Just out in hardcover, audiobook and ebook
a story of murder
and the crime that wasn't
Read this book now. Not only because ‘Burned’ is one of the most important critiques of forensic 'science' ever written but because it will shock, move and enlighten you. Explosive but sobering, ‘Burned’ plows through decades of received myth and junk science to reveal the sometimes tragic mistakes in our criminal justice system. Humes, as always, is humane and provocative. Reporting like this is a big reason our republic is still mostly in one piece.
— T. Jefferson Parker, bestselling author of “Swift
Vengeance” and “The Room of White Fire”
On an April night in 1989, three small children perished in a Los Angeles apartment fire. Their twenty-three-year-old mother, Jo Ann Parks, escaped unharmed, the sole survivor and only eyewitness. Though they at first believed the fire had been a tragic accident, arson investigators soon decided that Parks had sabotaged wiring, set several fires herself, and even barricaded her four-year-old son inside a closet to make sure he could not escape the flames.
Authorities pronounced Parks one of the most monstrous killers in Los Angeles history, motivated by a desire to be free of parental responsibilities and eager to cash in by suing her landlords. Convicted through the power of forensic fire science, Parks remains in prison to this day, sentenced to life without possibility of parole.
More than a quarter century later, however, there has been a revolution in the science of fire. Much of what was thought to be gospel in 1989 has been revealed to be myth and guesswork disguised as science. Now the Parks case has been reopened and re-investigated, the subject of an intense legal battle stretching over ten months of hearings in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Lawyers at the California Innocence Project are trying to prove that false assumptions, tunnel vision and outright bias infected the Parks case from day one.
They argue this not only led to the wrongful conviction of an innocent mother, but also turned a terrible accident into a triple homicide case —condemning Parks to life in prison for a crime that never happened.
Will Jo Ann Parks be exonerated? Should she be? Is she “Patient Zero” in an epidemic of wrongful arson convictions waiting to be overturned? Or can prosecutors come up with enough evidence from the ashes to make sure she dies in prison?
No matter how it turns out, someone will be left burned.
Read an excerpt of Burned.
”An instant true-crime classic
that reads like a thriller.”
— Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“This sobering, enlightening read is true crime at its best, with the right blend of justice and intrigue that will leave readers searching for truth in the criminal justice system.”
— Starred review, Library Journal
"Eye-opening, suspenseful tale of murder and secrets."
— Entertainment Weekly, 20 New Books to Read in January 2019
“A powerful true crime tale that questions the authority of forensic science.”
— Starred review, Shelf Awareness
One of the best new crime non-fiction books.
”Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist Humes once again exposes a flawed American criminal justice system, this time with a new twist."
— Kirkus Reviews
”Burned is a gripping, bone-chilling look at the justice system from an elegant writer.”
—Elizabeth Loftus, Professor of Psychological Science, University of California Irvine
Media inquiries, review copies and events:
Contact Maria Whelan,
Senior Publicist, Dutton Books
"Like 'Silent Spring' and 'The Omnivore’s Dilemma,' 'Door to Door'
is a rallying point for culturewide change... Humes’s tireless
curation of figure and fact, his well-reasoned arguments and
his uncluttered, well-ordered prose may turn the ship."
- Mary Roach, The New York Times
I used to brag about having the shortest commute in town: downstairs for coffee, back up to my office to write. How wrong I was. My daily commute is really more on the order of 3 million miles—without ever leaving the house. And so is yours.
From field to broker to port to factory to store to me, my morning coffee blend traveled enough miles to circle the globe—and that’s just the bag of beans. Add the cream, the globally sourced parts of my coffeemaker, the filter, the water and the electricity to power it, and my java has circled the earth a couple times before my first sip. My smartphone is even more well traveled, and the parts of my car have seen enough mileage for a trip to the moon before the odometer leaves zero—about 250,000 miles. Unprecedented amounts of transportation are embedded in every trip we take and every click we make. Just keeping the average American family moving, eating and working is like building the Great Pyramid, the Hoover Dam, and the Empire State Building all in a day. Every day.
