est. New York | c. Los Angeles
est. New York | c. Los Angeles

Field Reports


“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” Michelle McNamara’s Investigation Into the Golden State Killer, Is In Stores Now

Posted February 27th, 2018 in Field Reports and tagged , , , , by Billy Jensen

Michelle McNamara was a writer first. Then she became a citizen detective. Then she merged the two and we can now finally say she is the author of a true crime classic.


After months of going through all of her documents and chapters and notes and emails, pulling and pushing and putting it all together, and then trying our best in part 3 to follow some of the strings she left us to get out of the maze, seeing her beautiful prose and intense research in hardcover felt amazing.



Then I opened the book and saw Michelle’s photo on the inside jacket, and it was like a sledgehammer hit my chest all over again.


It’s the same feeling I get when I get a solve–elation, followed immediately by sadness, because no matter what, it will not bring the victim back. We should be going out for drinks and celebrating this week. This is by all accounts the true crime book event of the year. It’s already being called a “true crime classic.” But it’s still…grrrr, I’ll be drinking tonight.


The book jacket photo is from the same shoot as the photo to the right. The last time I felt that sledgehammer was when I walked into Michelle’s memorial at Largo and saw this pic blown up, giant-sized. Then they played David Bowie, and now I can’t hear the opening snare drum of “Five Years” without thinking of this badass woman.


That day Patton, Paul and I vowed to do everything we could to bring Michelle’s work into the light. Today is the day the world can see what she was working on.


So buy the book. It’s really good. I mean really good. Like you’ll be stopping yourself over and over saying “damn, that’s a great paragraph” good. If you don’t believe me, read this review here:


What we discover, beautifully, is McNamara’s interest in human beings. There’s a spooky, suspenseful magic to the way the author constructs bite-sized short stories — tales of jealous siblings, happy young couples, impulsive children and “stony” parents — and infuses them with that lurking inevitability of terrible, potentially deadly crimes.Entertainment Weekly (David Canfield)


And here:


“This book had to be finished,” [Patton Oswalt] said in a telephone interview. “Knowing how horrible this guy was, there was this feeling of, you’re not going to silence another victim. Michelle died, but her testimony is going to get out there.”


Shortly after her death, Mr. Oswalt recruited Billy Jensen, an investigative journalist, and Paul Haynes, who worked closely with Ms. McNamara on the book as a researcher, to comb through her handwritten notes and the roughly 3,500 files on her computer and piece together the story she set out to tell.


“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” due out Feb. 27, is both a vivid and meticulous investigation of a twisted predator who terrorized quiet, upper middle-class communities in California for nearly a decade, and a wrenching personal account from a writer who became consumed by her subject. It’s drawn accolades from some of the country’s top crime and horror writers, including Stephen King, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott and Gillian Flynn, who wrote an introduction to the book.New York Times (Alexandra Alter)


And here:


​McNamara fascinatingly evokes the development of post-war Californian suburbia, “a predator’s paradise” where single-storey houses in communities planned by visionaries such as Joseph Eichler became “eerie” filmic tableaus, with their occupants displayed “like rare museum objects”.– The Independent (Alaisdar Lees)


And here:


By the time of her sudden death in 2016, McNamara had inspired an online community of sleuths who continue to research the crimes. With its exemplary mix of memoir and reportage, this remarkable book is a modern true crime classic.Publishers Weekly


And here:


McNamara’s background in fiction demonstrated itself in a superb ability to tell a story in a nonfiction context. She had a well-developed knack for presenting a situation in a single, memorable image. These ranged from a recollection of her mother in her beige armchair in the living room of their home, circling her finger in the air to tell Michelle’s friends ringing the doorbell to go around to the unlocked back door, to her description of retired homicide investigator Larry Crompton as looking “like the kind of tall, lean, honest-faced rancher John Wayne would have trusted in one of his Westerns.” New York Journal of Books (Michael J. McCann)


And here:


We don’t review much true crime at Crime Fiction Lover – our passion is for fiction – but this book is exceptional in the way it captures a specific time and place, as well as some unforgettable, if brief, character portraits of victims and police investigators. McNamara obtained her MFA in fiction writing, and, although her accounts of the victims’ lives and stories are factual, they have all the vivid descriptive power and fluency that fiction can bring to the reader. Not only does it give voice to the victims and their families, it also does a brilliant job recreating that atmosphere of panic that gripped the state during that time.– Crime Fiction Lover (Marina Sofia)


And here are the Amazon reviews.


And the Goodreads reviews.


I have started some social campaigns and geo-targeted buys (targeted to people who lived in the areas of the crimes but have since moved away across the world) to try and dig up any new information, like I promised I would do.


The book is finally be on the shelves, but that doesn’t mean Paul, Patton and myself are going to stop. We won’t stop until this guy is identified and brought to justice, even if he’s already shuffled off his mortal coil, little prick and all (you’ll have to read the book to get that reference).


And when we do catch the guy, I want to meet him. I want to show him that picture of Michelle and say to him “This is the woman that helped catch you.”


In the meantime, ride shotgun with Michelle on her journey to find him. She may have paused her investigation down here for a spell, but I’m sure she is up there interviewing people as we speak.


Order “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” here


Still need convincing? Here’s Stephen King’s review:


What readers need to know—what makes this book so special—is that it deals with two obsessions, one light and one dark. The Golden State Killer is the dark half; Michelle McNamara’s is the light half. It’s a journey into two minds, one sick and disordered, the other intelligent and determined. I loved this book. —Stephen King



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