Born June 7, 1925, Jack Olsen was the award-winning author of thirty-three books published in fifteen countries and eleven languages. A former Time bureau chief, Olsen wrote for Vanity Fair, People, Paris Match, Readers Digest, Playboy, Life, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, New York Times Book Review and others. His magazine journalism appeared in thirteen anthologies. His books included The Misbegotten Son, The Bridge at Chappaquiddick,, the eco-thriller Night of the Grizzlies, and his monumental study of a Nazi massacre in Italy, Silence on Monte Sole. Three of his works were adapted for the screen, including Have You Seen My Son? on ABC.
Olsen's journalism earned the National Headliners Award, Chicago Newspaper Guild's Page One Award, commendations from Columbia and Indiana Universities, the Washington State Governor's Award, the Scripps-Howard Award and other honors. He was listed in Who's Who in America since 1968 and in Who's Who in the World since 1987. The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as "an American treasure."
Olsen was described as "the dean of true crime authors" by the Washington Post and the New York Daily News and "the master of true crime" by the Detroit Free Press and Newsday. Publishers Weekly called him "the best true crime writer around." His studies of crime are required reading in university criminology courses and have been cited in the New York Times Notable Books of the Year. In a page-one review, the Times described his work as "a genuine contribution to criminology and journalism alike."
Olsen is perhaps best known for his studies of rape: "Son": A Psychopath and His Victims, which won a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; Predator, the American Mystery Award winner for Best True Crime, and "Doc": The Rape of the Town of Lovell, awarded the 1991 Edgar for Best Fact Crime. He was named to the MWA's fact-crime committee in 1996 and appointed chair in 1997.
A nationally respected expert on the psychology of criminals, Olsen appeared on Good Morning America, Sally Jessy Raphael, Donahue, Geraldo, Larry King Live and other network interview shows. He was the father of eight, a native of Philadelphia, a fishing fanatic and former resident of New York City, Bermuda, New Orleans, Denver, Chicago, Washington and San Diego. He lived on an island in Puget Sound, Washington where he passed away at the age of 77 on July 16, 2002.
JACK OLSEN: 1925-2002
Seattle Post-Intelligencer obituary
Entry at HistoryLink.Org
"So Long, Jack Olsen" by Michelle Malkin
You can find books by Jack for sale on my books page.
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- The Morning News Tribune (Seattle area paper), May 30, 1990
- The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1993.
- The New York Times, 1993.
- An interview with Jack about his book Charmer.
- At Amazon books -- an older interview and a more recent one, focussing on Hastened to the Grave.
- From Point No Point, a Seattle publication, 1998: "True Crime Doesn't Pay."
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM JACK:
- Thoughts on the "marketing of murder" (the current state of true crime)
Jack, circa 1970, 1976, 1977, late 1980's, another late 80's shot and 1993.
Pictured on the back covers of books:
- The Mad World of Bridge
- The Bridge at Chappaquiddick
- The Man with the Candy
- Night of the Grizzlies
- The Climb Up to Hell.
Jack signing books at a true crime fans' gathering.
Jack in his workshop.
IN THE NEWS:
- At the time of his death, Jack had recently finished The Pitcher's Kid, the first volume of a three-part memoir, according to his wife Su. Details of its eventual publication are unknown.
- Jack's final work of crime journalism, the case of Keith Hunter Jesperson, "the Happy Face Killer," who signed his taunting letters to the police and the press with a Happy Face before he was caught, was published by St. Martin's in August, 2002. Depending on whom you believe, he killed between eight and 168 women during a five-year career as a cross-country truck driver. Click here to see the cover.
- Jack's penultimate book, the story of Geronimo Pratt, the Black Panther who was released from prison after serving 27 years for a murder he didn't commit, was published in September 2000 by Doubleday -- the title is Last Man Standing. You can read an interview Jack did about Geronimo Pratt by clicking on this link.
- The Climb up to Hell has been reissued by St. Martin's Press -- click here to read an excerpt and here to see the cover. A fan sends along a review which looks at the book in light of the recent mountain-climbing best-seller, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.
- At least three books have been dedicated to Jack since his passing: Scavenger Hunt by Robert Ferrigno, Hard Looks by Andrew Vachss, and A Star is Made by Pier Dominguez.
Jack Olsen's Books -- the complete works