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.

The Great Forgetting is a Picador Paperback!


The Great Forgetting is now available in paperback!

A blend of mystery and fantasy, The Great Forgetting shows you a world not too different from out own, where we have chosen to forget the worst parts of history… at our own peril.

“If you like your fiction tidy and predictable, look elsewhere.” The Washington Post

The Great Forgetting is blasphemous, riveting, insane, and glorious.” Andy Howell (Copernicus), Ain’t It Cool News

“A fascinating concept . . . worth the read.” Kirkus Reviews

“Packed with thrills.” Publishers Weekly

“A tale you won’t forget.” New York Post

Pick up a copy at your local neighborhood bookstore, today, or order online.

The Man from Primrose Lane Has a New Home at Fox!


Make room on your DVR for The Man from Primrose Lane! My debut genre-bending detective novel has found a home at Fox. Here’s the skinny:

In Working Title Television’s first development season since Andrew Stearn joined as president, the company, a joint venture with NBCU International Studios, which is overseen by Michael Edelstein, and Working Title Films’ Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, has set up three broadcast drama series projects; an adaptation of James Renner’s book The Man From Primrose Lane at Fox with feature director-producer Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes).

Click here to read the rest.

New York Times, on True Crime Addict


True Crime Addict appeared in the The New York Times Sunday Book Review last week. Marilyn Stasio called me “shamelessly entertaining”!

“Renner, the author of The Serial Killer’s Apprentice, is just plain fun to read. Noting that Maura lived in Melville Hall, he can’t resist mentioning that this freshman dormitory took its name from the guy who wrote the ultimate book on pointless obsession.

Read the full review and a list of other cool true crime books, here.


Awesome Reviews on Amazon

True Crime Addict

Here’s what Amazon reviewers are saying about True Crime Addict:

“When I finally had James book in my hands I felt childlike joy. The feeling one gets when walking into the theater to watch a new Star Wars movie was very similar. Any true mystery fan will be sure to love it.”

“By far one of the best true crime stories I’ve ever read.”

“He’s definitely fearless in his pursuit of finding out what exactly happened the her on that dark, cold road.”

“James Renner killed it with this book. He’s the next “it” author…mark my words.”

“I was captivated with his narrative way and completely riveted to the pages.”

“James Renner is a compelling writer of True Crime.”

“I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in cold cases, not just Maura Murray.”

Check Out the Early Reviews for TRUE CRIME ADDICT!

True Crime Addict

True Crime Addict comes out May 24 but you can now pre-order it anywhere books are sold!

Here’s what some early reviewers are saying:

“An entrancing, brilliant next step for fans of the podcast Serial, Netflix’s Making a Murderer, and other true crime cases.” Library Journal, starred review.

“Brutally honest, no-holds-barred storytelling … Renner brilliantly covers all the bases here, unravels part of the mystery, sheds light on his personal struggles while, in the process, making us care for the victim.” New York Times bestselling author M. William Phelps

“Renner’s walk on the dark side makes for a highly compelling read.” Kathryn Casey, bestselling author of Deliver Us

“Renner’s personal involvement in the case and his self-destructive, relentless dedication to confronting the darkness at the heart of it[…is] noteworthy.” Publishers Weekly

And from Goodreads:

“If you like true crime, this book is for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough! It reads like a fictional thriller with his ease of reliability and humorous wit thrown in. I kept thinking ‘Geez, I could be friends with this dude.'”

“Absorbing, disturbing and absolutely unputdownable – this was one of the best ‘true crime’ novels I’ve ever read.”

“True crime fans should pick up this quick read. I read it in a few hours and would have finished it in one sitting had I had the time.”

“I found Renner’s narrative of fact-finding and interviewing– twisty and complex as it was– to be deeply engaging. I felt carried along in his journey.”

Goodreads Loves The Great Forgetting!


“There’s a kind of novel that always feels like a home when i come across one. i can’t articulate exactly what it is about these books except that they are paradoxically both exciting and comforting to me; my heart beats faster while my body relaxes. they have nothing in common with each other, although they frequently fall into the place where postmodern metafiction intersects with slipstream and kinda knocks you over sideways a little and has you questioning reality.”


“I motherf-ing LOVED this. Holy hell. Where do I begin?”


“Renner is a brave author who doesn’t ever make safe choices. He marches out into the badlands of crazy and bewildering, sees what he finds there, and then puts it into his story.”


“I want to rave about this book and explain in minute detail why you should be reading it RIGHT NOW — instead of reading this review — and yet, I so desperately do not want to ruin it for you so I can’t say anything!”


