James Estrin/The New York Times

Critically acclaimed and bestselling author Michael W. Cuneo’s books have been reviewed in hundreds of publications, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the Globe and Mail, the Irish Times, Trouw (Amsterdam), the Glasgow Herald, the Guardian, Playboy, Jane, Maxim, the Nation, and the New York Review of Books. 

They’ve also been featured on the BBC, the Oprah Winfrey Network, Dateline NBC, NPR, the Today Show, the CBC, E!, Voice of America, 20/20, Canada AM (CTV), A&E, Discovery Channel, the Joan Rivers Show, the O’Reilly Factor, ABC News, and a variety of other media.

Cuneo’s writing has been profiled in Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, Saturday Night Magazine, New York Magazine, the Irish Tatler, the Toronto Star, the Washington Times, the London Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Daily News, New York Newsday, New York Press, Time, Newsweek, Salon, and elsewhere.

Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York [Erica Lansner/Black Star/Chronicle]


From ’50 States of True Crime,’ a New York Times Book Review feature from July 27, 2019, identifying the single best true crime book ever written from every state in the U.S.A.

Ross MacDonald/The New York Times
Ross MacDonald/The New York Times
  • Notable Book of the Year — Arizona Republic (Phoenix)
  • Notable Book of the Year — The Kansas City Star
  • Notable Book of the Year — Lincoln Journal Star
  • All-Time Best Crime Book Based in Missouri — The New York Times Book Review

More praise for Michael W. Cuneo’s Almost Midnight

“Vivid, gripping, undeniably potent.  Almost Midnight barrels along like a hot rod on a twisty Ozarks road . . . A fast, furious read that leaves one plagued by disturbing thoughts every time one manages to pause before turning another page.”

— John Mark Eberhart, The Kansas City Star

“Compelling, vibrant, rich with winning details about a scuffling life.”   

— Daniel Woodrell, The Washington Post

“Michael Cuneo has gone as deep into the life and ethos of Darrell Mease as anyone should dare.”

— curledup.com (★★★★★)

“Engrossing . . . Disturbing noirish undertones and undeniable spiritual flair.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“Cuneo handles these sinners and saints with equal aplomb and also manages to shed light on the drug culture buried deep in the Ozarks.”   

— Playboy

“A richly detailed exploration. Cuneo’s writing does not flinch.”                   

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“When Mease gets on the wrong side of Lawrence and flees with his young girlfriend, his worried and broke days on the road are so sharply described that you’ll give thanks for your warm bed and full pantry. A fascinating – and often chilling – read.”     

— The Today Show

“Investigative reporter Michael Cuneo, who also wrote the acclaimed American Exorcism, has dug into the Mease case and found a story of redemption.”

The Edmonton Journal (The Sunday Pick)


USA Today

“Absorbing. Cuneo’s a terrific reporter. A riveting story of crime and its aftermath.” 

— Raleigh News & Observer

“Cuneo’s detailed descriptions of the virtues (loyalty, self-reliance, faith, family) and negatives (violence, chemical dependency, lawlessness) of the Ozarks’ culture not only fleshes out Mease’s personality but also vividly portrays this overlooked area of Americana. Cuneo’s skillful writing allows him to convey the romantic notions of Mease’s outlaw ways and travels on America’s back roads, while never romanticizing the violence or the hand-to-mouth living.”

Publishers Weekly

“This is a book from a New York and Toronto-based author who actually bothered to immerse himself in the daunting milieu of Ozark outlaws, backwoods meth labs and murderous impulses. In short, Cuneo, despite being an outsider, came to southern Missouri and got it right.”

The Kansas City Star

“There are good true-crime books, and there are bad true-crime books. Almost Midnight is one of the good ones.”

— The Today Show


— Baton Rouge Advocate

“As in his American Exorcism, Cuneo methodically examines a tangled American subculture, rife with extremism and religious fervor . . . Cuneo is skillful at nailing down the elusive stories of warts-and-all heartland America; he does a fine job of untangling this complex affair’s ambiguities, in which idealized rural lifestyles collide tragically with the concentrated violence of both the drug war and state-sanctioned capital punishment.”

Kirkus Reviews

“A page-turner. Unforgettable.”

Edmonton Journal (The Sunday Pick)

“I cherish Almost Midnight as a Bible.”

— John Hawkes, Cinenews

“Skillful, vivid.  One cannot help but appreciate Cuneo’s in-depth, interwoven stories of Mease and the Ozarks.”                          

— Publishers Weekly

“Investigative journalism in the mold of Truman Capote’s genre-defining In Cold Blood.”         

— Pop Matters                            

“True (and truly disturbing) story of drugs and violence in Missouri’s Ozarks.”

