Writing wrongs: how true crime authors can fall victim to tragedy
theguardian.com – Saturday January 14, 2023
“Countdown to DEATH”, “MURDERED by my boyfriend”, “Falling for a KILLER” … the language of true crime lost its potential to shock long ago, yet we continue to be drawn in. High-profile cases, solved or unsolved, seem to provide a bottomless well of fresh evidence and further mystery. What drives so many of us to consume true crime is a need to understand the extremes of humanity from the safe distance of the page or headphone. But for those who write in this genre, a “safe distance” can be hard to find.
Michelle McNamara is the most recent, and most tragic example. In 2013 McNamara, a journalist and writer, took up the case of the Golden State Killer, a term she coined to bring together a series of murders committed over a wide area of California during the 1970s and 80s. She opened up a trail of cold cases, made links police had missed at the time and often felt herself close to uncovering who the prolific serial killer might have been.
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