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What I'm Reading (No. 42): the Golden State Killer + a basketball novel
The late Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark has been tempting me (and everyone else) since the book's release earlier this year — compounded, of course, by the capture of the Golden State Killer. Finally got my hands on a copy, and read it in just a few days.
I also finished Seth Greenland's The Hazards of Good Fortune. I had never heard his name before getting his newest book in the mail, but it was really good. Basketball is at the heart of the story, but it's really about modern culture, racism, and the ways in which both the young and old are adapting to this new world.
Let's do it.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
This book was published on February 27th, almost two years after McNamara suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. The book was an immediate success and bestseller, earning rave reviews. Then not even two months later, on April 24th, the Golden State Killer was identified and apprehended. After that, understandably, the book really exploded onto the national scene.
While I'd have a hard time recommending it (more on why below), it was an engrossing, easy-reading book that is sure to be considered among the best of its genre for a long time coming.
It is definitely a true crime book, but it's written really well, and conveys a number of interesting bits of her own life, including how she came to be obsessed (a word which might even be an understatement) with the Golden State Killer.
As many of you know, the GSK terrorized California as a serial burglar, rapist, and murderer for about 20 years in the 1960s, '70, and '80s. His final victim was killed in 1986, and then he just disappeared. Some investigators thought he was dead, some thought he was in prison and they just didn't know his identity, and some, of course, thought he was still out there. Like Michelle.
In the final part of the book, written by a couple of her crime-fighting partners, there's one passage that perfectly describes why this book is so good:
"Michelle always found the perfect balance between the typical extremes of the genre. She didn't flinch from evoking key elements of the horror and yet avoided lurid overindulgence in grisly details, as well as sidestepping self-righteous justice crusading or victim hagiography. What her words evoked was the intrigue, the curiosity, the compulsion to solve a puzzle and resolve the soul-chilling blank spots."
All that said, I would have a hard time recommending it to people unless they're really into the true crime genre. I'll Be Gone in the Dark truly a story of one's worst nightmares, and even though not all the grisly details are included, plenty of them are. I very intentionally didn't read it at night, and I'm now leaving a couple extra lights on when we go to bed.
You've been warned.
The Hazards of Good Fortune by Seth Greenland
Published at the end of August, this book has gotten quite good reviews, and yet I had not ever heard of it or its author until a copy landed on my doorstep. It's understandable — there are a lot of good books in the world! And yet it's always a nice little surprise when you do find a great book that was never even on your radar before just diving in.
The Wall Street Journal compared the lengthy and ambitious tale to a classic Greek tragedy with a modern flair. I'd have to agree. New Yorker Jay Gladstone, our prominent and very wealthy main character, owns an NBA team. His aging star player wants a big new contract, his younger second wife wants a baby, and his team is on the verge of the playoffs. The novel is built so that the reader mostly likes most of the characters. At least I did. Jay comes across as a genuinely good and well-intentioned guy.
But then . . . that Greek tragedy bit comes into the picture. Due to a series of truly unfortunate events, Jay is deemed a racist, and faces backlash from pretty much everyone: his family, his team, his city. And he's trying to figure out how to accept responsibility but also point out how ludicrous his situation is. As one review put it, "Above all, The Hazards of Good Fortune is the story of a virtuous man who makes a terrible mistake—or two—and finds himself living in an unforgiving age." It's a novel that is sometimes funny, sometimes satirical, sometimes sad, sometimes enraging.
All in all, I really liked it and would happily recommend it to most people. And it's one that I think you'd know pretty quickly whether you were going to enjoy or not. Personally, I was drawn in right away, and although it wasn't a particularly fast read, it was never a difficult one.
What are you guys reading this week? Need any recommendations? Happy to help!