Arizona Republic (Phoenix)

“A triumph of investigative journalism . . . Michael Cuneo gained unprecedented access to Mease and immersed himself in the culture of the Ozarks, exploring its bucolic farms and seedy strip joints, and the lives of its preachers, cockfighters, and outlaws. By turns chilling and riveting, Almost Midnight brilliantly evokes the life of controversial renegade Mease, and the stranger-than-fiction world he still inhabits.”

— Penguin Random House

“Darrell Mease is a product of the American Ozarks, and Cuneo transports readers to this colorful region, bursting with natural beauty and also dank poverty, where cockfights and dogfights are regular entertainment.”

— The Today Show

“There are no photos here; Cuneo depends on his prose alone to provide the imagery.”

The Kansas City Star

“Cuneo’s writing is always crisp, informative, and evocative, with convincing insights into Ozarks culture.”

The Washington Post Book World

“In an area of the Ozarks blighted by poverty and crime, a local Vietnam vet went on a killing spree. Cuneo decided to find out why.”

The New York Times Book Review


  • Top Ten Book of the Year — True Crime Zine

Praise for Michael W. Cuneo’s One Last Kiss

“A fascinating study . . . One Last Kiss is a model of what a good true crime book should be.”

— Crime Magazine


Ex-Marine and bodyguard Chris Coleman was a family man with a secret: He wanted to leave his wife for another woman, Tara Lintz. But as head of security for the world-famous Joyce Meyer Ministries—an evangelical organization that frowns on divorce—Coleman had to make other plans.


On May 5, 2009, Illinois police received a call from Coleman, who claimed he was unable to contact his family. When investigators arrived at his home, they found Coleman’s wife and two sons strangled in bed. Across the walls, spray-painted in red, were various obscenities—the word punished among them.


Who could have done something so sinister? As Coleman played the part of a grieving husband, forensic evidence at the crime scene told a different story. Key testimony from Lintz afforded yet more evidence of Coleman’s guilt—and soon a jury would find him guilty of three counts of murder in the first degree.


  • Notable Book of the Year — Publishers Weekly
  • Starred Review — Booklist
  • Starred Review — Library Journal
  • Starred Review — Publishers Weekly
  • Pick of the Paperbacks — Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
  • Reviewer’s Choice — The Dallas Morning News

Praise for Michael W. Cuneo’s American Exorcism

“A fascinating cauldron of investigative sociology.”   

— The Guardian

“Armed with a wry wit and girded in the armor of an inquiring but ‘open-mindedly skeptical’ intellect . . . Cuneo argues convincingly that books like Hal Lindsey’s Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (1972) and movies like ‘The Exorcist’ (1973) put a mythic face on the anxieties of a deeply religious nation.”   

— The Washington Post

“A mesmerizing study . . . Cuneo explores the bizarre subculture of renegade priests, rough-and-tumble preachers, shady psychiatrists and tormented souls, spewing foulness . . . Lucidly written and riveting as any horror novel, Cuneo’s excursion into the darker paths of American faith offers a deeply disturbing, ironic vision of what he sees as the unintended consequences of popular culture for the modern religious imagination.”

— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Simply brilliant . . . Cuneo brings to his subject a delightful combination of respect, curiosity, irony and, not least, a humor that manages to be wry without being derisive. This is sociology at its absolute best — rigorous field work conducted in the grand Chicago School tradition of participant and nonparticipant observation — and its findings are delivered with wit, wisdom and lucidity.”

Meredith Gould, The Times (Trenton)

“Astute social criticism. Cuneo is both a skeptical and sensitive observer.”

— The Nation

“A fascinating piece of investigative journalism that manages to be both fair-minded and skeptical.” 

— Good Reports

“Cuneo’s passion for all things bedeviled led him to write this remarkable book, a sweeping study of exorcism in contemporary America.”

Booklist (starred review)

“A wild exploration of the spookier and more fantastical side of Middle America.”    

— Salon

“The definitive book on the subject.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Provocative and frightening.”

— Book Magazine


— New York Newsday

“Astute. Penetrating.”

The Dallas Morning News

“Compulsively readable.”

Daily Chronicle (De Kalb, Illinois)

“Highly entertaining.  An insightful look into another form of millennial madness.”          

— Lydia Lunch, Jane

“Damned good.”

— Maxim

American Exorcism is a remarkable synthesis of interviews, historical research, media studies, and hands-on field research.  Cuneo interviews the various players in the modern exorcism revival.  He offers compelling assessments of desires and motives of the exorcists and the possessed – tempered by objective evidence and judgment.  He shows forbearance and sympathy to those who participate in exorcism and deliverance ministry, but he is also skeptical and frank.”

— Skeptical Inquirer

“Cuneo is a very able tour guide on this trip through a part of American religion that has rarely been objectively described . . . The connections he draws between the current state of exorcism and the therapeutic zeitgeist in American culture are compelling.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“As if we need any more reasons to be freaked out about religious zealots . . . along comes Michael Cuneo to jolt the green vomit out of us right here in our own backyard.”

