I share this link to Kathryn Shulz’s recent review in the New Yorker of “Making a Murderer” because I think she makes some fair points about the Netflix documentary, and also has something valuable to say about the genre of True Crime. As a True Crime writer myself, I never want to feel that I am turning “people’s private tragedies into public entertainment,” which Schulz says is the most obvious thing about the genre that goes unsaid.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but I regard what I do as an act of journalism, while always keeping in mind the people I am writing about, (particularly those closest to the victims) are confronting what could only be described as a waking nightmare. I have nothing but the deepest respect for people who are willing to discuss with me their most painful moments and memories. I equally understand when someone is not willing to talk to me, and I don’t push it, because I’m not sure I would have the courage to speak, if the roles were reversed.
I cannot control how people consume what I write, (whether they consider it “entertainment”) but In the end, I hope what I write speaks to some larger issue, whether it is how the justice system failed in a certain case, or how a group of people, (as in my latest book) are disenfranchised by the system meant to protect them. There are, of course, examples in the genre which are overtly exploitative and sensational; at the same time, there are others regarded with the utmost literary respect: Capote’s In Cold Blood, Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song and Bonner’s Anatomy of Injustice, just to name a few.