True Crime A To Z: P

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.

Bill James, Steve McQueen, hip-hop, and hotel TV as we round the clubhouse turn with P. What’d we miss? Let us know!

View comments

Susan Howard: Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence by Bill James. An encyclopedic look at two centuries of well-publicized crimes; James has no shortage of opinions and this entertaining cultural study of violence has become a frequent source of reference. (Honorable mentions: All the various Petersons (Scott, Drew, Michael); People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman by Richard Lloyd Parry.)

Margaret Howie: Papillon (1973). No one has ever looked as photogenic in a cell as Steve McQueen, who got banged up in both The Great Escape and this adaptation of Henri Charrière’s best-selling “semi-biographical” book. While Charrière’s stories of life in French penal colonies and his multiple escapes are to be taken with several ocean’s worth of salt, between McQueen at his peak, Dustin Hoffman as his pragmatic BFF Louis Dega, and some solitary confinement scenes that put ‘shelter in place’ into proper perspective, this is a textbook Poppy Fields Movie and possibly the best jailhouse film ever made, not counting the end sequence to The Blues Brothers. (Honorable mention: Pierrepoint (2005) [“NB: this list was compiled before Allison Lowe Huff and I took a sidebar about the Pierrepoint family in Ep 143 of The Blotter Presents” - SDB].)

Kevin Smokler: “Proper Propaganda.” The 8th track on the 2003 record “Expansion Team” by the L.A. hip-hop trio Dilated Peoples comes at the Philadelphia police department’s arrest and subsequent conviction of radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal with both barrels, drawing a straight line between his 1981 arrest and the 1985 bombing of the MOVE House on the city's west side four years later. 

SDB: Pompeo and Peet on Law & Order. I don’t have much use for Grey’s Anatomy, but Ellen Pompeo will always have my admiration for her rendering of a ripped-from-the-headlines Homolka in Season 10’s “Fools For Love.” Almost as good as her gelid request to get a pair of garnet earrings returned from a crime scene is Skoda and Carmichael’s shuddering “uch” responses to her lack of affect. It’s a flawless performance, subtly hateful, and I always stop to watch that one when it’s on. And then there’s Amanda Peet, one of two good things about Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (the other was that it got cancelled so quickly, ba dum bum). Her headline case in the sixth-season episode “Hot Pursuit” is a messy amalgam of Patty Hearst and Caril Fugate, and Peet’s performance is just as messy and ambiguous, with not a stitch of vanity.

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

Share Best Evidence