Hartford Advocate

“Persuasively argued. Scathingly funny. An excellent study.”                        

— America

“A great book. Highly recommended.”

Reason Magazine

“Entertaining . . . With objectivity, irony and a large pinch of salt, Cuneo describes a phenomenon which is preposterous to some but terrifying and all too believable to others.”

Birmingham Mail (UK)

“A critical book.”

Los Angeles Times

“Wittily written and entertaining.”

Times of Acadiana (Lafayette, Louisiana)

“Too freaky to believe.”

Alibi (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

American Exorcism makes for an absorbing social history of a contemporary phenomenon, and our own continued fascination with the devil’s work.”

The Post and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina)

“An excellent book.”

The Guardian (July 9, 2014)

“An engaging and detailed document of a provocative subculture.”

Kirkus Reviews

“The definitive history of modern exorcism.  A must read.”

— Free Inquiry Group (gofigger.org)

“Fascinating. Disturbing. I highly recommend Michael Cuneo’s American Exorcism.”

Michael Lister, Panama City News Herald

“Michael Cuneo may just be the best ‘investigative sociologist’ in the country.  With skill and wit and sympathy, his study of exorcism in the United States is a pioneering work of extraordinary depth and insight.”                                                              

— Andrew M. Greeley, Professor of Social Science, University of Chicago

“Michael Cuneo has done an amazing thing.  He’s written a book on demonic possession that is compulsively readable without being lurid or sensational.  If it doesn’t cause you to consider your own demons and how you deal with them, you need to read it again.”                     

— Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy

American Exorcism is an arresting cultural commentary.  With energy, creativity, and keen insight, Michael Cuneo has shown us how the popular entertainment industry turned a book-buying and moviegoing public into an America churning with demonic activity.  His genius lies in his ability to tackle the exorcism industry, and to make some historical and psychological sense of it.”    

— Elizabeth F. Loftus, Professor of Psychology, University of Washington, co-author of The Myth of Repressed Memory                             

Illustration by Christoph Niemann for the New Yorker review of Michael W. Cuneo’s American Exorcism


Praise for Michael W. Cuneo’s A Need to Kill

Alec Krieder knew his best friend’s family never locked their doors—making Kevin Haines and his family the perfect targets for a crime. One night, he waited until they were asleep…then entered the house with a knife. Alec burst into the master bedroom and stabbed Tom and Lisa Haines first. Then he attacked Kevin, who fought for his life. Meanwhile, at the end of the hall, Kevin’s sister Maggie awoke to the sound of violence—and was the only one who made it out alive.

Clean-cut and academically gifted, Alec seemed to have no motives, no history of psychosis—and no remorse. Some believed he was a serial killer in the making, a soulless monster plagued by “demons.” Now, for the first time, acclaimed author Michael W. Cuneo shares the inside story—with shocking details of Alec’s confession to his father, disturbing messages to his classmates, and chilling excerpts from his diaries—and takes you inside the dark, troubled mind of this teenage killer.


  • Recommended Book of the Month — Christianity Today

Praise for Michael W. Cuneo’s The Smoke of Satan

“With crisp and concise writing, Cuneo uses colorful anecdotes to shine a light on a mostly unknown part of the church . . . [A] well-researched, vivid, eye-opening book.”

— The Boston Globe

“[Here are] the wilder tribes of American Catholic conservatism. Here are feverish critics who regard the Catholic bishops as milquetoasts on sexual ethics and abortion.  Here are poor souls whose distress over changes in traditional doctrine or liturgy has flowered into true night gardens of conspiracy theory . . . Cuneo is a sympathetic reporter.  But he also reports nuttiness as nuttiness.”       

— The New York Times

“A winning ethnography.”                    

— Kirkus Reviews

“[A]n eye-opening experience . . . The Smoke of Satan dispels the haze around a world that is unfamiliar to many.  Cuneo’s book is well worth the time.”                                                                    

— Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Everett Hughes remarked forty years ago that everything, sociologically speaking, has happened in and to Catholicism. Since the Second Vatican council, it has happened again. Michael Cuneo leaves no doubt about that.”

— Andrew Greeley, Contemporary Sociology

“Readers caught by the title of Michael Cuneo’s new study of traditional-minded Catholics will not be disappointed.  Juicy exposés of strange religious compounds reminiscent of Waco and scholarly inquiries into the cult mentality of modern separatists fill six well-researched chapters . . . Lurid details of the most bizarre beliefs are recounted, to Cuneo’s credit, without sarcasm.”                   

— Crisis

“A witty, even hilarious, and sometimes frightening study . . . Sparkling with irony.”                                     

— America

“Jauntily written . . . Cuneo is admirably thorough in his investigation of this [Catholic] netherworld.”   

