By J. Torrey McClain
I have an outsized morbid curiosity. I am in the midst of reading “Devil in the White City” about the 1893 World’s Fair and the serial killer that lurked just outside its gates. I definitely enjoyed reading Bill James’s foray into something not related to baseball, “Popular Crime.” I’ve included several books by criminal profiler John Douglas in my reading list over the last fifteen years. I wrote about “Green River Killer: A True Detective Story” for borg.com. So, those personal facts may color my opinion, but I’m going to go ahead and say that if you’re looking for a true crime podcast, you can’t do any better than the season that “You Must Remember This” devotes to Charles Manson and the murders he and his family committed in the summer of 1969.* (http://www.vidiocy.com/youmustrememberthispodcastblog/2015/5/26/charles-mansons-hollywood-part-1-what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-the-manson-murders)
*However, if you’re looking for runner-ups, I suggest the first season of “Serial” from the producers of “This American Life,” and the ongoing “Criminal” that is part of the Radiotopia podcast network. I’m sure you’ve already read WAY too much on “Serial,” but I may have to add my own “Hey Listen To This!” post on “Criminal” and several of the other members of Radiotopia.
Host Karina Longworth knows how to tell a story, gives the listener a bunch of great facts and lets you know when she ventures into the realm of speculation and rumor. Each podcast episode comes with its own blog post that notes the sources Karina uses to edify and explain the years Manson spent living free outside of prison. She connects Manson to various other figures in Hollywood like Dennis Wilson and Doris Day. (I must say the Wilson part really intrigued me and got me to add his digital double album, “Pacific Ocean Blue & Bambu” to my music wish list.) She takes her time telling the story, so the series runs for twelve episodes and each episode is at least a half an hour. It’s not a rush job, it’s not a sample of one evening in the life, it’s a darn comprehensive look at a specific time and place centered around one of the most sensational and senseless crimes of the century.**
**Is any taking of life not senseless? I hate not to be definitive, but probably not. In combining this series on Manson with the podcast “Detective” from Investigative Discovery, the Manson murders don’t fall neatly into the three most common motives for murder per Joe Kenda: Money; Sex; and Revenge; although the murders have very tenuous connections to all three ideas. Plus, I’m not saying motives like money, sex and revenge aren’t senseless as Kenda talks about people getting killed for $40. If you listen to both, I’d like to discuss this idea further before I run off completely into a different topic altogether.
However, if I just talked about the Manson episodes of “You Must Remember This” I would sell the podcast incredibly short. The current series involves stories of people that made movies for MGM, from Irving Thalberg (the source of the name for the honorary Oscar presented every year), to Buster Keaton, to Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland to Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. The previous seasons have episodes devoted to Howard Hughes, Madonna and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. If I listed all of the people to whom Karina gives a more complete history, I’d just run this essay to well over 1,000 words. No one wants that. Let me just say, check out “You Must Remember This” on your favorite podcast app and find a person of Hollywood’s past whose history excites you. Listen and from the first strains of the warped sounds of Ingrid Bergman humming and Dooley Wilson singing the opening bars of “As Time Goes By,” you’ll be hooked like I am.