Death Scenes

20 Feb

Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective’s Scrapbook, edited by Sean Tejaratchi, 1996

The purpose of this collection of homicide pictures is to show the work of the peace officer and his problems…

Death Scenes: A homocide detective's scrapbookSo begins Jack Huddleston’s introduction to his original scrapbook – but these are no ordinary pictures, and Jack’s problems aren’t your ordinary work woes either. Jack was a police officer working with the LAPD from the 1930s to the 50s, and his scrapbook is a collection of crime scene photos, mugshots and oddities. Death Scenes, a sample of those photos, is really not for the faint-hearted: suicides, car accident victims, murdered children… page after page, image after image, shows that violence was around even when our grandparents were kids – or, as the introduction says, “[This book is] proof that there were no ‘good old days’”.

I know a lot of people who would absolutely hate this book. I know others who would find it fascinating. Yes, there are dead bodies galore, but there are stories behind them, some explained by captions, others left to the imagination. There’s the 1930s party scene with smartly dressed couples passed out all around a lounge room, victims of a carbon monoxide-leaking heater; a good-looking young guy who shot himself, captioned with “caused by a broken home and a broken heart”; an 83-year-old woman who killed her 91-year-old husband in a jealous rage after she saw him talking to a female neighbour.

But it’s not all death and bloodshed – Jack was clearly very curious about hermaphrodites, so there are a few pictures of these too. There’s also a photo of a kitten peeing into a large teacup, a few shrunken heads, and a cat with eight legs. Random.

Still, this book really is about its death scenes. For me, the photo that lingers is from a car accident – the driver was decapitated, and his head was found sitting neatly on the road 20m from the car. Some things never change.

Read it if you like real-life crime stories. Definitely don’t read it if you’re easily distressed or freaked out by death.

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One Response to “Death Scenes”

  1. MargRaff February 21, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Sounds fascinating and I’d love to have a copy to show my MIL next time she starts rabbiting on about how violent modern society is.

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