— Garry Wills, The New York Review of Books

“A fascinating look into a series of subcultures within and adjacent to Roman Catholicism . . . I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It is gracefully written and well-documented.”    

— Sociology of Religion

“Insightful. Vivid. Provocative. Cuneo’s profiles of these right-wing groups make for one of the most fascinating stories in contemporary American religion.”

Word Trade (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)

“The truths here are not only stranger than much fiction, they add up to a tale that reads like a well-written novel.”                                                             

— Christianity Today

“Cogent. Skillful. The Smoke of Satan is fascinating reading.”                             

— The Journal of Religion

“Cuneo’s treatment of a ‘jihad’-like Catholic underground that uses pamphlets in place of car bombs is not only enlightening but necessary.”                                                        

— The Tampa Tribune

The Smoke of Satan is a well-researched look into the mostly unknown world of Catholic fundamentalists.”

North County Times (San Diego)

“Michael W. Cuneo uses the Second Vatican Council and the seismic shift it unleashed as a framework for vivid profiles of the church’s unnoticed players.”

Wisconsin State Journal (Madison)

“Cuneo is definitely not a right-wing partisan, but his style is far from scorched-earth, for which the separatists and apocalypticists in particular can be grateful.”

— The South Bend Tribune

“Witty and irreverent. A bracing narrative.”                                       

— The Tablet (London)

The Smoke of Satan is a marvelous read, deft and scholarly, clear and provocative, sympathetic and judgmental.”

— Mary Jo Weaver, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

“A Fellini-like religious landscape.”

— Trouw (Amsterdam) 


  • Finalist for the John Porter Book Award – awarded to the best book published in the social sciences in Canada over a three-year period

Praise for Michael W. Cuneo’s Catholics Against the Church

“This book is a harbinger of hope.”                                                   

— The Globe and Mail

“A fascinating account.”

— Saturday Night Magazine

“Masterful . . . Cuneo’s wonderful and refreshing command of the language makes him a must read and a delight to read . . . A first-rate example of the sociologist at work.”                           

— Sociological Analysis

“Read it, disagree with it at times, and learn from it.  This is a major piece of work.”       

— The Canadian Catholic Review

“Fascinating and timely.”                  

— America

“Cuneo’s penetrating portrait of ‘Catholic Revivalists’ illuminates a critical development in the recent history of the Catholic Church throughout the English-speaking world (and beyond).”


“Fascinating . . . One must admire Michael Cuneo for writing a provocative, often disturbing work.” 

— New Times

“Michael W. Cuneo is not only bright, thorough and systematic: the guy can write. You will find this book difficult to put down.”  

— The Catholic Register

“This book is important. And it will shatter stereotypes.”                        

— The Christian Century

“This is not a typical sociology book.  There are no surveys, charts, or statistical jargon.  It is exciting reading from beginning to end.”

— Crisis (Washington, DC)

“Fascinating study . . . Serious, insightful, and accessible.”                     

— Religious Studies Review

“Cuneo’s book raises important questions.  It should be required reading.”

The Heythrop Journal (Oxford University, UK)

“Superbly interesting, breaking new ground, and a good read to boot.”

— Gregory Baum

Erica Lansner/Black Star/Random House

Michael Cuneo was raised in a working-class neighborhood in Toronto.  He attended De La Salle College “Oaklands” on a scholarship before being expelled in the eleventh grade.  He completed high school at East York Collegiate and eventually went on to earn a PhD at the University of Toronto.

Cuneo has driven cab for various Toronto-based outfits, and has also spent significant stretches as a bin floor operator at a grain mill and as a shipper for a paint manufacturer.  He has worked at construction in El Paso, on the docks in New Orleans, at a furniture factory in Sinking Spring, PA, and as a courier in San Francisco.

He has taught college in New York City and Toronto, winning multiple teaching awards in the process.  He has twice served as Visiting Distinguished Luce Professor at the University of Dayton and has served stints as a Killam Fellow at Dalhousie University and a Teaching Fellow at Princeton.

Cuneo has hitchhiked and hopped freight trains across the continent on multiple occasions, first doing so at the age of sixteen.  He has played in a blues-rock band and remains a fan of the genre.

He is married with four children, and is currently putting the finishing touches on a new book.

Michael Cuneo with his Checker Cab (East End Taxi, Toronto)
From a blurb on the back cover of the Doubleday edition of American Exorcism
Brenda, Rebecca, and Irene
Margaret and Michael
Ryan, Shane, Michael, and Margaret
Michael W. Cuneo, Times Square, New York City [Julia Duin/The Washington Times]
Larry Burgess/UD
Alan Dooley/Times-Republic
Anka/New York Newsday
Weston Press/SDC
Weston Press/SDC