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