Yeah, this again

So, a long time ago all I did was true crime. Then I stepped away, regained my sanity and sense of humor, and oddly, achieved more professional success than I could have anticipated.

I’ve flirted with coming back but tonight I came up with a name I like that had an available dot com, and the rest is (likely very obscure, sadly forgotten) history.

And you are reading a blog post because y’all, podcasts are a lot of work. Doesn’t mean I’ll never do one, but damn.

What I’m Doing Here

logosmallI explained some of this here, but decided to make a slightly more comprehensive post.

For now I’m just making simple, short posts as something catches my eye. In the past I’ve made the mistake of starting a new blog and attempting to go whole hog, writing full, comprehensive articles—while maintaining a writing job elsewhere. I can be really productive, but that’s not easy to do, and I don’t want to be parked at my computer all the time.

Yet I still feel the need to do more, past my once-a-week column for Real Clear Life.

The short posts keep me doing it, in the habit (I’m also not tasking myself to always have an image, something blogging best practices say you must do), and I’ll be working toward longer aggregated and reported posts in the future.

So, for now the True Crime Observer is in beta mode. That’s just to give me a chance to rev up, figure out my direction. Some of this will be what I’ve always done. But I may also add some things new to me, like a weekly podcast. (I know, I know, there are a million true crime podcasts, and I mostly hate them. I even hate the format. But still.)

About the blog name: A week ago I had what felt like an inspiration, I guess. This site was previously called True Crime Wire and I thought people would get it, but over time realized there was something kind of vague and dated about that name. The AP and UPI used to be referred to as “newswires,” so it’s a familiar term to old dudes like me, but it seems that term is slipping out of use.

I probably had the idea for True Crime Observer in the past but it was either taken or I concluded—for reasons I don’t understand now—it wouldn’t work. But when I had the idea of changing the blog name to that and saw the URL and was available, it felt like the right thing to do.

Hopefully I was right about that.

A Change

This is the blog formerly known as True Crime Wire. I began the site originally to return to the thing that launched my writing career–true crime–then said career became very busy.

Fortunately that’s still basically true, but just in the last year alone, the profile of true crime as a news category, as a podcast and blog subject, as a genre people openly discuss has changed. A lot.

When I began a true crime blog in 2004 it was still the kind of thing people were hesitant to discuss. Not ashamed, exactly, but occasionally embarrassed. Don’t underestimate how weird it can feel to begin a discussion of some old mystery like the Zodiac Killer only to have someone stare at you like they’re afraid you might murder them in their bed.

Now, people wear their love of true crime on their sleeves. It’s a good time to do this without any apology.

So, I have a plan with the True Crime Observer (which, as referred to above, is called True Crime Wire in the archives). I’ll begin with quick hits, pure aggregation, then as I have time work on longer form things.

Treat this blog as a companion to my column for Real Clear Life. That’s one post a week, but the fun I’ve had doing it was another factor in setting this up. That, and I just liked the name. When I found no one was using it, I had to snap it up.

More to come.


I’ve taken too long to do this. For now, all my personal blogging on any subject–including crime–will be here:

A Medium-hosted blog. Years ago I understood it’s wisest to confine your non-paid blogging to one destination but my ADD-fueled curiosity about platforms stayed in control.

I’m going to try and just focus on the one site for now, though. So follow that link.

A beginning

Michelle McNamara, the brilliant mind behind True Crime Diary, passed away in late April, 2016.

I was already established as a crime blogger when I discovered Michelle’s work 10 years ago, and I was blown away. There were moments when I thought I had a handle on this thing, but Michelle was the real deal. A talented writer with literary flair and an absolutely dogged reporter of the old school, willing to use her own time to knock on doors, make calls, and get the truth, in whatever way she could.

We struck up a friendship. It was on one hand a typical internet friendship — polite and distant in some ways yet cerebral and deeply involved in others. Through reading her work and exchanging emails with her I realized I’d made friends with a like mind who shared my tendency to get lost in obsessions with unanswered questions.

Michelle’s obsessions led to her securing a book deal to write about the unsolved Original Night Stalker rapes and murders that ripped through upscale California neighborhoods in the late 70s and early 80s. When she passed away she was very close to being done with the book. If I can help bring her book to the public in any way, I will.

In the meantime, I realized with a modicum of shock that Michelle’s death had jarred loose something inside me that I’d been resisting for a while.

I’d abandoned covering true crime stories in an in-depth close-up way for some time because I felt too psychologically fragile to deal. I’d branched out to covering other subjects like tech and pop culture. I’d even delved into comedy. As a result I eventually ended up writing an official tie-in book to AMC’s brilliant Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul

Michelle McNamara leaving this world far too soon made me realize I wasn’t done with true crime at all — even though my constant tweets about various crime stories all along had been telling me the same.

So here it is, in its very early form, my True Crime Wire. As I write it’s just a WordPress address. But as I gauge my own interest and ability to engage, it will likely become a standalone address. After all, true crime as a genre has been undergoing a substantial renaissance. The popularity of Making a Murderer and Serial alone are proof enough.

Here I’ll curate and aggregate crime stories, both old and unsolved and breaking. When I’m able I’ll add my own reporting. I may add contributors as I see fit. I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to be careful and also have to keep in mind my own professional work schedule, doing freelance writing and editing for Maxim magazine as well as writing more books.

And yes, this blog is dedicated to the memory of my friend Michelle, whom I never had a chance to tell just how gifted I thought she was. She could have ruled the true crime genre. If her book on the Original Night Stalker — which she re-dubbed the Golden State Killer — is as good as I expect, she may yet dominate the bestseller lists.

I hope so. And I hope she had at least some idea of how much I respected her work and appreciated her support. I didn’t always deserve it. But I’ll try to live up to it.