I have a confession to make.
No. I haven’t committed a murder. And if anyone who knows me thought (even for a moment) that I was going to confess to a murder, we seriously need some relationship remediation.
But I will confess that I am borderline obsessed with true crime stories. I watch them. I read them. I listen to them.
I know that with Serial, Making of a Murderer, The Jinx, etc., true crime stories are all the rage these days, but I am no Susie-come-lately when it comes to true crime.
Back when I was a kid, the swanky private school I attended would have an annual book sale. It was not just books for kids. There were books for grown ups too. Every year we were marched into the sale to make a wish list that would later be given to our parents. When I was in about the 6th grade, I dutifully made my list which was then passed on to my mother. It was a compendium of gruesome true crime books. My mother came home from the sale mortified at my choices. She told me that she wouldn’t buy me any of my chosen books at the school sale because she was afraid that the parents who were running the sale would think she was raising a psychopath.
But behind the scenes, my mother was just as interested in true crime as I was. During our marathon road trips each summer, my mother would buy copies of “True Detective Magazine” which we would pore over while we drove through the Great Plains listening to my father and brother chat about baseball. She let me read her copy of “Helter Skelter” when I was about 13. We moved on to the books of Ann Rule and Joe McGinniss and countless others.
I always knew when my mom was reading a scary book. She slept upstairs, and my room was at the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor. Late at night, I would often hear a loud “thunk” outside my bedroom door. It was my mother throwing the scary book she was reading down the stairs because she didn’t want it near her while she was sleeping. (But I guess it was OK for me to sleep near it. Thanks, Mom!) Usually, I’d pick it up in the morning so that I could grab it when she was done. The more consecutive nights of book thunking, the better the book was likely to be.
Then came the TV shows, the mini-series, the documentaries and the movies — Unsolved Mysteries, Fatal Vision, The Thin Blue Line, and In Cold Blood, which had a special appearance by a drama teacher at my high school who had, long before, played the girl who discovered the Clutter family’s bodies. Her only line was a blood-curdling scream. (BTW: In Cold Blood was the book that started my mother down the path of late night book-hurling.)
And even though I’ve been a true crime aficionado for decades, my interest remains unabated. My DVR is filled with episodes of 48 Hours and shows on the Investigation Discovery channel. I often fall asleep to the dulcet tones of Keith Morrison’s voice as he details some grisly murder on an episode of Dateline that I’ve already seen 4 times. It turns out that murder makes me sleepy.
And if you see me wearing headphones in the grocery store or while I’m walking the dog, I’m probably not listening to music; I’m much more likely to be listening to Criminal or The Generation Why or My Favorite Murder. Either that, or I’m playing Pokemon Go. And often, I’m playing Pokemon Go while listening to a crime podcast. (Listening to murder podcasts goes surprisingly well with enslaving cartoon characters. Like wine and cheese or coffee and chocolate.)
So now my shameful secret is out. Some of you may never look at me the same way again. Or — given the proliferation of true crime stories these days — maybe some of you have a confession to make too. Just consult a lawyer first. I learned that from TV.