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The Crime Lady: Making This A Proper Newsletter Again
Dear TCL Readers:
It’s sweltering as I write this, as a heat wave has descended upon the Northeast after pummeling the Southwest for quite some time. It turns my brain into mush, to be frank — I always think I’m going to be productive in summers, and it never quite happens. This summer, of course, has an extra variable, in that it’s still the publication month of my latest anthology, Evidence of Things Seen. But the siren call of my next book, as well as other projects, still beckon.
First, some anthology-related bullet points:
A truly wonderful review ran in the Washington Post, in which Elizabeth Held concludes: “Taken as a whole, “Evidence of Things Seen” is a healthy antidote to “Dateline”-style sensationalist programming…[it] offers a road map for moving the true-crime genre past its pulpy roots and toward something more compassionate — and interesting.”
It’s one of Vanity Fair’s Best New Summer Books and an Editor’s Pick at AirMail, which calls EOTS “a powerful anthology that illustrates how true-crime stories can, in fact, expose injustice and bring about social change.”
The launch events were all so different and so good. (This photo is from the Politics & Prose event.) Here’s the archived livestream of the panel I moderated at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Heights branch, in which the joy I felt hearing what May Jeong, Amelia Schonbek, and Samantha Schuyler had to say about their respective pieces was apparent.
Longtime readers know there’s a mutual admiration society between TCL and the Best Evidence Newsletter. But it was still really lovely to get such an incisive read from Sarah D. Bunting, and then drink some wine and chat some more about Evidence of Things Seen and true crime in general.
Here, finally, are the full details about my National Book Festival appearance with Rebecca Makkai and moderator Angie Kim on Saturday, August 12 at 9:30 AM, with a book signing to follow.
I’ll also be at Bouchercon in San Diego over Labor Day weekend, since Scoundrel is nominated for an Anthony Award and it will be a good time to catch up with friends.
And a West Coast event is finally being confirmed for the fall! Details forthcoming when I can share them.
Here’s what’s new in recent work, too:
July’s Crime & Mystery column reviewed new books by Scott von Doviak, Bruce Borgos, Mindy Mejia, and Kelly J. Ford.
Alta Journal asked me to profile Naomi Hirahara, whose 2021 novel Clark and Division is their California Book Club pick for August. I loved the novel — the follow-up, Evergreen, which publishes this Tuesday, is also excellent — and it has been such a pleasure to watch Hirahara evolve and adapt ever since her debut, Summer of the Big Bachi, was published almost twenty years ago.
As the newsletter title states, it is indeed time to make this a proper one again, like I used to, before the realization that publishing two nonfiction books and two anthologies in a five-year-period, plus a pandemic, the Crime & Mystery column, other freelance work, and Life Stuff (TM) is, um, a lot.
But social media isn’t working anymore. Twitter — uh, X — is decomposing in real time. Instagram is fine, but it feels tired. TikTok is, for me, best used through other platforms. Bluesky is fun but I like that it’s a semi-walled garden. The other places haven’t caught on. Substack, lord knows, has a lot of problems. But I’ve set up shop here and I’d like to stick around.
Earlier iterations of the newsletter (and way back when, the old blog) were pretty link-heavy with additional essays, and I suspect that’s what I will do again. (Maybe one day for links, one day for a short essay, and a longer one once a month or so for paid subscribers.) But I’d love to hear from you about what you’d especially like TCL to evolve into — what specific crime-related topics & personalities should I explore? I’ll spend August and September retooling, probably (we’ll see!!) relaunching after the High Holidays.
I’ll close out this dispatch with a few pieces that caught my attention and some other recommendations:
I always make time for a new Patrick Radden Keefe feature and this, a mega-profile of Larry Gagosian, did not disappoint.
Ditto a new Bob Kolker article, another shattering and gorgeous display of literary empathy.
Sam Adler-Bell on the Essential John Le Carre — his choices pretty well map to mine.
I cannot stop thinking about Annalisa Quinn’s Boston Globe Magazine feature on Frank Smith, probably the longest-incarcerated prisoner in American history, who is, improbably, still alive at 98, still very angry, and still proclaiming his innocence. I looked into his story a few years ago (but didn’t get it together to report it out fully) and am also convinced he probably wasn’t at the murder scene, and at the very least, law enforcement enacted a deliberate campaign to violate his parole in 1975. But as you’ll see in this amazing piece, Smith is far from likable. As Quinn says, “It is convenient — for the media, for defense attorneys, for criminal justice reform advocates — when people in prison are likable. But an error — an incredibly human error — is to apply our sympathy rather than our justice. Because sympathy seems easier, until it isn’t.”
The last episode of the HBO documentary Last Call airs Sunday night. It’s based on my friend Elon Green’s book and deepens and enriches that already outstanding effort. Frankly, this doc is now the bar for true crime-related media, and my own standards, pretty stratospheric, just got higher.
Sinead O’Connor’s too-early death hit everyone hard, myself included. Which is a good reason to revisit this 2021 Guardian profile (and more recent follow-up) by Simon Hattenstone, and this NYT profile by Amanda Hess.
And RIP Janice Brooks, who wrote many cozy mysteries as Jill Churchill.
Enjoy the rest of the summer, and stay cool.
Until next time, I remain,
The Crime Lady