After a 30-year career with the Department of Corrections at Western Penitentiary, James Hollock of Observatory Hill took his knowledge of criminals and turned it into a true crime novel focused on a Pittsburgh-based crime spree.

“Born to Lose: Stanley Hoss and the Crime Spree That Gripped a Nation”details the criminal case of Stanley Barton Hoss, a man who in May of 1969 began a spree of crimes sending him from a status of “local hoodlum to the most hunted man in America.” 

Hoss was placed on the FBI’s list of Ten Most Wanted criminals, and the search for him went nationwide. The story begins locally, with the abduction of a local girl from Shaler High School and the murder of Oakmont Patrolman Joe Zanella. 

Hoss and his crimes appeared in the news for eight years after 1969. His multiple crimes made research for the book crucial.

“[The book includes] multiple crimes – I began with a kidnapping of a high school girl from Shaler High School. She was raped but released unharmed. I researched for five years before I wrote a word.” 

Following the old adage of “write what you know,” Hollock found inspiration for his book in his work.

“One thing I did know was criminals.”

The publication of the book in May led Hollock to achieve his dream of becoming an author.  

“I did for many years want to be an author. Finally I just said the time is now. It turned into a gargantuan effort.”

The book includes many high-profile persons, including J. Edgar Hoover, then head of the FBI, and locally famed attorney Edgar Snyder.   Snyder, at the time, was a public defender, and defended Hoss in the first trial.  

“I interviewed scores of people. I tried to let them speak for themselves in the book.”

In his introduction to the book, Hollock writes, “This notable saga is a natural read for any true crime devotee, but will as well captivate an audience drawn to a darkling tale that explores – and explains – how occasional human error and the very systems set in place to protect us can so easily be the cause for tragedy.”

Hollock’s first publication has received positive reviews. A review on Amazon.com reads, “Author Hollocks research for his book was meticulous. His attention to detail is not something often found in an author’s first book and vividly depicts actual events. It is almost like you are there.”

Karin Baker is a student at the University of Pittsburgh.