While the vast majority of what I read is young adult literature, when I make time for “grownup books” I tend to read particular fiction genres like fantasy / science fiction / mystery / horror, or else I read nonfiction. I’ve been a fan of nonfiction books for many years, and true crime stories often have a special appeal. I’m easily swayed by excellent writing (In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt) and/or fascinating subjects (Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden, celebrities, etc.).
I often find documentaries engaging and informative, even though a lot of them will bring me to tears and a lot of them make me angry. I’ve walked out of the theater after watching some of these films feeling educated and frustrated at the same time. Films like Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, Blackfish, and Capturing the Friedmans (directed by The Jinx‘s Andrew Jarecki) have pushed a lot of those emotional buttons in my brain.
If I’m flipping through the TV stations and I see an episode of Dateline, it can catch my attention within the first 30 seconds and then I’ll be hooked for an hour. The same can be said for the Law & Order franchise with its “ripped from the headlines” stories. Although in that case I might be multiplying that hour by however many hours the marathon is running … BUT I’m also factoring in who’s starring in each episode. Is it an episode featuring Jerry Orbach or Vincent D’Onofrio? Then I’m definitely sticking with it. Does this episode feature Linus Roache as the super-annoying ADA? Hmmmm … let’s flip over and see what’s on Dateline instead! Or maybe I can find a rerun of 48 Hours, or even City Confidential!
And yes, I’m a big podcast fan, so one of the many podcasts I listen to is Serial. I enjoy the format of listening to a controversial case unfolding one episode at a time, and that’s been another series that has been getting a lot of media attention lately. I enjoyed the smaller scope of the first season (a 1999 murder case) and I found the transition to season 2 (a bigger case that was in the news a lot more) to be a little jarring. But they just announced that they’re moving from a weekly to a bi-weekly format because they have so much new information coming in about the case of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, so I look forward to seeing how this will affect the story and if it can help uncover the truth about what really happened to him.
I’m giving you the background of my true crime / “true” crime reading, listening, and viewing habits so that you’ll understand my mindset when I first started watching the HBO documentary The Jinx about Robert Durst last year. I watched the series week by week when it originally aired, and that inspired me to rent Andrew Jarecki’s earlier fictionalized treatment of the Durst saga All Good Things, which is what originally set the wheels of The Jinx in motion. Then I recently read Jeanine Pirro’s new book He Killed Them All: Robert Durst and My Quest For Justice, and THEN I checked out The Jinx series on DVD and watched it all over again. Along the way, my opinions about the Durst cases and the subjective reality of true crime coverage have been slowly evolving. (more…)