Michelle McNamara could write true crime like nobody’s business.
She investigated it, made it real, fiercely protected the victims stories and humanity. . .
I. LOVE. Her. Writing.
I love her husband, Patton Oswalt, too.
As such – and as a true crime junkie as well, I’ve been waiting (impatiently) on the HBO docu-series Patton executive produced based on her posthumously published book, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, to come out. The book, that I wrote about immediately after I read it, is about Michelle’s pursuit of the Golden State Killer, who terrorized California from 1975 to 1986, raping more than 50 women and murdering 13 people.
Sadly, she did not live to see him caught, but the news came down that he had finally been captured just as Patton was starting the book tour.
Well, GSK – who is Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. – was set to go to trial the week before the series began airing when he flipped the script and agreed to plead guilty to all charges and also to admit to the crimes he was suspected of.
I sat and watched the entire thing. Having followed and read and watched all the things and invested and wanted justice for these many victims, I NEEDED to see this son of a bitch admit to EVERYTHING.
Still, each prosecutor from all of the counties where he committed these atrocities was present to read through the details of each crime and it was ROUGH. So I didn’t watch the series immediately when I began as I expected to. I had to take a moment to regroup.
Instead, I watched to the first two episodes this morning – and the third when it was released tonight.
And watching them?
Oh my word.
First, let me say that, so far, it is both important and so hard to hear from the victims in this story. Of course, understandably, many aren’t able to tell their stories or don’t wish to on camera (who can blame them?) – but, for some, telling the story is a way of taking their power back.
I cannot imagine what they experienced during the attacks or in these many years knowing he has been free.
There is SO much power in the telling though – and Michelle did it so well.
Her voice comes through so clearly in this docu-series.
When I did some looking around, Slate wrote a wonderful review of it, making me even more anxious to see the rest:
The thing about watching it is this: much like reading her book, it makes me miss terribly my writer “friend” I never met.
Watching all her interviews and hearing her passion for work. . .
I expected that it would both be great and hurt my feelings to watch – and it has.
There are so many things I recognize when Patton is talking about her writing time and sinking into a project and going down the rabbit hole.
We writer types all do it.
At one point, Patton was describing Michelle having really vivid dreams – to the point that she literally jumped up and ran out the back door one night. Her mind just stuck with what she was working on.
Where I used to be a person who never remembered their dreams, lately, I do remember them in detail. In fact, I wrote about a crazy scary one not too long ago, but most of them aren’t that level of disturbing. They are just. . . intense.
I know it is because I am neck deep in my death book and COVID-19 – and it’s mishandling – writing (which has not made me friends at times – but that was expected). Spending so much time thinking on the consequences of a new and truly terrifying disease when it turns bad and also literally pondering all various aspects of death, a la Moaning Myrtle, really can send the sleeping brain off to the races.
I was glad to hear it isn’t just me. 😉
As I’ve been watching, I flipped through my copy of Michelle’s book to answer a few questions I had from the docu-series – and came across this, which just stops me in my tracks when I see it:
It’s like John Green observed in his book, The Fault In Our Stars: Sometimes, it seems, life just stops in the middle of a sentence. Michelle’s life definitely did.
This page haunts me as I work on my own book. I want her story to have had a different ending so badly.
Since that cannot be and she gave so much of herself to this, her final project, I would encourage everyone to read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark – and to watch the series as well.
You might not sleep for a week – but you’ll still be glad you did.
Be well, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other.
Grace and blessings.