Sketch-Artist Sisters · I'll Be Gone In The Dark

Plus a new podcast, West Cork docs, and the battle for the "soul" of publishing

Eve’s off for the week — but she left YOU all a gift! In honor of her round-number birthday, grab an annual paid subscription to Best Evidence any time this week and it’s just $50!

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If you’re on a month-to-month sub right now, we love you and thank you and no pressure AT all…but this is basically two months for free! Not to mention that your paid subscriptions let us pay our contributors; underwrite Discovery+ subscriptions; and generally keep doing what we’re doing, namely to make sure you know what true crime is worth YOUR time, every weekday. Thanks for considering it and we hope you’ll join us for the year! — SDB

Jane Flavell Collins, a courtroom sketch artist who drew “some of the most notorious cases tried in federal court in Boston,” has died. Collins, 84, went where cameras couldn’t, sketching James “Whitey” Bulger, “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, corrupt local pols…and Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli. Collins didn’t set out to become a courtroom sketch artist — she trained in Italy as a young woman, and earned money in Hyannis, MA drawing tourists for two bucks a throw — and continued working on landscapes “that she displayed on her website.” You can still visit that website, and its section that showcases some of her court sketches.

But the part of Collins’s obit that seemed to fairly beg for a biopic is towards the end, when it mentions that Collins was preceded beyond the veil by her husband Peter — and her sister Constance Flavell Pratt, “also a courtroom sketch artist.” Pratt seems to have risen a bit higher in the academic precincts of portraiture, as at least one of her works is in the Harvard art museum. But I would absolutely love a 33 Short Films About The Sisters Clavell project; what about you guys? And whom would you cast? — SDB

Another must-read from Constance Grady, this one on the “generational battle” in publishing over controversial authors. Of the most interest for our topical purposes, of course, are the authors who’ve “polarized” the culture via predatory, or racist and unethical, behavior — like the aforementioned Linda Fairstein. Here’s a snip on Dutton’s decision to drop Fairstein…but only when it became clear that they couldn’t not drop her:

In 2019, Penguin Random House imprint Dutton quietly dropped its author Linda Fairstein, who oversaw the 1989 prosecution of the Exonerated Five, in the wake of a public outcry following the Ava DuVernay series When They See Us. Dutton never made so much as a public statement about its decision to part ways with Fairstein, but former Dutton employees described to Vox an internal dynamic similar to the one playing out publicly at Simon & Schuster. At Dutton, junior staffers repeatedly sounded the alarm over an author they considered a liability for the imprint, a former employee says, only to have their concerns brushed aside by senior executives invested in maintaining the status quo, right up until the status quo became untenable.

Grady’s article goes on to discuss the pitched battle at Hachette over Woody Allen’s memoir, which Hachette dropped last year after Ronan Farrow blew up their spot; the publisher tried to spin it as a proactive decision, but Farrow’s comments and an ensuing staff walkout have to have forced their hands. The book moved to Arcade, and excerpts of it as read by Allen are heard in Allen v. Farrow, so, as predicted, the dust-up didn’t affect Allen’s book much — and didn’t really advance the conversation about free speech, de-platforming accused/abusive cultural figures, et cetera. Which I don’t have definitive answers to either, for the record! I do have conversations with myself about certain “polarizing” authors, and subjects, in terms of what I’m willing to carry at Exhibit B., but it’s one thing for me to rationalize selling, for instance, Mark Fuhrman books, secondhand, as exemplars of even a disgraced cop’s ability to dominate and influence the way crime stories get told. It’s another to buy Fuhrman’s project, pay his advance, and make it possible for him to continue compounding his privilege.

Not that anyone cares whether or what I charge for A Murder In Greenwich but it is an important conversation, and one that we as a culture need to continue having with ourselves, particularly as fascist flunkies of the Trump regime start getting big money to pretend to tell us things we don’t already know. (The lattermost chapter of OJ: Made in America has a worthwhile take on one version of the conversation, in terms of Son Of Sam statutes and the Goldman family’s efforts to hold Simpson accountable fiscally, if not criminally.) Does free speech necessarily conflict with the idea that acting a scabrous fool has consequences? — SDB