“Some books are special. They make you look at the world around you in a different way. They fill your heart and your mind with ‘what ifs’. They make you think of possibilities. This is one of these books.”


“Now and then, I come across an interview with an author where the question is asked ‘What is the book you wish you’d written?'”


“What. What just happened. I don’t know how to review this.”


Join the conversation on Goodreads!


Reserve Your Copy of The Great Forgetting, Today!


You can now reserve your copy of The Great Forgetting at you favorite local bookstore or online retailer! If you do it today, you can say you did it before it was “cool,” you magnificent hipster!

In The Man from Primrose Lane, James Renner fused time travel with serial-killer thrillers, resulting in what the Associated Press called “a superbly crazy and imaginative story.” Now, in The Great Forgetting, he blends science fiction and conspiracy thrillers with a touch of pure fantasy, and the result is just as crazy and imaginative.

Jack Felter, a history teacher, returns home to bucolic Franklin Mills, Ohio, to care for his father, a retired pilot who suffers from dementia and is quickly losing his memory. Jack would love to forget about Franklin Mills, and about Sam, the girl he fell in love with, who ran off with his best friend, Tony. Except Tony has gone missing.

Soon Jack is pulled into the search for Tony, but the only one who seems to know anything is Tony’s last patient, a paranoid boy named Cole. Jack must team up with Cole to follow Tony’s trail–and maybe save the world. Their journey will lead them to Manhattan and secret facilities buried under the Catskills, and eventually to a forgotten island in the Pacific–the final destination of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

When Jack learns the details about the program known as the Great Forgetting, he’s faced with the timeless question: Is it better to forget our greatest mistake or to remember, so it’s never repeated?

3 Short Reviews


I haven’t posted a review for some time, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t found some good reads. Holed up because of the Ohio cold, I returned to a couple of my favorite writers this winter, and discovered a new favorite as well.

First up was Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King. The first thing you should know is that this is one of those rare King stories without any hint of the paranormal or the fantastic. It’s a straight gumshoe detective yarn about a retired cop trying to track down a deranged killer. I always love returning to King. I can hear his voice when I read and his pacing is maddeningly suspenseful. But this feels like one of his in-the-middle books, the kind that come between greater works of his, transitional. There were parts I really liked. The love affair was sweet and honest. And knowing who the killer is from the beginning was daring. I wanted one more… something.


Next up was Anne Rice’s return to the Vampire Chronicles, Prince Lestat. I devoured her books the year after I graduated from Kent State. I have always been fascinated by how she can write such tender characters so full of life who happen to also be undead. Beautiful writing at times. Just poetic. This book is like the Avengers of the Vampire Chronicles, with every major and minor character coming together to fight the Big Bad. As such, it gets a little weighed down with introductions and at times feels a little Old Testmenty with the lineage stuff. Whatever. It was great and I read it with a smile on my face the entire time.


Finally, Wolf in White Van. Very short novel by a great lyricist about a kid who attempted to commit suicide but only managed to blow his face apart. Since then, he has constructed an elaborate fantasy world in a text-adventure game which people play the old fashioned way – by mail! Very cool concept. Cold and nihilistic. And yet it is somehow also about the beauty of the world and of surviving it. Each sentence is a gem but I need to read something more cheery next (alas, I’ve finally picked up The Corrections and can’t put it down.)

Read This… The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

9780307959942_custom-1da038b00bd990d1cb3f2779d9b214b861fdc042-s6-c30What is it with post-apocalyptic novelist feeling the need to go all Cormac McCarthy with their voice? Nobody will ever do it as well as ol’ Cormac did in The Road. And here, it feels a little too artificial. Just tell me a story, dammit.


The Dog Stars has something in it. Something I rather liked. There’s a kind of naturalist sensibility in the description of the world after the flu or some kind of genetically-engineered disease has killed off just about everyone. The relationship between Hig and his dog, Jasper, was a cool new twist on the genre. Nobody needs another father/son tromp across the wasteland. The prose, though distracting, was often prayer-like in a decidedly Terrence Malick way, especially whenever Hig goes looking for trout.

I want you to know I recommend this novel. I do. But it really flirts with the line for me, sometimes. There’s a point where Hig encounters a woman and his immediate sexual response to her kind of diminishes the love story the author as set up in flashbacks between Hig and his wife (whom he may have murdered to keep her from suffering).

I don’t know, man. A good book, I think, to keep in a hunting cabin or vacation home, to pick up when it’s raining outside.

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