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Local author tackles famous murders in new book

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WAKE FOREST — There’s something fascinating about murders that draw people in, eager to learn more, Rick Jackson says.

“It’s so far out of character of human nature,” Jackson, the author of “North Carolina Murder & Mayhem.” “We care about things like these because it’s just so out of the realm of our thought that someone could take someone’s life.”

Jackson’s book, released Monday, compiles about 30 of the most famous and impactful true-crime stories in the state’s history. The book digs into the stories of killers and their slain victims, including Tom Dooley, Jeffrey MacDonald. Rev. Geo. W. Carawan and the Fort Fisher Hermit.

Jackson, a North Carolina native living in Wake Forest, said he wanted to create a starting point where people interested in the subject can be introduced to these killings.

“I think people are just in general really fascinated with true crime,” Jackson said. “I wanted to be able to share some of the things that have really ingrained themselves in the state here, in the history.”

Jackson teaches business and economics at Franklin Academy, but said he is a history buff who enjoys telling stories about his home state’s past. He has written one other book, “Ghosts of the Triangle,” with his brother William.

Jackson researched “Murder & Mayhem” by pulling together newspaper articles, old police reports and other public documents.

But surrounding himself with history was just one motivation he had in writing the book. Murder has touched his life personally twice — a family friend was killed by her husband when Jackson was young, and later a student at his high school was murdered, he said.

He said it’s a funny feeling knowing that he got to grow up, but people killed young never had that chance.

“It’s almost like if you were reading a novel and you got halfway through and someone took it from you and ripped it in half and you never got to know what the second part of that story was,” Jackson said. “It’s always sad when someone was taken early, but it’s just so senseless.”

Jackson said some of the tales in his book are stranger than fiction, including one story of a pastor accused of murder who shot dead a prosecutor in the middle of his trial.

“Every murder that is discussed here is just absolutely totally senseless and shouldn’t have been done,” Jackson said. “There is just no justification and it’s hard to wrap your mind around.”

The book is published by Arcadia Publishing and The History Press. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Page 158 Books in Wake Forest and is listed at $21.99.

Jackson will speak at Page 158 Books at 4 p.m. on Saturday.