Halfway through the HBO docu-series, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, I knew I had to read the source material, and learn more. Written by Michelle McNamara, a brilliant true crime writer, who passed before the book could be published, or the book’s subject caught, sentenced and jailed.
As captivating as the series was, the book takes you deeper, guiding you through the assaults, rapes and murders that became the m.o. of the christened Golden State Killer and the signatures that marked his behaviour.
Terrifying facts made all the more so because of the honesty and humanity contained in Michelle’s writing. (I was going to call her McNamara, but through her writing, and the way she opens herself up as much as her subject, I feel a more semi-formal reference is forgivable.)
She examines cases, documents interesting possible clues, thought processes, theories, witnesses, victims and more as the most prolific, but possibly least known serial killer had his story dragged into the light. Beginning with ransacking, moving to rape, and then elevating his horrific game to murder, the GSK is the embodiment of evil in a human being.
It puts me in mind of my childhood, I was very young, say 6 or so, when the GSK was first honing his craft. The mid-70s, and the times they were a-changin’ as things seemed to become darker in the world at large, through actions of people like the GSK (even knowing his name now, I won’t use it – he’s as Michelle liked to refer to him, the responsible) and world events, things shifted. We locked our doors at night.
I don’t remember the year anymore, but I know it happened. Even living on a military base, I guess there wasn’t as much a feeling of safety as you would think. I wonder what my parents, young themselves at the time were thinking, and if something happened to them personally to move to locking the door at all times, not just at night,
Michelle pens a compelling investigative book, and as each date popped up, it would serve to orient me in my own personal timeline, and then horrify me with the facts of what happened to someone the very moment I was enjoying the innocence of youth.
I’m sorry Michelle is gone, and I wonder if she would have been driven to investigate another case as completely as the GSK once he was captured, and what other incidents she would help bring to light.
If you’ve seen the docu-series, do yourself a favour and read the book as well. It’s terrifying, compulsive and honest reading with a voice that puts the humanity of those affected front and centre.
A brilliant book, and a welcome addition to my library, even as I walk the apartment at night, ensuring doors and windows are secure… in the hopes of keeping out the dark.