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.
I predicted that entries would be thin on the ground for Q, but we all managed to come up with one…although often it was the same one. But at least none of us had to resort to “-quest, in”…
Margaret Howie: Thomas Quick. It wasn’t just Henry Lee Lucas who was confessing up a storm to multiple murders during the serial killer-obsessed end of the last century. Over in Sweden, which would become the new century’s modern noir backdrop, a man named Thomas Quick became infamous for being the country’s most prolific murderer in the 1990s. But years later Quick would recant his confessions and kick up a new media storm. If true crime obsessions in the 2010s are characterised by wondering whether we can ever know the truth of anything, Quick is a definitive case. (Honorable mention: Quiz Show.)
Kevin Smokler: Quiz Show. There's a empty air of snobbery hanging over Robert Redford's 1994 movie about rigged game shows in the early days of television; the TV producers behind them, thinking America didn't want to see people being smart but rather lucky on television, stood in for American culture trashing intellect in the 1950s in favor of brightly-lit vacant entertainment. It wasn't nearly as bad as all that and this imaginary cultural tragedy has been debunked time and again as elitist tut-tutting, but one more time for the gallery: Every era has every kind of culture, from genius to idiocy and all shades in between, in pretty much equal amounts.
Still, Quiz Show makes a damn fine case that criminal behavior doesn't always look like muggings or battery. It can be dispensed with a faint smile and a broken promise locked away in silence. It can be as plain, stupid and cruel as binding someone to a lie you told them for days, weeks, instead of just being straight with them and having it over with. And so when a silly TV quiz show rigged their contest against unkempt Jewish Herbert Stempel in favor of handsome, polished WASP Charles Van Doren, they weren't just committing fraud — which they didn't need to, because it was their show and they could have changed the rules or the outcome anytime they wanted. Their equal crime was their cowardice: No one is owed success on TV. We are all owed the dignity of the truth.
SDB: Quantico. The Virginia municipality has become pop-culture shorthand for both federal law-enforcement training and the investigative last resort for TV detectives, as it’s home, per Wikipedia, to “The United States Drug Enforcement Administration's training academy, the FBI Academy, the FBI Laboratory, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations headquarters.” The Sopranos sequence in which a bugged lamp is lovingly recreated, paint splash for paint splash, to match the one in the Soprano basement is a process classic. Quantico even has its own John Doe.
Susan Howard: Thomas Quick. Swedish man who confessed to multiple murders when housed in a psychiatric hospital, then recanted. Were his confessions the result of manipulated therapy sessions?
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!
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