True Crimes: Tough-Guy Font

Gritty and sensational, the pulp detective magazines of the mid-Twentieth century were more tabloid than the tabloids of today. Who needs to read about starlets gone wild and rehab gone south when crimes like the can be read for the flip of a dime? What font could possibly do justice to the wasp-waisted victim cowering on the cover? Walter Velez's (free) is made for the job.

Mr. Velez is an accomplished illustrator based in New York. He knows how to wield a brush and it appears he's no stranger to the lettering style that graced both pulp magazine covers like True Crime Cases and the film title screens for Mildred Pierce, Born to Kill, and Touch of Evil. Velez has masterfully captured the urgent, shocked voice of the pulps right down to the ragged stroke ends that hint at a rush to finish before the presses run the morning edition.

True Crimes is a titling font, made for pithy labels, not for conversation. The set includes a full uppercase. A smaller version of the same characters stands in for a formal lowercase, adding muscle to every word.

Punctuation is limited to a one-two punch: one being the shock-inducing exclamation point followed by two, the ironically-placed question mark. As every noir fan knows, full stops and commas are for wimps. Think: "She Came to Kill! Was He Ready to Die?"

High contrast suits True Crime. Use plenty of ink or go deathly pale over a drenched background and hand kern to finesse the letter-spacing. Beyond titles, this is a perfect font for drop caps, with those enlarged single characters that grace the first paragraph of a chapter by sinking down for several lines...not unlike the guy in a detective film who's always outside the office, slouching against the lamppost looking not-so-inconspicuous. You know? That guy.

However you play it, this font comes to the job with attitude. See this brazen gem for what it is and you'll have a running start on the one-font-fits-all crowd. True Crimes is a font with a killer past. My closing advice is: Take your best shot, but aim with care.