The L.A. Times reporter who brought us the original iteration of Dirty John returns with the Trials Of Frank Carson podcast. Christopher Goffard, who also created (the less successful IMO) Detective Trapp podcast, is back with an eight-parter on a California defense attorney who finds himself on trial. From the Apple Podcasts landing page for TToFC:

Frank Carson was Stanislaus County’s most controversial defense attorney, a wizard with juries and a courtroom brawler with an unapologetically caustic style. He racked up legal wins for decades. He was the terror of police and prosecutors, often accusing them personally of corruption. When a small-time thief disappeared, police — some of them Carson’s longtime adversaries — launched a massive investigation into a spectral underworld of street hustlers, junkies and snitches. Carson was charged with murder, accused of masterminding a conspiracy. It would be one of the longest criminal trials in California history, with the flinty veteran of so many courtroom wars on trial for his life.

Hat tip once again to my esteemed colleague Melissa Locker and her Pod People newsletter; she also noted Life Jolt — aka Canada’s Ear Hustle — and rounds up the best, and the rest, of all sorts of podcasts each month. If you’re back to commuting and need some new listens, here’s the PP archive. — SDB

Sophie: A Murder In West Cork is coming to Netflix. “Yeah, we know — you wrote it up last month.” Well, we wrote up A project about the same case; that one’s called Murder at the Cottage: The Search for Justice for Sophie, and we’ve had that one on our radar for a year and a half. THIS one, a three-parter set to bow on Netflix at the end of next month, has a different — and utterly Buntnip — pedigree: “My Scientology Movie director John Dower is attached to helm the project, while Oscar-winning producer of Searching For Sugarman and Man On Wire, Simon Chinn, is on helm as executive producer.”

…I read several of these stories several times to make sure these aren’t the same project, and tbh I’m still not 100 they’re not, so if I’ve gotten tangled up in a haze of confusing working titles and Moderna-bots (as I type this, I’m eight hours out from Shot #2), let me know!

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But I think it’s two separate properties, which ties nicely into our discussion about major-case hive mind from the weekend. If you’d like to test the story out in podcast form, West Cork is now available on most platforms. — SDB

Another major case, this one out of Canada, seems to be spending a lot of time in my inbox of late as well — namely Bruce McArthur. McArthur’s the subject of a Canadian doc that aired in the States first, on Oxygen, as well as of podcast Uncover: The Village; another Canadian documentary about McArthur — sort of — is set to premiere online May 25 (that’s tomorrow). Was I Next? The Sean Cribbin Story recounts the experience of Cribbin,

who lived through a shocking brush with death at the hands of Canada’s most brutal serial killer, Bruce McArthur. After years of communicating via online dating apps, in July of 2017 Sean agreed to meet McArthur, but once they were at his apartment, McArthur gave Sean a larger than normal dose of GHB, a known date-rape drug, which made him black out.

This was McArthur’s customary m.o. — but this time, McArthur’s roommate came home unexpectedly and saved Cribbin’s life.

The trailer for Was I Next? is below:

You can learn more about the film at its website; the premiere is at 7 PM MST on — SDB

A new episode of I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is coming out June 21. The true-crime docuseries, based on the late Michelle McNamara’s book of the same name, premiered back in June of 2020 with six episodes — at the same time that Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo was pleading guilty to 13 counts of murder and 13 “rape-related charges.”

DeAngelo was also sentenced last summer, putting a period on that case — so what will this addendum ep be covering? Per HBO’s press release,

This powerful special closes one chapter in McNamara’s investigative work on cold cases, and brings to light another, highlighting the start of McNamara’s life-long fascination with unsolved murders. The rape and murder of Kathy Lombardo in 1984 in McNamara’s hometown of Oak Park, Illinois and the inability of authorities to solve the case sparked McNamara’s interest in investigating cold cases, ultimately leading her to an obsessive search for the Golden State Killer. 

I am, as regular readers/listeners know, in a tiny minority in that, while I was drawn to McNamara as a person, I felt the book was not entirely successful, and IIRC the parts about Lombardo had the same mix for me of relatability on the subject/catalyst level and occasional failures to connect on the writing level. But I’ll be watching this episode for sure. Are you planning to watch? Or is this case “done” for you now that DeAngelo’s behind bars? — SDB

This week on Best Evidence: streaming gems, Stamos, surviving COVID in prison, soccer homicide — and a New Yorker longread bonanza, so I hope you’ve been saving up your monthly Condé views.

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