Hi. My name is Joan Renner and I’m the person behind the scenes at Deranged L.A. Crimes. I am a writer, lecturer, and a social historian with an expertise in historic Los Angeles crime.
Crime has fascinated me since I was a kid in Chicago. My earliest recollection of following a crime story is right after my eighth birthday. I read in the Chicago Tribune about a boy who had disappeared. Later, they discovered that someone had murdered him.
A few years ago, I researched the case. My recollection was flawed, but fundamentally correct. The case involved three boys; not one. A monster took the boys after they left a movie theater. He sexually assaulted and murdered them. One month after the crime, one of the fathers died, and I kept up with the story. His cause of death was etched in my memory as a broken heart. I was not too far off—he died of a heart attack.
My kid’s brain didn’t grasp the concept of such evil. All I knew is I wanted to find out what make people commit such heinous crimes. It is a long time since I turned eight, and I have yet to figure people out.
The murders were unsolved for over forty years.
Since 2010, I have appeared in over fifty episodes of various true crime TV shows. In 2021, I appeared in the documentary City of Angeles: City of Death on HULU.
They have interviewed me for several ID Discovery Channel programs such as Deadly Women, Evil Twins, Deadly Affairs, Evil Kin, Nightmare Next Door — you get the idea. If the show’s title contains Dead or Evil, I have likely been interviewed for it at least once.
I appeared in a segment on film noir for the Turner Classic Movies series Film Fanatics, which still airs on the channel; and the History Channel interviewed me for a show on famous mobsters from the early days of crime.
In 2009, I began volunteering at the Los Angeles Police Museum. I stayed for 6 1/2 years, working as an archivist. Under the stewardship of the Executive Director, Glynn Martin, I helped create a limited run exhibit based upon the LAPD’s continuing investigation of the 1947 unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia.
I was fortunate to have been part of a small book team that edited a book of crime scene photos for the Police Museum. The book is LAPD ’53 and was published in May 2015. James Ellroy, the Demon Dog of American crime fiction, wrote the narrative to accompany the photographs. I relished every moment of the incredible project.
Following Glynn’s departure from the LAPM (he is now Executive Director of the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation), I left, too. I am no longer affiliated with the Los Angeles Police Museum, but I still love the history of law enforcement and historic Los Angeles crime.
When Mike Fratantoni, curator of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Museum, invited me to volunteer, I jumped at the chance. I have been there for over seven years, and I hope to be there for many more years.
I have lectured at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, the Central Library, and private organizations on such diverse topics as: “Gold Diggers & Snake Handlers: Deranged L.A. Crimes from the Notebook of Aggie Underwood”, “Felonious Flappers: Bad Girls of the Art Deco Era”, and “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: How the ‘Bob’ Changed History”. The “Gold Diggers…” lecture provided the inspiration for the Deranged L.A. Crimes blog.
I am a board member for the non-profit Photo Friends (affiliated with the Los Angeles Public Library). I have served on the Advisory Board of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Museum and on the Los Angeles County Peace Officer Memorial Committee. I served on the board of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime for two terms, beginning in 2018.
Several times a year I am a tour guide for Esotouric, a company that gives, among their many offerings, crime-themed tours of Los Angeles.
A few years ago, I curated a photo exhibit at Los Angeles’ Central Library. The exhibit covered the reporting career of Agness “Aggie” Underwood. I wrote a companion book for the exhibit, The First With The Latest!: Aggie Underwood, the Los Angeles Herald, and the Sordid Crimes of a City.”
Some of my stories appear in multiple true crime anthologies edited by Mitzi Szereto.
My book of true crime tales set in Los Angeles during the Prohibition Era (title is TBD) will be published by University Press of Kentucky, probably in Spring 2024.
It has been my pleasure to meet many of you, and I’ve corresponded with many more. I am impressed by the depth and breadth of your knowledge about crime, human nature, and a variety of other related topics. I am in stellar company.
Thank you all for your readership. I genuinely appreciate it.