Murder On Middle Beach · Dr. Death · Yorkshire Ripper

Plus Ted Cruz and best book bets

Murder On Middle Beach premiered last night on HBO, and I hope it doesn’t get lost. There’s lots of buzzy new/returning TV out lately (The Crown), HBO alone has a true-crime property every week until Christmas (Crazy, Not Insane, Baby God, et al.), and four-parter Murder On Middle Beach is reeeeeally hard to describe in an elevator-pitchy sentence, never mind explaining how it 1) occupies two distinct subgenres of true crime while 2) interrogating the genre as a whole. I gave it a shot at Primetimer:

[I]t's this hybrid purpose that makes it so interesting. Hamburg is trying to come to terms with his parents as flawed human beings, as we all do, but at the same time he's trying to determine whether one or more of those flaws led to his mother's murder. Because Hamburg is basically becoming a documentarian in real time as he forges ahead with the series, he's perfectly positioned to tell the complex and frustrating story of his family without the layers of artifice a more seasoned director might have added.

This is not a piece of writing I’m particularly proud of, because I was trying to avoid spoilers while also discussing abstractions about two overlapping genres, and I…don’t think it worked. But MOMB is a difficult, imperfect, riveting sit that stayed with me for days; I recommend it, and I also recommend letting it stack up and watching all four next month. (And then coming back here and letting me know what y’all thought.) — SDB

Marie Claire has a list of the 11 best true-crime books of the year. As a side note, it seems like year-end-list season has started even more obnoxiously early than it did the last five years, and I would object, but I feel like the instinct is to here’s-your-hat 2020 out the door ASAP, and I really can’t argue. I also can’t quibble with the list itself; I’ve read four of them, and most of the rest are on my wishlist. I’m particularly thrilled to see Lacy Crawford’s Notes On A Silencing there. Every now and then, I remember that that book exists, and I think of that Plath line, “Does not my heat astound you! And my light!”…I know nobody needs to get more pissed off at the state of things, but you really should read the Crawford.

Anyone who’s read the whole list here? If so, which should I tackle next? I’m thinking the Cooper. — SDB

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And if we’re going to be starting with best-of-2020 stuff already, allow me to nominate a beaut from Podcast Business Journal for Goofy Hed Of The Year. Not to pick on PBJ here; having been born before yesterday afternoon, I know how SEO works. Still, this one’s a doozy. Ready?

Despite some hall-of-fame no-shit-Sherlocking up top, the piece is worth a look, for a couple of reasons. One is how dominant Wondery is, despite ongoing agonizing about the pod giant’s (and its executive suite’s) future. The other is that the jeans-ironing, soup-hoarding, Zodiac-adjacent dingleberry known as Ted Cruz has a podcast at all, but what’s worse, it’s in the top 25! Episodes include “James Comey, Incompetent or Corrupt?” (you want incompetence, start with whoever punctuated that title), “Jon Voight Is A National Treasure,” and something about debating the sandwich status of hot dogs? Don’t look at me, I’m a vegequarian. Anyway, evidently Cruz’s coverage of the Trump impeachment proceedings fueled his podcast’s rise to the top of the ratings. In related news, sometimes I hate this goddamned country. — SDB

The Yorkshire Ripper has died…of coronavirus. Peter Sutcliffe, 74, contracted the virus and refused treatment; his lungs collapsed Friday morning. Sutcliffe had suffered various other health problems in recent years, including a heart attack just a couple of weeks before his diagnosis.

I don’t know much about the Ripper case, except what John Douglas mentions in The Cases That Haunt Us vis-a-vis linkage blindness, and also that the British police widely publicized the tape — later revealed as an impostor with a grudge against an inspector on the case — in the hopes that someone would recognize the voice. British Cosmo has a good explainer here on how Sutcliffe — who started using his mother’s maiden name, Coonan, after his trial — was finally apprehended. — SDB

Dr. Death is dropping a “bombshell” follow-up to the podcast’s first-season case tomorrow. “In an extremely special episode” set to hit Tuesday November 17, host Laura Beil is interviewing Jerry Summers, Christopher Duntsch’s childhood friend — and victim; Duntsch “permanently crippled” Summers — about his road to forgiveness. Beil has said she “‘was moved by Jerry’s openness, and the deep complexity of his feelings for Christopher Duntsch,’” but…I don’t know. I find almost all testimonials from victims about forgiveness and healing admirable, but uninteresting in their opacity. Like, either you can let go of that betrayal or you can’t, but an account of the fact of it is not per se compelling in my opinion. And 40 minutes of it seems like about 26, but then, my to-do list was reported to the Hague last week so what do I know. — SDB

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(“I don’t have that kind of scratch right now. Can I still hang out?” Totally! We’re thankful for all y’all.) — SDB

Tuesday on Best Evidence: What’s next on the Beeb?

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