Q&A with James Renner, Author of True Crime Addict

Read this exclusive Q&A with James Renner, author of True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray, and then make sure you're signed in and comment for a chance to win a copy of the book!

James Renner, author of True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray, has been obsessed with missing people since he was a child. After learning about the disappearance of Maura Murray, he put his investigative journalism skills to task and began studying the case. He set up a blog to track his process and hoped to grow a community that could share his passion and help find out what happened on that day in 2004. After years of research, Renner has written a book about his search for Maura Murray.

Well, we had some questions of our own! James was nice enough to sit down with CrimeHQ and provide some great answers about the book, society's current obsession with true crime, and a few lighter questions about his personal life.

How did writing True Crime Addict compare to writing your novels The Great Forgetting and The Man from Primrose Lane? What are the differences in writing fiction and nonfiction?

The method of building the book is very similar. I think many people don't realize how much research goes into a novel. Or, at least, the novels I write, because I want them to feel real. I did so much research into the science of time travel for The Man from Primrose Lane. For The Great Forgetting, I had to research conspiracy theories—where they began, why people want to believe them. 

In your latest book, you’re as much of a character as the people you’re researching and writing about. What was the hardest part about writing about yourself?

The hardest part about writing yourself is being open and honest. But, if you're going to write about yourself, you'd better be open and honest because nobody wants to read about how awesome you are at everything. The book opens with me visiting a strip club after being fired from a newspaper. I am not written as a likeable character. Maura Murray had her faults. So does James Renner. We're all human. We're all struggling.

As a self-proclaimed “true crime addict,” what are some other cases you’d like to investigate and write about in the future?

Honest answer: I am done investigating cold cases for a while. It's a promise I made to my wife that I intend to keep, at least for a little bit. Writing novels is much more fun. That said…for my next novel, I did a TON of research into the Tamam Shud mystery.

You’ve been obsessed with missing people since you were a child. What drew you to the disappearance of Maura Murray?

What draws me to Maura's cold case is that it's actually two mysteries coiled around each other. The first mystery is: what happened to Maura Murray on Route 112 that night? The second mystery is: what was this nursing student doing up there in the first place. If you can answer one, you can get closer to the other answer. After six years of research, I believe I've solved the second mystery.

With shows like Making a Murderer and podcasts like Serial, it seems like everyone’s interest in true crimes is at an all-time high.  What do you think makes true crimes so addictive?

I strongly believe, when we look back at this moment in history, we will come to realize that our society is having an existential crisis. We're searching for meaning and coming up short. What we're finally learning is that the world is indifferent and that our only defense against the horrors of life is to start treating each other better, and fast. I think that's why unresolved mysteries with no sense of closure have become a part of pop culture—we're beginning to understand that closure is a myth.


If you could team up with any detective, real or fictional, who would you choose and why?

I think Robert Graysmith and I could do some serious damage if we joined forces and went up against, say, the Original Night Stalker.

What do you want readers to think or feel after finishing this book?

I want people to realize that everyone has secrets, that we're all fallible and insecure. There is a darkness, the other part of our soul, and it's how we choose to fight that darkness (and whether we do at all) that defines us. I want people to recognize that every life is important, every life matters, every person is worth searching for.

Describe True Crime Addict in five words!

Mad, mad, mad, mad world.

Where can people find more information about Maura Murray and her disappearance?

You can read through over a thousand pages of documents related to the case at my blog: http://mauramurray.blogspot.com

What other true crime books are among your favorites? 

The Shadow of Death by Philip Ginsburg—it's about the hunt for The Connecticut Valley River Killer and takes places in and around the area where Maura Murray disappeared.

What are you currently reading?

I'm getting back to some heady mystery novels, currently enjoying the upcoming book, Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking.

What are you currently binging on Netflix?

Just finishing the new season of House of Cards. Jumping into the last season of The Killing. Going to rewatch Twin Peaks soon.

