Tag Archives: true crime

Latest true crime writings and ‘castings

Some quick updates on what I’ve been up to recently:

First, one of my editors at Previously.TV, the inimitable Sarah D. Bunting, has spun off from Extra Hot Great a new, true-crime-TV-focused podcast called The Blotter Presents. A few weeks ago, I was honored to be TBP’s first guest, wherein we discussed OJ: Made in America, ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary June 17, 1994, and the current reboot of true crime classic Cold Case Files. You can listen here, or on iTunes, or wherever else you care to download podcasts. Tell your friends!

Speaking of true crime podcasts, there sure are a lot of them these days, aren’t there? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the options, please allow me to direct you toward my latest true crime podcast round-up over at The Blotter. You can read my recommendations here!

In other news, we just sleep-trained Ewan and suddenly, sleep is a thing I can have again, so expect to see more writing coming your way soon(ish)!

Book round-up: what I’ve been reading lately

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a good ol’ fashioned book round-up on the blog. To be precise: it’s been eight months. Oops. As usual, I’ve read more books in eight months than can fairly be reviewed in one sitting, so I will sort them into my handy categories of Great Reads, Good Reads, Meh Reads, and Bad Reads. The Great Reads, I think, each deserve a word of explanation.

So, here goes.

row of books, free copy space on red background


Great Reads

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell: Rowell’s sweet, moving novel about a college freshman (Cath) who loses herself in writing fan-fiction as she struggles with her real-life relationships was un-put-downable. As usual, Rowell continues to produce the only “romance novels” that I can stomach. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books review here.

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell: A sort of companion novel to Fangirl, Rowell visits the universe that Fangirl‘s Cath was obsessed with — a Potter-esque school for aspiring magicians — and creates a love story between two of the main characters. Confused? This NPR review may help.

Fortune Smiles, by Adam Johnson: This collection of short stories is as beautiful and poignant as any of Johnson’s other work. I continue to marvel at his ability to bring to life such an array of rich, believable worlds (North Korea, post-Katrina New Orleans, Palo Alto) with such nuanced, complicated characters. Adam Johnson is such a treasure. Did I mention Fortune Smiles won the National Book Award?

The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: I never wanted this book, which can fairly be described as the literary equivalent of a rom-com, to end. It follows a pair of Prince William-Kate Middleton analogs (in this case, the fictional Prince Nicholas and his American girlfriend Rebecca Porter) from their meet-cute to their wedding, with lots of juicy drama and intrigue thrown in for good measure. I really felt like I understood the now Duchess Kate’s plight after reading this book. Cocks and Morgan, the geniuses also known as The Fug Girls, make a delightful novel writing team. I recommend The Royal We even to readers, like me, who hate most romance novels and are trepidatious about rom-coms. Read it. Or, just wait for the movie to come out.

Ghettoside, by Jill Leovy: I was turned onto this book by a recommendation from (personal hero) David Sedaris, who encouraged all of his Facebook followers to check it out. Leovy, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, explores the epidemic of violence among African-Americans, the often toxic relationship between law enforcement and poor communities, and the systemic failure of the criminal justice system to prosecute black murders. Fair warning: Ghettoside is not an easy read, but it is fascinating, and gripping, and important. New York Times review here.

The Year of the Runaways, by Sunjeev Sohata: Months after finishing this book, which tells the story of several Indian immigrants struggling to carve out lives in the U.K., and a British-Indian woman whose life intersects with theirs, I cannot stop thinking about it. As soon as this book ended, I experienced that particular kind of mourning you feel when you must say goodbye to characters you really care about. What makes The Year of the Runaways even more remarkable to me is that it is Sohata’s debut novel and he never read a novel until he was eighteen. What?! Guardian review here.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt: This classic came out in 1994, but I never thought to read it until now. Berendt manages to make a true-crime novel read like fiction — and charming, winsome fiction, at that. Despite the fact that this book is about a murder, it made me want to visit Savannah and stroll through its storied gardens.

Good Reads

Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy

Troublemaker, by Leah Remini

Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman

The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

Bringing Up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman

Little Victories, by Jason Gay

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King

The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends, by Courtney Robertson

The Expatriates, by Janice Y.K. Lee

The Run of His Life: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, by Jeffrey Toobin

After Birth, by Elisa Albert

The Dark Net, by Jamie Bartlett

Meh Reads

A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler

Loving Day, by Mat Johnson

The Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

The Red Parts, by Maggie Nelson

Bad Reads

Black Eyed Susans, by Julia Heaberlin

The Tastemakers, by David Sax



The crime gene

For my thirtieth birthday, Al bought me a genetic testing kit – you can send it away and find out what percentage of Neanderthal DNA you carry, for example, and you can also discover all the hideous genetic diseases you might unwittingly pass to your children.  I know it’s not the most romantic gift, but I am super psyched about it.  And although I haven’t sent in my saliva sample for testing yet, I know one malignant gene that I definitely carry and will in all likelihood pass on to my poor, unsuspecting offspring: the crime gene.

Don’t let the term “crime gene” alarm you: I’m not a criminal. I just enjoy watching TV shows about them.

I come by this predilection naturally, I’m afraid. My mother carries the crime gene, and so did her father.  When I was growing up, I only remember my mother reading true crime books, thick paperbacks with titles like Bitter Harvest, The Stranger Beside Me, and Dead by Sunset.  In the evenings, my mom would always tune into TV shows about criminals: America’s Most Wanted, 48 Hours Mystery, even COPS.  When shows like Forensic Detectives and Cold Case Files started to crop up, these were added to the Early household’s TV repertoire.

Since I was raised by a true crime aficionado, watching shows about murder before bedtime always seemed pretty normal to me, although I do remember asking my dad one time to please not kill me and my mom, since I had seen a show in which the dad did just that. My dad, a bit taken aback, assured me that he wouldn’t kill us, but he couldn’t make any promises about our dog, Max, who was severely misbehaved.  Fair enough.

Bad dog

As I got older, I never got into true crime books but I would watch the occasional crime show on TV, although I preferred Law & Order SVU to true crime.  And, by the way, I don’t trust people who don’t love Law & Order SVU.  Love me, love Benson and Stabler.  The older I get, though, the more and more intrigued I become by true crime.  And I think I’ve hit the true crime jackpot in Joburg.

Here in South Africa, there is, to my delight, 24-hour true crime programming.  We get a channel called, simply, Crime, and also a channel called Discovery ID: Investigation Discovery, which, as far as I can tell, is 99% crime shows, and 1% shows about animals on an African game reserve.   Here are the programs that I’ve watched on Discovery ID so far: Nightmare Next Door, Murder Shift, Who on Earth Did I Marry?, Forensic Detectives, On the Case With Paula Zahn, Disappeared, and True Crimes.

You’d think I’d have trouble sleeping after watching these shows about horrifying crimes – today I saw one about a lady whose husband decapitated her for the insurance money – but, no.  I find these stories fascinating without feeling personally threatened by them.  In fact, one of the hypotheses about why women enjoy the true crime genre more than men do, on average, is because women may pick up useful survival tactics from stories about murder and rape.

But although women are typically more likely to be carriers of the crime gene, men are also susceptible. And I’m starting to think this fascination with true crime might not be strictly genetic after all.  In fact, it might be catching.  To wit: for the last two nights, my husband has requested that we watch crime on TV.  Uh oh.  We’d better get Al tested, too.