True Crime A To Z: K

Welcome to Best Evidence’s crime-alphabet project! Not sure what the hell we’re doing here? Start at the beginning! And it’s never too late to add your own thoughts.

As we near our alphabet project’s halfway point, it’s time to honor accounts of the Troubles; a true survivor; and the plummy tones of a legendary narrator. K?

Kevin Smokler: Killers of the Flower Moon. In the 1920s, members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma were sitting on some of the U.S.'s largest deposits of petroleum and getting wealthy from the drilling rights to it. Mysteriously, members of the community begin to die under strange circumstances, with evidence of their deaths and investigations into the crimes botched, hidden away, and faked. David Grann makes it clear that their murders weren't simply an attempt to steal oil profits out from under a group of Indians (which could have been done, odiously still, by court case, by business dealing, by government lobbying) but to eliminate them and their children from contesting something white America didn't feel that Indians deserved. And given that the crime is 100 years old, not unfamiliar at least in Oklahoma and with many of the descendants still living and remembering, Grann has still miraculously written a true-crime masterpiece that feels like breaking news as much as American history. Killers of the Flower Moon will be made into a movie by Martin Scorcese, produced by and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. [“…We’ll see.” - SDB] Filming began in March 2020.    

SDB: Patrick Radden Keefe. A book I wasn’t keen on starting — I thought it would be humorless and homework-y — left me wanting more: sequels, follow-on podcasts, 33 Short Films About What Stephen Rea Thought About All This, you name it. Say Nothing is engrossing, horrifying adrenaline in text form, immersing readers in The Troubles without lecturing. (Honorable mentions: Robert Kolker; Bill Kurtis; Starlee Kine.)

Susan Howard: Bill Kurtis. The voice of A&E true crime programming in the 1990s, Kurtis provided narration for two classic properties: Cold Case Files and American Justice. (Honorable mentions: The Keepers (2017); Killings by Calvin Trillin; Edmund Kemper.)

Margaret Howie: Natascha Kampusch. Few victims of notorious crimes have done so much to own their story. Imprisoned as a child by Wolfgang Přiklopil, soon after her escape when she was 18 she became the focus of intense media scrutiny, which she chose to face head-on. Kampusch has refused to let the media define her with stereotypical victim narratives, rejecting the diagnosis of “Stockholm Syndrome” while defending her right to express empathy for her kidnapper. As well as writing two successful memoirs, she hosted her own short-lived talk show, has been an activist for animal rights, and bought the house she was kept in to save it becoming a tourist attraction. “Famous victim” is a very strange category in contemporary celebrity, but Kampusch has shown that she will define it on her own terms. (Honorable mentions: Sarah Koenig; The Keepers.)

True Crime A To Z is available to all subscribers…and we’d love your input! Comment on our picks, and tell an interested friend!

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