True Crime from the 1820s: Shades of Capote

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Sketches of William Corder and murder victim Maria Marten. i i

hide captionWilliam Corder, left, was hanged for the murder of Maria Marten.

St. Edmunsbury Borough Council, West Suffolk, England
Sketches of William Corder and murder victim Maria Marten.

William Corder, left, was hanged for the murder of Maria Marten.

St. Edmunsbury Borough Council, West Suffolk, England

In Cold Blood wasn't the first book to turn true crime into literature. Consider the work of London journalist James Curtis.

In 1828 Curtis detailed her brutal murder of Maria Marten by her lover, William Corder. Curtis — foreshadowing the approach later taken by Truman Capote — threw himself into the story. He interviewed members of Corder's family during the trial, and even slept in Corder's bed.

Paul Collins, a professor of writing at Portland State University, delves into every detail of the case in next month's issue of The Believer. Collins tells Scott Simon about Curtis, the Corder trial and why Marten's murder transfixed a nation.

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