The Murders That Made Us

How Vigilantes, Hoodlums, Mob Bosses, Serial Killers and Cult Leaders Built the San Francisco Bay Area

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Buy on Amazon Buy on Buy on
*This page contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 04 May 2021 | Archive Date 30 Apr 2021

Talking about this book? Use #TheMurdersThatMadeUs #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


The 170-year history of the San Francisco Bay Area told through its crimes and how they intertwine with the city’s art, music, and politics

In The Murders That Made Us, the story of the San Francisco Bay Area unfolds through its most violent and depraved acts. From the city’s earliest days, where vigilantes hung perps from buildings and newspaper publishers shot it out on Market Street, to the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the Zodiac Killer, crime has made the people of San Francisco who they are. Murder and mayhem are intertwined with the city’s art, music, and politics. The Great 1906 Earthquake that burned down the old Barbary Coast shook a city that was already teetering on the brink of a massive prostitution scandal. The Summer of Love ended with a pair of ghastly acid dealer slayings that made the Haight too violent for even Charles Manson. The ’70s ground to a halt with San Francisco pastor Jim Jones forcing his followers to drink cyanide-laced punch in Guyana, and the assassination of gay icon Harvey Milk. With each tale of true crime, The Murders That Made Us will take you from the violence that began in the original Gold Rush into the brutal displacement of today’s techie ruination.

The 170-year history of the San Francisco Bay Area told through its crimes and how they intertwine with the city’s art, music, and politics

In The Murders That Made Us, the story of the San...

Available Editions

ISBN 9781770415492

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Send to Kindle (PDF)

Average rating from 36 members

Featured Reviews

This is a well-written book about murderers and con men and how true crime is intertwined with the art, music, and political scenes in the history of San Francisco. The author's deadpan and tongue-in-cheek humor was a bonus that turned a dry historical overview into an enjoyable read. True crime buffs will enjoy this book.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book to read and review. The opinions expressed here are my own honest opinions written voluntarily.

Was this review helpful?

The Murders That Made Us by Bob Calhoun is a quirky little book. It tells the story of the San Francisco Bay area through the last 150 years or so through the crimes that took place there. At first glance, the idea seems more than a little absurd, but as you get in the book it does actually cover a fair amount of history from lynching and newspaper shootouts to Jim Jones and the Twinkie defense murder of Harvey Milk and others. All of this ends up wrapped in the unique culture of the day in San Francisco.

A book about some fairly grizzly murders and other crimes would seem to be very dark and brooding but somehow Calhoun manages to keep the tone fairly upbeat and the pace quick. This really helps the reader get lost within this very unique history. It’s really hard for me to ask anything more from The Murders That Made Us because it’s already a completely unexpected book in that one would not expect one to be able to do a history around such a macabre topic.

The Murders That Made Us is a fun twist on the history of a great American city.

Was this review helpful?

I read a lot of true crime titles and I found this brisk history of the San Francisco area, through the prism of crime, fresh and interesting. A good mix of the infamous and the more niche cases. Calhoun's book got me intrigued enough to seek out more information about the Jonestown massacre. Great for true crime buffs and history nerds.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: