Oh, hey, did you know that I’m a librarian? Did you know that one of the biggest myths about librarians is that they get to read all day? Man, I wish. I barely have time to read a few pages on my lunch break, let alone hours on end amidst helping patrons on the computers, attending meetings, and shuffling all the paperwork around.
But this is where audiobooks come in and save the day (yes, listening to audiobooks counts as reading - ask any librarian and you’ll get an earful, no pun intended). My library offers (free!) downloadable eBooks and audiobooks and I also have an account with Audible, so I’m well-stocked in setting the mood for my daily commute. And over the last few months, the mood has been decidedly dark. I’ve always been interested in true crime and murder, but recently I’ve fallen down what I call a “murder hole,” exclusively reading/listening to dark, gruesome tales of death, deception, and destruction. It keeps me balanced.
The last three books I’ve read have been macabre explorations of humanity: The Devil in the White City (about the 1893 World’s Fair and the murder mansion of H.H. Holmes); The Alienist (definitely read the book before watching the TNT series, if you haven’t already); and The Stranger Beside Me (true crime master Ann Rule’s exploration of the brutal mass-murderer Ted Bundy… who was also her friend).
Needless to say, I’d been looking forward to reading Michelle McNamara’s posthumous publication on the then as-yet-to-be-identified Golden State Killer, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I purchased it via Audible the day it was released and I finished the almost 10-hour audiobook in less than 24 hours. That’s the equivalent of staying up all night to read a book you just can’t put down. Because staying up all night to learn about one of the most chilling and brutal serial rapist-turned-murderers in American history isn’t exactly something that lends itself to a peaceful night’s sleep anyway.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the product of true crime writer McNamara’s obsessive search for the identity of the Golden State Killer (GSK), a moniker she coined to encompass and expand upon the previous names for the serial killer whose elusive actions terrified the state of California from 1974-1986: the East Area Rapist and/or Original Night Stalker (EAR/ONS). Sounds like a cheery fellow, eh?
McNamara, who was married to comedian Patton Oswalt, spent years researching the movements and mindsets and tracking suspects and leads in the GSK case, documenting her progress on her blog, True Crime Diary, and in various magazines. Sadly, Michelle passed away unexpectedly and never got to see her book make it off her laptop. Her research assistants (she also worked with the police for years) couldn’t let her investigations go unread and finished the book by pulling excerpts from published stories and crafting chapters from notes and drafts. And the final product is chilling.
As if this all wasn’t enough to recommend the book on its own, in late April of this year, after more than 40 years of searching, police identified and arrested the Golden State Killer: Joseph James DeAngelo. And I have no doubt, nor could anybody who reads the book, that McNamara’s work was a driving force in solving the case. In fact, after following the news of the arrest (obsessively, I must admit), I re-listened to the entire book and felt so many emotions knowing McNamara wasn’t with us to see the GSK being brought to justice for his heinous actions.
If you’re into true (or even fake) crime, this book is a must-read, even more so now that the identity of the GSK has been revealed. Questions and theories outlined in the book are now being answered in real time, as it were. It really is quite an extraordinary situation.
Also, you know, go to your library every once in a while. We have good stuff.