True Detective and Mississippi native W. T. Brannon
True Detective was an American true crime magazine founded in 1924 by publisher Bernarr McFadden. It is considered the first “true crime” magazine and helped pave the way for the literary genre of true crime and its writers. Initially the magazine published fiction, and even featured early stories by writers like Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson. Soon after this, however, True Detective began focusing solely on actual crimes and the stories behind them. The true crime magazine was very successful for its time and, at the height of its popularity, was selling two million copies a month (Marr, “True Detective, RIP”).
Though the magazine was focused on entertaining readers, and never had any notions of spurring social change, the 1931 serialized story "I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang" apparently had that effect. This story was such a “…scathing indictment of Georgia's convict labor system [that the story] led to nationwide reforms of the penal system” (Marr).
The magazine also helped to launch the careers of many crime and true crime writers, such as Meridian, Mississippi native W.T. Brannon. Brannon wrote thousands of true crime stories that he sold to such publications as True Detective, Master Detective, Adam, and Exposed Magazine.
The Brannon collection contains hundreds of his manuscripts and also contains hundreds of the magazine issues in which his stories were published. For more information about the W.T. Brannon Collection or any collection in Special Collections, contact Andrew Rhodes at Andrew.Rhodes@usm.edu or 601.266.4347. To see more Items of the Month, click here.
W.T. Brannon Collection. Special Collections, University Libraries, University of Southern Mississippi.
Marr, John. “True Detective, RIP.”
Text by Andrew Rhodes, Special Collections Specialist