Book Review: Not Just Evil

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Not Just Evil: Murder, Hollywood, and California’s First Insanity Plea

David Wilson

Diversion Books

216 pages

Synopsis:

Marion Parker was just 12 years old when, in 1927, a young man walked into her school and told the secretary he was sent by her sick father to pick her up. The school released Marion, and it soon become clear what an error they had made. Marion’s family soon made contact with her kidnapper, and despite their best efforts to deliver the requested ransom to him, Marion’s dismembered body was discovered.

William Hickman was quickly discovered to be the perpetrator and a manhunt ensued. After his capture, Hickman ended up admitting to his grisly crime, but claimed insanity. His love for Hollywood films ensnared the film industry in his crime, which had the ability to cripple the burgeoning enterprise.

An insanity defense was something completely new for the time, and the Court fumbled to try and make sure that Hickman was given a fair trial that followed the newly enacted laws.

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My thoughts:

I have been an avid reader of true crime since I was a teenager, but I’ll admit to being a little burnt out on the subject. TC books tend to bleed together and become very formulaic. I appreciated that Not Just Evil was able to seem fresh and offer a new perspective. The “Golden Age of Hollywood” setting was very special and added a glamorous element.

I also thought the birth of the insanity plea was fascinating. Reading about what we now know to be standards during a time when the court system was really just trying to navigate their way through uncharted territory brought an entirely new perspective.

I don’t often get squeamish when reading about violent crimes, but this was an entirely new level for me. It was shocking what Hickman put poor Marion through and although it has been almost 90 years since her brutal murder, my heart ached for what she went through.

If you’re a fan of true crime or just looking for something a little different, definitely pick this one up.

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One Response

  1. My daughter just started studying criminal justice; this is definitely a book she’ll enjoy.

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