Title: Reel To Real: The Video Store Murders
Author: Joyce Nance
Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime
First published: July 29th 2014
Finished reading: May 5th 2015
Pages: 283
Rating 4

“It is always the best policy to speak the truth — unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar.”


When I saw this non fiction story as a free Amazon kindle deal last month, I was immediately intrigued by it and had to order it straight away. Reel Or Real: The Video Store Murders is based on a true story and tells us what happened before, during and after the brutal Hollywood Video store murders in Albuquerque back in 1996. Joyce Nance does a great job of getting inside the head of the killer and his accomplice. There is quite a lot of swearing involved, but I wasn’t bothered by it because it was used properly to give an impression of the character. The author decided to write this book based on the trial and interviews with Esther (the accomplice) and therefore it represents her side of the story, but it feels like it’s the truth. It’s an interesting read and definitely recommended for those who enjoy reading non fiction and (true) crime novels.


Based on the true story of the Hollywood Video store murders, we read about three ex-cons who got released early from prison and meet each other through an early release program. Esther falls hopelessly in love with John, who in turn similates affection so she pays everything for him. He hangs out with another ex-con Shane, a man that smells like trouble and is obsessed with movies, violence and guns. John tries to stay away from trouble and warns Esther to do the same and stay away from Shane as well. But when John is forced to run after a misunderstanding, Esther sees no other way…

Shane asks her to help him with a robbery of a restaurant. Esther isn’t sure about it, but she would do anything to help John. The robbery was a success and John gets his share of money, but Shane doesn’t want to stop here… He has bigger plans that involve real guns and a video store. Esther doesn’t want to help him, but Shane is able to convince her in the end by abusing her love for John. They decide the time and place: a Hollywood Video store on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, on that terrible night in March 1996, the robbery went horribly wrong and turned into a bloodbath and the worst mass murder in the history of Albuquerque…


The way Joyce Nance is able to portray the three ex-cons and main characters of the story is impressive. All three were looking for a better life, but trouble got into their path and the consequences left an entire city behind to mourn the victims. In my own eyes all three of them are guilty in a different way, and if you decide to read Reel Or Real: The Video Store Murders for yourself, you will probably understand why. This is not a pleasant read, mostly because the many swear words and graphic images, but it makes for a very good true crime novel.