Journalist. Palindrome. Writer.

Category: James Renner (Page 1 of 2)

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.

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.

Now Streaming – The Philosophy of Crime, Season 3!

The Philosophy of Crime, Season 3 begins today! I’ll be releasing two episodes a week for the next three weeks. Available on all platforms. Here is the schedule:

April 15: “Why do some crimes have a statute of limitations?”

April 16: “It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world. Or is it?”

April 22: “Is it still possible to disappear and start a new life?”

April 23: “Is reasonable doubt reasonable?”

April 29: “How to interview a witness… after they’re dead.”

April 30: “What really happened at Kent State?”

Two New Podcasts!

SHAKER HEIGHTS is a six-part true crime podcast miniseries, which places the listener beside police detectives as they investigate the 1990 unsolved murder of Lisa Pruett. Did the weird kid in school get away with murder or was he unwittingly set up by a group of teens?

Listen here.

PALINDROME was released on 02/11/20, which is a palindrome, just like Renner. So I helped write this very symmetrical story for the pi_rational podcast. Dark and twisty and a little sexy.

Listen here.

Come See Me in October!

October 15: Wadsworth Library Talk (Amy Mihaljevic) 7 p.m.

October 18-20: Creature Weekend 2019 (I’ll be talking about Ohio myths and monsters!), Salt Fork State Park Lodge. Link to the event.

October 23: Lorain Community College (true crime presentation) 6:30 pm. Link to more info.

October 24 Weymouth Country Club, Medina 11:30 (lunch and true crime presentation!) Link to the event.

October 26 Sherwood Forest Library, Detroit! (true crime) 3:30 p.m.

The Porchlight Project Begins!

This last year, I’ve been working hard to put together a new non-profit that can provide financial help and media attention to the families of the missing and murdered, focusing on cold cases in Ohio. I’m excited to announce that The Porchlight Project is here and our first case is the 1987 unsolved murder of Barbara Blatnik.

The board members of The Porchlight Project include former police chiefs, private investigators, journalists, lawyers, and podcasters. We’ll be working together to bring closure to a handful of cases this year. Please visit our website and consider a donation today.

And now a front-page article from the Beacon Journal!

The Tour Continues!

I’m taking my “Confessions of a True Crime Addict” comedy show to the Pacific Northwest and California this October! Get your tickets today, before they sell out!

Oct. 2 – Seattle – The Jewelbox Theater – Tickets here.

Oct. 6 – San Francisco – Cobb’s Comedy Club – Tickets here.

Oct. 7 – Sacramento – Punch Line – Tickets here.

Oct. 10 – San Diego – Comedy Palace – Tickets here.

Oct. 11 – Portland – Curious Comedy Theater – Tickets here.

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