5 True Crime Shows You Didn't Realize Were Based On Books

by Melissa Ragsdale
Ray Mickshaw/FX

It seems to be the golden age of book-to-TV adaptations, especially when it comes to true crime. And if your true crime obsession runs as deeply as mine, I know you probably aren't content to just watch a TV show. You want to Google the case, read through every article you can find, and if available, read the book the show is based upon. But did you know the following true crime shows were based on books and the reporting done by their authors? If you didn't, you have more than a few books to add to your reading list this week.

Watching a true crime show and reading a true crime book can be entirely different experiences. Shows tend to relish in the drama. Those stomach-dropping moments when a new piece of evidence is discovered, the unforgettable characters who were involved with the case, and the most gruesome circumstances of the crime. Every true crime viewer is familiar with the intense music, the FBI-agents shouting through hallways, and the eerie reenactments that have become staples of the genre.

But books are more about the small details. When you read a true crime book, you can really pour over the facts of the matter. You can lay everything out in your head and start to do some detective-work yourself. You can reread passages over and over until you really understand what happened. But of course, be careful, as often these books are written from a singular perspective on the case.

Here are five true crime shows you didn't realize were based on books — watch them, read them, and prepare for a week of amateur sleuthing:


In Mindhunter, Netflix takes you into the life of an F.B.I. profiler as he interviews famous murderers —including Charles Manson, Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, and James Earl Ray. These interviews leds to the creation of the "serial killer" classification. The original book was written by Special Agent John Douglas and it's even more riveting than the show.

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'The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story'

This recent American Crime Story series dives into the 1997 murder of Italian designer Giovanni Versace at the hands of serial killer Andrew Cunanan. The series draws upon Vulgar Favors byVanity Fair reporter Maureen Orth, who reported on the crime in its immediate aftermath.

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'The People v. O.J. Simpson'

FX's The People vs. O.J. Simpson is a startling look at one of the most famous murder trials of all time. But did you know the show was based on a book by Jeffrey Toobin? It's even more in-depth than the show, if you can believe it.

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'Finding Chandra'

Written by two Washington Post reporters, Finding Chandra dives into the 2001 disappearance of intern Chadnra Levy — and the suspected involvement of Congressman Gary Condit. (The show is still in development, so while you wait, be sure to give the book a read!)

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The infamous 51-day standoff and deadly shootout that happened in Waco, TX in 1993 has had deep and lasting impacts on the way law enforcement operates in Texas and nationally. This six-part series is a deep-dive into the tragedy, and it actually draws on two books. The first, Waco: A Survivor's Story is written by David Thibodeau, one of the nine survivors. The second, Stalling for Time is written by the FBI's former Chief Negotiator, Gary Noesner.

Click here to buy Waco: A Survivor's Story and Stalling for Time.