The editors position Daniel Defoe's The True and Genuine Account of the Life and Actions of the Late Jonathan Wild (1725) as the prototype for the true-crime narrative. The collection's first section, entitled "Pioneers," includes such staples as Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, Walt Whitman's Specimen Days, and Jack London's daring 1902 exposé of life among the city of London's impoverished East Enders. Brief introductions to each selection set the historical context and explain innovative aspects of the piece. The second section compares two distinctly contemporary journalistic points of view: the "I Am a Camera" school and the unabashedly subjective approach exemplified by Norman Mailer and Hunter S. Thompson, among others. "Style as Substance" makes up the lively and often moving third section.
Many rich voices describe all angles of the human experience in this impressive volume. Through author Piers Paul Read we crash-land with a Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes; Lillian Ross gives us a notoriously devastating portrait of Ernest Hemingway; Ted Conover assimilates into illegal Mexican culture and smuggles us back and forth across the border. The only anthology of its kind, The Art of Fact almost doubles as a travel book.