Media @ McGill

Cyanide and Sin: Visualizing Crime in 50s America




Cyanide and Sin: Visualizing Crime in 50s America is the study of a genre of American magazine, the true crime magazine. True crime magazines were born in the early 1920s, as a child of the “true confession” magazines popular at the time. Their periods of widest circulation came in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, when they exploited high levels of public interest in crimes unfolding, for the most part, within the United States. Cyanide and Sin focuses on the 1950s, when the true crime magazine exploited widespread public interest in corruption and vice. This interest was fueled by Senate investigations into organized crime and a general climate which encouraged the exposure of violence simmering below the small-town and city life. Cyanide and Sin is principally concerned with the visual imagery of the true crime magazines. While they published official images from true crime cases – mug shots, for example, or photographs of crime scenes – true crime magazines produced the vast majority of their photographs using models, in New York-based studios. This allowed these magazines to offer a glamour and level of detail unavailable in official police photographs or courtroom sketches. The lurid, sensational images of the true crime magazine during the years of its greatest popularity stand as curious documents of a public taste for violence and transgressive behaviour. The last of the American true crime magazines ceased publication in the year 2000. True crime persists as one of the most successful of television genres, and in the tabloid newspapers sold in supermarkets. For more on the book, click herePurchase a copy from the gallery