Michelle McNamara

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Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year In Nonfiction

Published November 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the first weekly post of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post yesterday where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. The host for this week is Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness (please see her post and all the links HERE) and the topic for this week is my year in nonfiction. Here’s the discussion question for this week:

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Here we go!

What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year?

I think a good nonfiction book should be one that stays with you and continues to have an impact long after you’ve finished it so my answer for this will be I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death, a memoir by Maggie O’Farrell. It was a wonderful, hugely memorable read and I still continue to think about parts of it today. I actually listened to the audio version (which I also highly recommend) but received a physical copy as a gift after I had finished. I was delighted by this as it has a firm place on my favourites shelves and I will definitely be re-reading it in the traditional way in the future.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

I don’t think so, this year I have tended to stick to the topics I know I love like popular science – particularly anything that involves the brain, psychology, nature writing (especially animal-based) and feminism. However, I am open to trying new things and I’ve been particularly intrigued by the true crime genre after I read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: On Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara recently this year.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

Apart from I Am, I Am I Am, I think I have (or would) recommend Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (review to follow shortly) or This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of A Junior Doctor by Adam Kay which is hilariously funny and a very illuminating read on the NHS currently.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November this year?:

I currently have two overflowing shelves of nonfiction that I’ve been woefully behind in getting to. I thought Nonfiction November was the perfect opportunity to clear some of my backlog and read some of that amazing nonfiction that I’ve been looking forward to for months (and in some cases, years!). I can’t wait to get started!

Thank you so much to Kim for hosting this week, I’ve really enjoyed taking part and looking back over my year in nonfiction so far!

Coming up next week on Nonfiction November Week 2 (hosted by Sarah’s Book Shelves) – Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairing.

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I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara

Published October 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.’

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic – and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

What did I think?:

If you’re a regular follower of what’s new and what’s hot in the literary world, I don’t think you can have failed to see how much of an effect the true crime book, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark has had on its readers. As with every hyped book, of course I approached it with some trepidation which was also coupled with some unease and a lack of familiarity with the genre in general. My other half, Mr B is quite taken with some true crime podcasts but to be honest, I haven’t really gelled with anything I’ve listened to yet. The worry then was that I’ll Be Gone In The Dark would be a similar experience and I SO wanted to love it, after hearing the highest praise about it from fellow bloggers. Now personally, (please don’t hate me!) this book wasn’t quite the five star read I was anticipating and that was a shame – I had definitely elevated it to astronomical proportions in my mind and sadly, it just didn’t reach those dizzying heights. HOWEVER, there are parts of this book that are utterly fantastic and that I thoroughly enjoyed and I would still recommend this as a must-read book if you’re at all interested in this infamous case or the genre in general.

The late author Michelle McNamara and her husband, Patton Oswalt.

This is the true story of The Golden State Killer and his reign of terror over about a twelve year period that led to thirteen murders, more than fifty rapes and over one hundred burglaries in the state of California. The most fascinating thing about this particular case is how often this one man managed to evade police, leaving very little evidence that would ensure his capture and the way in which he terrified his victims. In the early years of his brutal activities, DNA testing was very much in its infancy and detectives had to rely heavily on anything left at the scene and eyewitness statements. However, our perp was incredibly adept at slipping under the radar and even as his crimes began to escalate, he still managed to escape the authorities and leave them frustrated, confused and eventually despondent. McNamara herself becomes engrossed with the case and spent countless hours often working long into the night, trying to piece together small scraps of evidence, communications between the police and eyewitnesses that may lead to the incarceration of such a sadistic and deplorable criminal.

One of three primary composite sketches of The Golden State Killer.

By FBI – https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/unknown-suspect-21, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60645485

Part of what makes this intriguing work so poignant is that Michelle McNamara sadly died quite suddenly as she was in the middle of writing this book. It has been pieced together by crime writer Paul Haynes, investigative journalist Billy Jensen and her widower Patton Oswalt who obviously had access to the files and notes she was working on. In a strange way, this was one of the things I appreciated about this book and in another way, that’s why I haven’t rated it any higher. Let me try and explain. It was fascinating to read about Michelle’s research, part of it in her own words and part of it in other words and I adored her gutsy determination, passion for justice and effort that she put into the whole project. Nevertheless, I feel like that is one of the problems with I’ll Be Gone In The Dark. At points, it really doesn’t read very well, as if it has been pieced together by too many people (which it has!) and unfortunately, this led to a rather disjointed, haphazard and uneven kind of reading experience as I made my way through it.

I don’t think it helped that I read this book over a period of about a month in little portions at a time. I often found I lost track of the narrative and there were so many facts and figures it made it slightly overwhelming to absorb occasionally. Possibly it may have been better if I had concentrated fully on this book and nothing else until I had finished it? Perhaps, I’m not sure. Saying that, there are some truly wonderful things about this read that make it memorable and still stand out in my mind. I won’t give too much away but there are moments when the author describes our killer’s usual protocol as he enters a house and the terrors that he subjects his victims to whilst he is in there. During these parts of the narrative, it read almost like a suspense or crime novel and I was on the edge of my seat, it was utterly horrifying. I kept reading parts out to Mr B – “did you realise he did this?,” and “how can one man be so sadistic?!” I’m sure he was getting fed up with me by the end!

So to sum up, this is an incredibly gripping read that I believe fans of true crime would really devour. If you’re like me and not a usual true crime reader, perhaps go into it with realistic expectations but I’m sure you’ll find it to be a dramatic and haunting experience. I certainly know there’s passages of this that I’ll never, ever forget!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0