I spent the past year looking under the hood of our have-it-now, same-day-delivery economy. I wanted to know how our lattes and pizzas and phones and cans of coke move door to door, what it all costs, and how much we have left in the tank. The trail led me through the nation’s biggest ports, its busiest delivery service, and across the harrowing obstacle course we call our streets and highways, where the deaths and injuries in one year exceed all the American casualties in all the wars we’ve ever fought.
Now we and our 3-million-mile commutes are at a fork in the road. Will gridlock win the day, or can the dreamers and tech wizards really re-invent mobility, end motor deaths, conquer traffic jams, and remove the most unreliable part of a car, the driver? Are we facing Carmageddon? Or Carmaheaven?
Come take a ride with me in Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation. And buckle up.
Door to Door In the News
Published by HarperCollins
Latest Edition (paperback) May 16, 2017
"A fascinating read from the center of world car culture."
—Bill McKibben, author Deep Economy & founder of 350.org
"This fun, informative, timely book will inspire many readers."
Book an event via
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NY Times Science: "Edward Humes on How Transportation Overkill is Killing Us"
Door to Door on the "Outspoken Cyclist"
BookTV: Nevermind the "I Word" This C-SPAN spot featuring Edward Humes, Rust author Jonny Waldman, and the erudite Brian Fagan is worth checking out.
We are the world's trashiest people.
Waste is America's leading product and largest export. Each of us is on track to toss 102 tons of trash in life—7.1 pounds a day, every day. The epic waste embedded in our daily lives not only leads the world, it drives many of the era's greatest crises—in energy, climate, pollution, security and the economy.
The good news? Garbology is also the story of families discovering the joys of zero waste. Artists producing masterpieces at the dump. Businesses being less trashy to serve both profit and planet. It turns out waste is the one big problem each of us can do something about—if we remove our blinders and take some simple steps to lead less wasteful lives.
I have found these issues resonate deeply with many, especially young people. Over the past year I have visited schools from coast to coast, meeting students and innovators of all ages who are coming up with fresh ways to turn trash into treasure.
"Fascinating… Zestful in his curiosity and irrepressible in his vivid chronicling."
— Booklist (Starred Review)
Between the newspaper on your doorstep and the novel on your nightstand lies narrative nonfiction. Some call it literary journalism or the nonfiction novel. But whatever the label, here lies the boundary where story-telling and truth-telling intersect. This is what I love, how I write, and why I tell people mine is the best job ever.
What is that job? I find my way inside a hidden world – a juvenile court, a hospital for preemies, the biggest landfill in the world, the passenger seat of a driverless car – and then bring my readers along for the ride, to meet unforgettable characters and experience something surprising. Call it “the art of being there.”
I started writing for newspapers, received a Pulitzer Prize, then took a temporary leave to write one book. The new gig stuck. My latest book—number 15—is Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn’t, out in January 2019. It’s a murder mystery with a twist: it’s entirely possible that a woman has spent most of her life in prison for a crime that never occurred. Burned marks my return to writing about crime and justice, the focus of my first five books, two of which, Mean Justice and Mississippi Mud, are now being developed for film and television..
Before that I wrote Door to Door: Our Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation, and Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash. (Pretty self-descriptive title for a book about the waste embedded in everything we do, eat, buy and sell, don’t you think?) Garbology has been a campus-wide read at universities and colleges nationwide. What can I say: the kids love to talk trash.
This website is your guide to my books and the topics they explore: crime, the justice system, medicine, education, science, evolution, religion, transportation, and the environment and sustainability. Take a minute to browse—you’ll find excerpts, reviews, articles, readers’ guides for classes and book clubs, and video and audio interviews. If you like what you see, please subscribe to my email list so we and stay in touch.
I love to hear from readers and welcome comments, ideas and thoughts about your daily door to door experiences.
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For media inquiries about Burned, contact Maria Whelan at Penguin Random House Publicity. For media inquiries about my other work, please use the form at the right.
To book a speaking engagement, or to arrange a campus or community read of Garbology, or any of my other books, please contact the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau.
For literary agent inquiries, contact Susan Ginsburg, sginsburg (AT) writershouse.com