Journalist. Palindrome. Writer.

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James Renner is an award-winning journalist, and author of True Crime Addict, the definitive book on the Maura Murray disappearance. He also hosts the podcast, The Philosophy of Crime. In 2019, he founded The Porchlight Project which raises money for new DNA testing and genetic genealogy for Ohio cold cases. In May, 2020, James Zastawnik was arrested for the murder of Barbara Blatnik, thanks to the work of genealogists funded by the Porchlight Project.

Now in paperback: MUSE!


My horror novella, Muse, is now available in paperback through Cemetery Dance! Click here to order.

Muse tells the story of a private detective hired by a young writer to steal an old box from the estate of H.P. Lovecraft. Mayhem ensues.

“This is a horror-filled book about creativity and storytelling and compulsion, not metaphorical but literal… Muse is now far and away my favorite Renner work.” –

“Renner’s spin on the Lovecraft-go-round is a dark-ass supernatural detective thriller speculating about the source of inspiration for two of America’s gloomiest, murkiest writers. It is a bloody, and clever and slick-noir journey through a criminal underbelly of east coast gangsters and cultists and amorous boy scout leaders and ambitious teenage novelists and it is creepy and rewarding and HIGHLY EFFABLE. like, ‘we are all effed-able.’ Finally, a Lovecraft i could love.” – Karen Brissette.

Scout Camp now available for pre-order!

My next true crime book comes out February 25, 2025 but you can preorder today! This one is quite personal and serves as a kind of autobiography, too.

Preorder it on Amazon here.

Here’s the writeup.

In this timely and deeply personal true crime memoir, acclaimed journalist, author, creator of the True Crime This Week podcast, and former Boy Scout James Renner, explores the dark side of an American institution, its pervasive culture of sexual abuse, and the traumatic—even deadly—repercussions of its long-buried secrets.

In the summer of 1995, at the largest Boy Scout camp in Ohio, a night of sexual violence ended with one counselor dead and another hospitalized. The death was ruled “accidental.” It wouldn’t be the last death associated with Seven Ranges Reservation.
James Renner, too, was a counselor at Seven Ranges that year. He was always sure there must be more to the story of Mike Klingler’s death, because Renner also knew firsthand that the 900-acre camp was not the safe getaway it was portrayed to be. On Friday nights the boys were ushered into the woods for a frightening ceremony in which they learned the rules for becoming good young men—and, above all, that keeping secrets was a Scout’s duty. No matter how dark the secrets were.
Determined to face his demons, Renner embarks on a journey back to that tumultuous summer and exposes a clandestine society that left indelible scars on the Scouts and the staff who were there. For Renner, it meant opening up about his twisted upbringing, his issues with trust and sexuality, and a lifetime of self-medication. The result is a deeply personal, no-holds-barred, and vitally important true crime memoir.

Shaker Heights Police Are Open to Taking Another Look at Local Murders

I’m happy to report that this week I met Shaker Heights police detectives to talk about a potential link between the unsolved murder of Lisa Pruett and the 1985 double-homicides of Philip and Dorothy Porter (the subject of my book, Little, Crazy Children.) The meeting went well and they are at least cracking open the old files for another look. Fingers crossed!

David Nethers interviewed me about the progress on Fox 8.

New Season of The Philosophy of Crime!

Philosophy of Crime
Philosophy of Crime

The Philosophy of Crime podcast is back for Season 6 everywhere you get your podcasts. Here are the release dates:

Episode 1 (October 10): Does Diplomatic Immunity Get You Off?

Episode 2 (October 12): Why Is Bail the Worst Idea Ever?

Episode 3 (October 17): Pyschopaths and the Bicameral Mind

Episode 4 (October 19): Why Do People Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit?

Episode 5 (October 24): Why Are Drugs Illegal?

Episode 6 (October 26): The Boogeyman Effect

Worth the Re-read: My final Scene story.

This was my last story for Scene as a staff reporter. I’m sharing it now, as Coughlin considers a run for Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, currently held by a Democrat.


After 12 years in the legislature, Kevin Coughlin faces a criminal probe and allegations of extra-marital affairs.

