I’ve been reading a lot of true crime books lately as well as finishing up a series of paintings I call “The Seven Deadly Sins.” Currently, I’m reading Sebastian Junger’s A death in Belmont, and my painting of “Lust” in the series seems especially apropos. You see, the book is about the sex-crazed Boston Strangler who terrorized parts of Boston during the 1960’s.
Blue collar crime…and lust.
Here’s a summary of the book:
A fatal collision of three lives in the most intriguing and original crime story since In Cold Blood.
In the spring of 1963, the quiet suburb of Belmont, Massachusetts, is rocked by a shocking sex murder that exactly fits the pattern of the Boston Strangler. Sensing a break in the case that has paralyzed the city of Boston, the police track down a black man, Roy Smith, who cleaned the victim’s house that day and left a receipt with his name on the kitchen counter. Smith is hastily convicted of the Belmont murder, but the terror of the Strangler continues.
On the day of the murder, Albert DeSalvo―the man who would eventually confess in lurid detail to the Strangler’s crimes―is also in Belmont, working as a carpenter at the Jungers’ home. In this spare, powerful narrative, Sebastian Junger chronicles three lives that collide―and ultimately are destroyed―in the vortex of one of the first and most controversial serial murder cases in America.
Blue collar crime…and immigration.
And here’s a more elaborate description in case you need convincing that this is a worthy read:
“A compelling portrait of 1960s America that takes as its starting point the brutal events of 11 March 1963, the day on which the lives of three complete strangers – a black handyman, an Italian-American carpenter and a second-generation Jewish housewife – collided in the leafy Boston suburb of Belmont.
These three people did not know one another, but, by the end of the day, the housewife had been raped and strangled, the handyman had been arrested on suspicion of being the notorious Boston Strangler, and the real Boston Strangler – carpenter Al DeSalvo – had returned home to his wife and children.
It was not until two years later that DeSalvo admitted to the gruesomely violent murders of thirteen women.
Also unwittingly drawn into the drama were one-year-old Sebastian Junger’s own family, who posed for a photograph with DeSalvo the day after the Belmont strangling, at the completion of his work on their studio.
Taking the chilling family snap as his inspiration, Junger explores the worlds of the three protagonists and, in so doing, creates a portrait of America in the 1960s that touches on the historic themes of the era: the assassination of JFK, the rise of the immigrants and the troubling race relations that prefigured the death of Martin Luther King.
This  work by Sebastian Junger, the acclaimed author of Perfect Storm and Fire, is as enlightening as it is haunting. Taking as its foundation the events that shocked a quiet community in 1963, A Death in Belmont expands to encompass an entire nation at a time of extraordinary social turmoil.”
Blue collar crime as a subgenre?
For a good true crime book that looks at the alleged lustful serial killings by a blue collar worker (DeSalvo) and also deals with racial discrimination and social class, A death in Belmont is your book. And as a bonus, it examines one of the premier issues of the day, immigration.