True Crime A To Z: T

Welcome to Best Evidence’s crime-alphabet project! Not sure what the hell we’re doing here? Start at the beginning! And don’t be afraid to call out stuff we missed...

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Clowns, wrongful convictions, and secret war heroes: everything’s bigger in T!

Susan Howard: Texas Monthly. Top-notch, long-form true crime writing from the likes of Skip Hollandsworth and Pamela Colloff. The archives will become your best friend. (Honorable mentions: Gary Tison; Peter Thomas; Jeffrey Toobin; The Thin Blue Line; Emmett Till.)

Margaret Howie: To Catch a Killer (miniseries, 1992). Brian Dennehy was a giant, not just in stature (though Patton Oswalt’s ably covered his physicality), but as an actor. He was cast as a cop infinity times, but for many of us who grew up on his small screen appearances he’ll always be John Wayne Gacy in To Catch a Killer. Gacy has a pop-culture imprint only a little smaller than Bundy or Dahmer, thanks mostly to the creepy clown stuff starting the work Stephen King’s IT finished. But while Gacy’s story has been filmed in at least three other adaptations, none get close to the chilling quality of Dennehy’s portrayal. (Honorable mention: 10 Rillington Place (1971).)

Kevin Smokler: The Thin Blue Line. Errol Morris's third documentary film came out in 1988, about the murder of a Dallas police officer in 1976. It's 2020, the key figures are all deceased, and the movie feels like it was made last Thursday. Give it due credit for pioneering re-enactments as a now-endemic part of true-crime storytelling. But its biggest accomplishment is something more, an examination of truth and how the even the stated mission of uncovering and needing it can lead us, awfully, the other way.

SDB: Peter Thomas. The narrator of the original Forensic Files, whose thudding pronunciation of the word “murder” never failed to thrill and delight, was ALSO an underwriting credits announcer for NOVA and Nature; did commercial work for giants like Coke and IBM; was the digitized voice of an automated external defibrillator; and was a decorated war hero who worked tirelessly for veterans. I always hoped to meet him one day, but he passed in 2016 at the age of 91. Rest in power, sir. (Honorable mention: The Times Of Harvey Milk.)

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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