True Crime A To Z: G

Welcome to Best Evidence’s crime-alphabet project! Not sure what the hell we’re doing here? Start at the beginning!

Today’s G line-up contains only one actual G, but I tried to pick a doozy (although now that I’m typing this, I’m kind of regretting not going with “the Chin”? That L&O is one of the best IMO). What true-crime Gs would you pick?

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Kevin Smokler: Ghettoside. LA Times reporter Jill Leovy’s 2015 book centers on the murder of an LAPD officer’s son, but only as a doorway to larger, radical notion: How few murders of African-Americans are solved because of police departments’ unwillingness to invest resources in locating evidence, protecting witnesses and seeing prosecutions to their conclusion. The message: You can get away with killing a black person in many parts of America, because law enforcement there will fail to hold anyone responsible.  

SDB: David Grann. The Lost City Of Z is what put Grann on this map for me, though it’s not a true-crime book…but the “journalist plunges into the jungle on the trail of a lost adventurer” arc can go very wrong very easily, in many of the same ways a true-crime narrative can, and City Of Z didn’t. Here’s a list of key Grann reads on Longreads from a few years back if you need a starting point. (Honorable mentions: Garbus; Alex Gibney; Crazy Joe Gallo.)

Susan Howard: The Gardner Museum Heist. Perhaps the most famous unsolved art crime, the 1990 Boston museum robbery has spawned organized-crime theories, books, and podcasts, but few answers. (Honorable mentions: Grim Sleeper; Liz Garbus true crime documentaries; Kitty Genovese.)

Margaret Howie: Liz Garbus. Garbus has made several poignant documentaries about the prison system, including the Oscar nominated The Farm: Angola, USA, as well as The Execution of Wanda Jean, Girlhood, and Xiara's Song, all of which focus on the human cost of incarceration. She’s also made thoughtful documentaries about mental illness in children, and long-term addiction. Then there’s Diane. Few docs light up an online forum like 2011’s There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane, which is endlessly frustrating, unnervingly tragic, occasionally high camp, and compulsively watchable. Garbus’s work also includes Who Killed Garrett Phillips?, Lost Girls, and exec-producing on The Innocence Files, all of which are notable true-crime properties. She’s currently working on a worthy-sounding doc about Jacques Cousteau, which, fine, oceans, sure, but don’t tell me you don’t want her to go back to talk to the Schuler family some more. (Honorable mentions: Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen; The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar” (This American Life, 2008); Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (book and doc).)