The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Texas
by Ron Franscell
Globe Pequot: November, 2010
Review by Robert A. Waters
“If you want a wine museum, go to Sonoma County. If you want a movie museum, go to Hollywood. And if you want a prison museum, go to Huntsville, Texas.” So begins a brief section from The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Texas about the museum that houses memorabilia from one of the most infamous prisons in the country. In addition to the original electric chair and other grotesque artifacts, you can even take the Prison Driving Tour which will show you where freed inmates catch a ride away from Hell. In this section, as in all the stories, you’ll find GPS coordinates that will help you easily locate the site.
Cemeteries all across the state hold the remains of Texas law-breakers who caused mayhem and misery before meeting their maker, sometimes at the end of six-gun. There are other sites such as the University of Texas Tower in Austin where Charles Whitman holed up as he methodically slaughtered the innocent. You can travel to a real hanging tree, or you can visit bullet-pocked banks that were robbed and shot up by hardened outlaws. There are former whorehouses, a Texas “body farm,” and many more such curiosities. There are literally hundreds of places in Texas where you can hang out with the ghosts of famous outlaws such as Bonnie and Clyde, Sam Bass, serial murderer Joe Ball, or David Koresh.
Or you can search out those who upheld the law, such as famed lawman Frank Hamer, who coordinated the assassination of Bonnie and Clyde. The Texas Ranger museum has a display of relics from that organization’s storied past. And there are the graves and homes of little-known lawmen who died while upholding the law in lonely, out-of-the-way towns across the state.
Unlike so many books about crime, there are even stories about some of the victims.
If you’re hankering for serial killers, Texas has what you’re looking for. GPS coordinates lead you past the house where “Candyman” Dean Corll raped and murdered dozens of teenage boys. There’s the property that Chicago serial killer H. H. Holmes attempted to embezzle from a wealthy Texas heiress. There’s the courthouse where Tommy Lee Sells was sentenced to death. And on it goes.
The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Texas was designed to be used as a travel guide. But the arm-chair traveler can also read the stories and learn of those long-ago days when guns blazed across the heart of Texas and took the souls of many an outlaw to eternity.
While some might think such a book is bizarre, history itself is not only about politics or religion or institutions, it's also about anti-social behavior and the effects of criminal activity on society.
If you want a guide to the vast world of Texas criminal history, go to your local bookstore and pick up The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Texas.