Pinko PIs · Shipman · Theranos

Plus: True crime bumblers

CBS All Access, aka the The Good Fight Channel, will air a “comedic documentary series” about a missing man. You know the cliché and so does CBS, apparently: For Heaven’s Sake is about a disappearance from 1934, not last week, and the investigator/star is a distant relative of the most-certainly (at this point) deceased, Variety reports.

Deadline pitches the series as from the broadcaster of Schitt’s Creek, which is sort of like saying that Father of the Pride is from the broadcaster of ER so?? Anyway, let me move on from media crit and get to the concept: Mike Mildon’s the great-great-nephew of Harold Heaven, who disappeared in Ontario. Mike and his pal Jackson Rowe decide to solve the long-ago case, even though, says the show’s producers, “We were struck by how fascinating and complex this very real 80-year-old cold case is. And by how ill-equipped Mike and Jackson are to solve it.”

“The true-crime genre may never be the same as best friends Mike and Jackson rely on their real-life bond and total lack of crime-solving experience to try and figure out what happened to Mike’s great-great uncle Harold,” CBS All Access EVP Julie McNamara says.

Sure, this could be funny! But, if I am understanding this correctly, two white guys just got a TV deal because they are bad at the task they set out to do. Is that a paradigm that the world here in 2020 should still be supporting? Haven’t we had enough of people who are remarkably bad at something getting loads of camera time as they are remarkably bad at something? [Looks around at the hellscape that is the U.S. in 2020] I know I have. — EB


Murder! Mayhem! Salvation! Our Fall 2020 issue is here—and we've gone full noir. Classic noir lit, films, new fiction, podcasts, and true stories of foggy nights and fedora'd detectives. This isn't your dime-store pulp paperback: http://altaonline.com/noir-special-section⠀

#noir #filmnoir #hollywoodnoir #californiawriting #californialiterature #darkandstormynight #raymondchandler #dashiellhammett #privateeye #privateinvestigation #truecrimepodcast #waltermosley #stephcha #atticalocke #eddiemuller #noirliterature #californiamagazine #californiabookclub
September 29, 2020

This is my newsletter, do I have to do disclaimers about my relationships? OK, sure, why not: The Journal of Alta California is a print and online publication founded by my acquaintance Will Hearst, and its online editor is Best Evidence subscriber and my good pal Beth Spotswood. But that’s not why I’m pointing you to its latest issue: Even if I didn’t know any of these jerks I’d be covering it, because it’s loaded with true crime.

In the way of many print pubs, all its content does not roll out immediately on its website, but there’s plenty to parse so far. (Here’s its main website to track as more drops.) My top pick is from another good pal of mine, Phil Bronstein.

For years, Phil has been bending my ear about San Francisco’s strange fraternity of left-wing private eyes, men and women who, for the last five decades, have staked places out and dug through the trash in the service of opposition to authority. “It’s just weird that these law and order guys are real pinkos!” Phil said again and again. “And they’re all dying off.” He finally got on the ball and wrote up the story, spinning it into an engrossing, idiosyncratic yarn.

You can read it here, and if you liked the story, Phil’s also doing a “Private Investigators—Fact and Fiction” virtual event on October 7 at 12:30 PT, with story subject Josiah “Tink” Thompson. The event is free, just register here. — EB


If reading about those PIs made you want to hang an investigative shingle…Slate’s How To! podcast is hit or miss for me, not due to any wrongdoing by journalist/host Charles Duhigg (who also wrote The Power of Habit) but because many of the how-tos are things I neither care about (how to talk to your son about sex), feel I’m OK with (how to enjoy working from home), or just feel impossible (how to convince people to give you money). Which, maybe I should listen to that one because my default is

ANYWAY. The most recent episode is entitled “How To Get Away With Murder,” but there are no law students who never seem to go to class here. Instead, BuzzFeed News senior editor of investigations and author of true-crime book The Devil’s Harvest Jessica Garrison comes on to explain how to report out, and podcast on, true crime, as the way victims’ stories are told “can have outsized consequences on the entire criminal justice system.” You can listen to the episode here. — EB


Have any of you UK folks watched The Harold Shipman Files yet? I’ve been looking forward to the three-part BBC docuseries when it makes its way here, but Daily Mail spinoff site inews says that it’s “rather dull” and “lacklustre.” I don’t know that every story can be, say, Tiger King. Can or should the story of a doctor who secretly kills hundreds of old folks be as razzle-dazzling as installment #69697972793057 in the Charles Manson canon? Beats me, and I haven’t watched it yet, so I can’t decide for myself. Your thoughts, please. — EB

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Ethan Baron’s tireless reporting on the Theranos trial is one of the main reasons I subscribe to the Bay Area News Group family of publications. Late Tuesday, he brought us the latest from the Theranos case: Federal prosecutors argued that the attorneys for disgraced CEO Elizabeth Holmes were being deliberately obtuse by claiming they don’t understand terms like “investors” or “business partners.” Instead, they told the presiding judge, the complaints “stem from strategic concerns rather than genuine confusion or concern.”

All this is just the opening act, as the trial is still set for March of 2021. Should we start a pool on a potential plea deal? — EB


Friday on Best Evidence: Prepare to make some forcening suggestions, because Sarah and I are about to throw ourselves on your mercy.


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