Read an excerpt of True Crime Addict here!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of True Crime Addict by James Renner!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

True Crime Addict Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2016/05/qa-with-james-renner-author-of-true-crime-addict-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) May 19, 2016. Sweepstakes ends 11:59 a.m. ET May 27, 2016. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


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James Renner is the author of The Serial Killer's Apprentice and several other works of nonfiction. His true crime stories have appeared in The Best American Crime Writing anthology, as well the Cleveland Scene and Cracked.com. His method of using social media to solve cold cases was the subject of a CNN profile, in 2015. He has also written two novels, The Man from Primrose Lane and The Great Forgetting. He lives in Akron with his wife and children.


  1. Gordon Bingham

    First pre sentence investigation I ever worked on as a probation officer was on a serial killer. Nearly 30 years later, I still follow his appeals. Understand the author’s ubsession…

  2. Todd Henson

    I enjoyed the except for True Crime Addict, great beginning. Based on that and this interview it sounds like a fascinating experience I’d love to read about.

  3. Crystal Smith

    Can’t wait to stay up all night reading the book!

  4. Andrew Beck

    Sounds like an interesting and spellbinding case. Maybe it will lead to a video or radio producer taking up the cause and doing some further work on it, or even making a film!

  5. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    True crimes often seem like fiction! Yes!

  6. Alyson Widen

    We just had a 6 year old missing for 6 hours this weekend in Cleveland and the public was notified. I enjoy reading the true stories about kidnapping and crime, but it would be terrible to have it happen to my family. This looks like a page turner.

  7. lasvegasnv

    interesting writing info

  8. Debra Nicholson

    Would’t it be great to solve a crime. Are you not scared at getting a little too close?

  9. Stonearosa

    I’ve been reading good things about this book and am really excited that it is available now. Can’t wait to read it!!

  10. Susan Pertierra

    True Crime is interesting because it’s hard to believe there are people out there that do unfathomable things.

  11. kathy pease

    I would love to read this!

  12. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win

  13. Sandy Klocinski

    I understand the author’s obsession. Sounds fascinating. Looks like a page turner

  14. Tara Overby

    Wow, this will be an interesting read!

  15. Belinda Shaw

    sounds really interesting

    Belinda S

  16. Daniel Vice

    This looks great

  17. Barbara Lima

    Sometimes True Crimes seem like you can’t make this stuff up.

  18. Daniel Morrell

    sounds like a good one!

  19. Ed Nemmers

    I would like to read the work of James Renner.

  20. Tricha Leary

    thanks for the opportunity

  21. rickel bart

    oh boy, tru-ly eager to read this true crime book!

  22. Jaime Cummings

    Really wanna read this!

  23. Brandon Sparks

    I am so looking forward to reading this book. Such a great giveaway!

  24. Connie R

    I want to read this from a fellow Ohioan.

  25. Linda Peters

    just happen to love true crime books, thanks

  26. Andrew Gordon

    love true crime

  27. Jerry Marquardt

    I would like to read True Crime Addict because it looks so interesting. Thanks for giving us all the chance to win.

  28. Chelsie

    I would LOVE to win a copy of True Crime Addict. I love anything to do with true crime!! I hope the FBI never has to look at my browsing history! ????

  29. Shannon Baas

    I would like this.

  30. Richard Hicks

    I love good mysteries

  31. dawn k

    looks good

  32. Gail Fernandez

    This sounds like an awesome book! Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  33. tiac35

    I love the excerpt and love true crime books. I really hope I win.

  34. Lily

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  35. Tinroofbuddy53

    It sounds like a great read. Thanks.

  36. JULES M.

    sounds fascinating. would love to read!

  37. Kimberly Hilbert

    This sounds like a great book.

  38. Tim Moss

    Good deal, count me in!

  39. Tarah Manning

    This sounds like the perfect summer read!

  40. Philip Lawrence

    The book sounds addictive!


    I would love to win this book!!

  42. Sylvia Buck

Comments are closed.