By James Renner


Another accusation, not involving allegations of criminal behavior but potentially more damaging to his reputation, involves an extramarital affair. Sources say that during the summer of 2004, perhaps longer, he carried on a relationship with a younger woman. At the time she was a 24-year-old employee of the University of Akron, an attractive brunette who had worked on Coughlin’s campaign for State Senate. He was the 34-year-old, married, handsome rising star of the Summit County GOP — smart and ambitious, but also prone to blowing off campaign appointments to spend time with his girlfriend.

Read the entire article here.

Upcoming Appearances – Fall/Winter

Come see me this fall!

September 2 – Bouchercon, San Diego!

September 11 – Rodman, Ohio Public Library 6:30 p.m.

September 21 – Music Box Supper Club, Cleveland, Ohio: Doors at 5, Presentation at 7 p.m.

September 27 – Willoughby-Eastlake, Ohio Public Library 7 p.m.

October 11 – Mogadore, Ohio Library 6 p.m.

October 17 – Castle Shannon, PA Public Library

November 4 – Wooster, Ohio: Buckeye Book Fair

November 5 – Akron, Ohio Comic Con 1 p.m.

November 6 – Mentor, Ohio Public Library – 6:30 p.m.

November 18 – Cincinnati, Ohio: Books by the Banks

New True Crime Thriller – Little, Crazy Children

It’s here! My new true crime thriller, Little, Crazy Children is now available in hardback, audiobook, and Kindle, wherever books are sold!

For readers of Ann Rule and Gregg Olsen, a riveting new true crime book from the acclaimed author of True Crime Addict and creator/host of the podcasts True Crime This Week and The Philosophy of Crime, as he explores the unsolved murder of 16-year-old Lisa Pruett in the real life town of the bestselling novel Little Fires Everywhere for a painstakingly researched account of a senseless and heartbreaking tragedy and the people who were pulled into its aftermath.

In September of 1990, in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, sixteen-year-old Lisa Pruett, a poetry lover and member of a church youth group, was on her way to a midnight tryst with her boyfriend, when she was viciously stabbed to death only thirty feet from the boy’s home.

The murder cast a palpable gloom over the upscale community and sparked accusations, theories, and rumors among Lisa’s friends and peers. Together they wove a damning narrative that circled back to a likely suspect: “weird” high school outcast Kevin Young. Without a shred of evidence the teen was arrested, charged, and tried for the crime. His eventual acquittal didn’t squelch the anger and outrage among those who believed that Kevin got away with murder.

With a fresh perspective and painstaking research culled from police files, court records, transcripts, uncollected evidence, and new interviews, James Renner reconstructs the events leading up to and following that heartbreaking night. What emerges is a portrait of a community seething with dark undercurrents—its single-minded authorities, protective status-conscious parents, and the deeply peer-pressured teens within Lisa’s circle.

Who had the capacity for such unchecked violence? What monsters still lurk in the dark? After more than thirty years, questions like these continue to fester among the community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, still deeply scarred by wounds that remain hidden, unspoken, and unhealed.

Upcoming Appearances, Spring/Summer 2023

I’m touring the U.S. this year and probably stopping somewhere near you! So, come out and get a signed book and say hello!

May 20: True Crime Fest Northwest Arkansas

June 10: Dallas Public Library, True Crime MiniCon

July 2: Shaker Heights – Loganberry Books, Book Launch for Little, Crazy Children 1 p.m.

July 3: Beachwood, Ohio Library 7 p.m.

July 8: Author Alley, Loganberry Books 12 noon.

July 15&16: Columbus Book Festival

July 17: Riverstone Books, Pittsburgh, PA 7 p.m.

July 18: Bookery, Manchester, NH 5 p.m.

July 19: Barnes & Noble, Colonie Center, Albany, NY 6 p.m.

July 20: Mysterious Bookshop, New York City 6 p.m.

July 24: Defiance, Ohio Public Library 5:30 p.m.

August 1: Madison, Ohio Public Library 7 p.m.

August 14: Livonia, Michigan Public Library 6 p.m.

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