Photographs of French criminal Jacques Mesrine
Photographs of French criminal Jacques Mesrine

It is among the darker facets of human nature that we are often unable to look away from a scandal. From the more innocuous fluff of celebrity gossip, to the darker fodder of murder, assault and kidnapping, we are often riveted.

Take the O.J. Simpson murder trial, for example. In 1995, television ratings skyrocketed to over 30% above average for the prosecution's opening remarks. Not only was the crime grisly and tragic, but it involved a celebrity. Despite our disgust, we didn't look away.

One of France's most infamous criminals was bank robber Jacques Mesrine, who wreaked havoc in the sixties and seventies. Seen as a sort of Robin Hood, Mesrine garnered public sympathy as a member of the economically downtrodden, and charmed the masses with his daring escapes and taunts of police. But Mesrine was involved in the strangling death of an elderly woman and shooting deaths of two forest rangers, among other violent incidents. Despite the horror (and in part because of it - Mesrine was gunned down by police in 1979), Mesrine captured the fascination of the public. There are books and movies about him, and in December 2011, three silver-gelatin print photographs of Mesrine sold for $7,400 making our monthly most expensive sales list.

Regardless of the nature of the crime, the combination of crime and fame make for a spectacle few can ignore, and when there is even a hint of a story, without a doubt there is someone willing and eager to write it.

Nobody seems to personify that more than Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, better known as Bonnie and Clyde, the infamous American depression-era outlaws. Their exploits have been hailed as a great love story, even resulting in a popular song, The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde by English R&B singer Georgie Fame. In actuality, the story of Bonnie Clyde is more ruthless than romantic, and the two were responsible for the deaths of at least nine people. Want to learn more? You can find a copy of their biography as told by Bonnie's mother and Clyde's sister.

If you want a collectible piece of mob memorabilia, there's a cancelled check signed by Meyer Lansky, co-founder of the National Crime Syndicate, or a photograph of Al Capone himself, complete with his autograph. More comfortable with fictional crime bosses? A first edition of The Godfather, signed by Mario Puzo, may be right up your alley.

Italy and the United States certainly haven't cornered the market on outlaws - Australia's Ned Kelly is celebrated by some folks as a national hero for his disobedience of 19th century colonial rule, and condemned by others as a no-good, illiterate thug and scofflaw. We have two true firsts of Peter Carey's interpretation of the Ned Kelly story, signed by the author. See True History of the Kelly Gang.

If you prefer insider trading, impeachment and embezzlement to rat-a-tat-tat and robbery, we have some titillating items to show you. One bookseller is offering an inscribed photograph of Richard Nixon as president. For just $2,200, you could have Nixon hanging in your home forever (what a thought!). Nixon enthusiasts rejoice - we also have an anniversary commemorative souvenir copy of Nixon's resignation letter, matted, framed and signed by Tricky Dick in the flesh.

Still not your cup of tea? A woman who knows both cups of tea and notoriety is Martha Stewart, who, aside from being renowned as the go-to woman for the domestic arts also served a five-month prison term in 2004-2005 for insider trading. We have a few first printing, first edition copies of her book The Martha Rules, signed by the exquisite ex-con herself. If she's signing them, at least she's a good sport.

And speaking of sports, the world of competitive sports is no stranger to scandal, intrigue, deception and drama - even violence. If you're interested, we have a signed Pete Rose collector's plate. You remember Pete Rose - exiled from major league baseball, amid allegations he bet against his own team? That one.

Many would rather remember the glorious career of Rose, nicknamed 'Charlie Hustle' for his go get 'em attitude on the diamond, instead of the shame that came later. For you, perhaps a first edition of The Pete Rose Story: An Autobiography.

A more direct approach to sport notoriety would be Mike Tyson. We have first/first copies of the aptly named Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story, all about the man made famous for boxing, and infamous for abusing his wife, biting, and countless brushes with the law. And most recently, one of course can hardly be surprised if many of Lance Armstrong's books have found their way to the woodchipper, after the cyclist was stripped of his seven Tour de France medals for cheating with performance-enhancing drugs.

Some of the most unforgettable cases in history, from white collar crime and politics, to cheating and lying, to adultery and infidelity, to murder and more, have been immortalized on paper. These are the books that document some dark chapters and dark people in history, telling the tales of scandal from the mild to the murderous.


Miscellany of Villainy: Assorted Scandal

Tiger: The Real Story by Steve Helling
Tiger: The Real Story
by Steve Helling
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber
by Julian Rubinstein
Gotti: Rise and Fall by Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain
Gotti: Rise and Fall
by Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain
Rogue Trader by Nick Leeson
Rogue Trader
by Nick Leeson
Pride and Perjury by Jonathan Aitken
Pride and Perjury
by Jonathan Aitken
I, Willie Sutton by Quentin Reynolds
I, Willie Sutton
by Quentin Reynolds
After the Big House by Fred Berson
After the Big House
by Fred Berson
I Was Wrong: by Jim Bakker and Ken Abraham
I Was Wrong:
by Jim Bakker and Ken Abraham

Why are we so drawn to stories of the notorious?

Much more to explore:

Books of Betrayal The Most Devilsh Books Books Behind Bars - Prison Literature