True Crime A To Z: W

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No doubt the last spoiled-for-choice letter for us here as we start to wrap up the project…and boy, were we. A great author, a singular criminal, a gorgeously horrible miniseries, and…a snack food. Weird, Keeping It: it’s W.

SDB: When They See Us. I hesitate to call Ava DuVernay’s account of the Central Park jogger case “exhausting,” because it sounds like a bad thing — and it absolutely isn’t. DuVernay and her talented cast (Jharrel Jerome the chief revelation, but let’s not forget Operation Varsity Blues ensnaree Felicity Huffman, so believably hateful as Linda Fairstein that Fairstein sued the production) take the viewer through every emotion, from apprehension into dread, through a few false hopes larded with prickly rage, to gratitude for When They See Us existing. And it tires you out! And it should, and it’s worth it. The miniseries turns a year old next weekend; if you haven’t watched yet, celebrate it ASAP. (Honorable mentions: Joseph Wambaugh; Dan White’s oft-misunderstood — but still nonsense — Twinkie defense.)

Susan Howard: Aileen Wuornos. Among the only examples of a female serial killer since the term was invented, her crimes have inspired countless documentaries, fictionalizations, and questions over how lifelong the abuse she suffered created the “Monster” she became. (Honorable mentions: Wild Wild Country; When They See Us; Watergate; Joseph Wambaugh.)

Margaret Howie: Who is Ana Mendieta?, by Christine Redfern and Caro Caron (2011). Like true crime, comic books have been in and out of the cultural gutter, sometimes considered disposable trash ready to rot impressionable minds, sometimes elevated to high art. The two have been mixed to notable effect — My Friend Dahmer by Derf, The Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen, and the highly regarded doorstopper From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. But Redfern and Caron’s stunning biography of artist Ana Mendieta, illustrated in looping black and white that captures both Mendieta’s experimental art and the unromantic reality of the sexist art world in the ’70s and ’80s, is unforgettable. Mendieta died after falling from a window in the New York apartment she shared with her husband in 1985. Her husband, Carl Andre, would be called the OJ Simpson of the art world for years, long suspected for killing Mendieta and getting away with it due to his fame and influential friends. This angry, vivid celebration of Mendieta’s life revisits the facts of her death and reminds us to remember the messages of violence and sexism in her work. (Honorable mentions: Sarah “The Crime Lady” Weinman, who happened to write about Mendieta in 2016; Dick Wolf; The Wolf of Wall Street (movie, not book — Jordan Belfort can eat a bee).)

Kevin Smokler: The Witness. No, 28 year old bartender Catherine “Kitty” Genovese did not scream for her life after being stabbed repeatedly while her neighbors heard and did nothing. In reality, one neighbor scared off her murderer, at least initially, and another held Ms. Genovese in her arms, waiting for an ambulance, while Kitty Genovese died. Her name came to mean "we don't care about our neighbors." The circumstances of her death mean "We do." This catastrophic error in journalism and the creation of false public perception is the soul of this 2015 documentary, an attempt by Kitty Genovese's younger brother William Genovese to understand his sister's murder, the effect on their family and the phony fear it memorialized. As of this date, the New York Times has still not apologized nor expressed regret for the error. 

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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