The Crime Readers' Association

Neil Root

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I am fascinated by crime, psychology and history, and I write both crime non-fiction (true crime) and crime fiction.

Covering Darkness: Writing True Crime, published by Greenwich Exchange Publishing, March 2019 

Covering Darkness: Writing True Crime explores the wide-ranging genre of true crime writing and outlines the surprising literary lineage with a variety of writers – many of the highest quality – who have dedicated themselves to, or occasionally dabbled in, the form over the past four centuries.

Neil Root also analyses the key elements for effective true crime narrative writing, and the wider ethical implications and sensitivities unique to the style. Finally, it offers insights into fifteen of the best true crime writers since the 1960s and their seminal works in the Modern Masters section, taking in the different subject matters, approaches and methods of those leading practitioners in both book and feature writing forms.

True crime is under-represented in literary criticism. Covering Darkness: Writing True Crime aims to redress that situation, acting as both a succinct primer and a highly readable critical guide. See

Crossing the Line of Duty: How Corruption, Greed & Sleaze Brought Down the Flying Squad, published by The History Press, March 2019

Crossing the Line of Duty explores, for the first time, how the Sweeney (the Flying Squad), the Elite Serious Organised Crime Unit and the Obscene Publications Squad (the Dirty Squad) descended to unprecedented levels of corruption in the 1960s and 1970s, leading the infamous gangster Charlie Richardson to say that ‘the most lucrative, powerful and extensive protection racket ever to exist was administered by the Metropolitan Police’. Sir Robert Mark, who became commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and cleaned it up, said that it was ‘the most routinely corrupt organisation in London’. During his time as commissioner, 50 officers were prosecuted, while 478 took early retirement. Using Metropolitan Police files obtained under Freedom of Information, which have not been accessed since the 1970s, author Neil Root can finally tell the story of how both the Flying Squad and Obscene Publications Squad of the Metropolitan Police became systemically corrupt in the post-war years, and how they reached a nadir in the mid-1970s. It also shows how this culture of corruption has been a blueprint for Met Police corruption today, and how the enormous near-autonomous power wielded by elite squads allowed the corruption to fester and grow. See

The Murder Gang: Fleet Street’s Elite Group of Reporters in the Golden Age of Tabloid Crime, published by The History Press, April 2018

They were an elite group of renegade Fleet Street crime reporters covering the most notorious British crime between the mid-1930s and the mid-1960s. It was an era in which murder dominated the front and inside pages of the newspapers – the ‘golden age’ of tabloid crime. Members of the ‘Murder Gang’ knew one another well. They drank together in the same Fleet Street pubs, but they were also ruthlessly competitive in pursuit of the latest scoop. It was said that when the Daily Express covered a big murder story they would send four cars: one containing their reporters, the other three to block the road at crime scenes to stop other rivals getting through. As a matter of course, ‘Murder Gang’ members listened in to police radios, held clandestine meetings with killers on the run, made huge payments to murderers and their families – and jammed potatoes into their rivals’ exhaust pipes so their cars wouldn’t start. These were just the tools of the trade; it was a far cry from modern reporting. Here, Neil Root delves into their world, examining some of the biggest crime stories of the era and the men who wrote them. In turns fascinating, shocking and comical, this tale of true crime, media and social history will have you turning the pages as if they were those newspapers of old.



Non-fiction - Longlist 2018: The Murder Gang
Non-fiction - Longlist 2020: Crossing the Line of Duty

Books by Neil Root

  • Crossing the Line of Duty: How Corruption, Greed & Sleaze Brought Down the Flying Squad


  • The Murder Gang: Fleet Street's Elite Group of Crime Reporters in the Golden Age of Tabloid Crime


  • Covering Darkness: Writing True Crime


  • Gone: The Disappearance of Claudia Lawrence


  • Frenzy! How the Tabloid Press Turned Three Evil Serial Killers into Celebrities


  • Who Killed Rosemary Nelson?


  • Twentieth Century Spies


  • Cold Blooded Evil: The True Story of the Ipswich Stranglings


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