The Murders That Made Us: How Vigilantes, Hoodlums, Mob Bosses, Serial Killers, and Cult Leaders Built the San Francisco Bay Area

ECW. May 2021. 264p. ISBN 9781770415492. pap. $19.95. CRIME
Calhoun, crime columnist for SF Weekly, presents a fascinating time line of infamous denizens of San Francisco. He jumps from topic to topic, beginning with a 1959 murder in which his own mother was briefly a person of interest; he then doubles back to the early days of the city, and ends with the devastating effect of COVID-19 on the live music scene as many venues shutter for good. Along the way, he covers Al Capone (who served a prison sentence for tax evasion on Alcatraz Island), Patty Hearst, Charles Manson, and the Reverend Jim Jones, as well as attempts on President Gerald Ford’s life and the murder of Harvey Milk. The profile of district attorney Terence Hallinan—who was succeeded by Vice President Kamala Harris—includes the story of a vicious dog-mauling case he assigned to ADA Kimberly Guilfoyle (now the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr.). She won the case. Calhoun’s style is irreverent and clever, and his affection for the city is clear.
VERDICT Enjoy this book in short sips—there is much to savor here for both true crime fans and lovers of San Francisco. Hand this title to those who appreciated David Talbot’s Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love.
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