Jack Olsen (June 7, 1925 – July 16, 2002) was an American journalist and author known for his crime reporting. Olsen was Senior Editor-in-Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1954. He was Midwest bureau chief for Time magazine and a senior editor for Sports Illustrated in 1961. He was also a regular contributor to other publications, including Fortune and Vanity Fair.Olsen was described as the dean of true crime authors by the Washington Post and the New York Daily News and the master of true crime by the Detroit Free Press and Newsday. Publishers Weekly called him the best true crime writer around. His studies of crime are required reading in university criminology courses and have been cited in the New York Times Notable Books of the Year. In a page-one review, the Times described his work as a genuine contribution to criminology and journalism alike.Books by Olsen have sold 33 million copies. Several of his books examined the intersection of law and politics during the late 1960s and the early 1970s. They include Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt, (Pratt, a leader of the Black Panther Party, was declared innocent and released from prison after serving 25 years on the perjured testimony of a paid FBI informant), and The Bridge at Chappaquiddick examining the 1969 car crash and death that damaged Senator Ted Kennedys political career. As Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward write in their book All The Presidents Men, the book was one of several checked out of the White House library by E. Howard Hunt in the course of gathering information about Kennedy that could be used against him in the 1972 presidential campaign.Many of Olsens most popular works investigated the life histories of violent career criminals. These include studies of serial rapists such as Arthur Shawcross (The Misbegotten Son) and George Russell, (Charmer), as well as serial killers (Hastened to the Grave: The Gypsy Murder Investigation). Discussing his lifelong interest in crime journalism, Olsen described a field trip that his college criminology class took to a prison:“Olsens work had social conscience. At Sports Illustrated in 1968, he shook the athletic establishment with a series about black athletes and the discrimination they faced in professional and college sports.”Olsens journalism was recognized with the National Headliner Award, the Chicago Newspaper Guilds Page One Award, the Washington State Governors Award, and the Scripps-Howard Award. He was described as the dean of true crime authors by The Washington Post. His crime studies remain on required reading lists in university criminology courses. In his obituary, The New York Times described his work as a genuine contribution to criminology and journalism alike.Olsen lived on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and died on July 16, 2002.
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