The true crime writer Michelle McNamara devoted her life to uncovering unsolved mysteries. In the years prior to her unexpected death in 2016, McNamara focused on the case of the Golden State Killer, the name she coined for the serial rapist and murderer who attacked dozens of people across California in the 1970s and ‘80s and eluded capture by law enforcement for several decades until 2018.
McNamara’s work toward tracking down the Golden State Killer—and the ways in which the investigation took over her life—are at the center of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, a six-part HBO documentary series based on her book of the same name. Directed by Liz Garbus, who worked with McNamara’s husband, the comedian and actor Patton Oswalt, to piece together a story from archives, the series uses McNamara’s own words to explain her obsession with the Golden State Killer’s case and its eventual psychological toll on her. In the spirit of McNamara’s work, the series also draws deeply on interviews with survivors and detectives who discuss the trauma the Golden State Killer caused during a time when victims of sexual assault often stayed silent out of shame.
“When these women went through this, there was this lack of cultural language around sexual assault,” Garbus tells TIME. “The beautiful thing about those who chose to speak with us is that it was a part of their healing process. That pain wants to come out into the light in order to allow you to walk forward with it.”
A lifelong obsession
With a consistent focus on the stories of survivors of violent crimes, McNamara’s work helped to shape what’s now become the highly popular true crime genre. Through her website, TrueCrimeDiary, established in 2006, McNamara tracked numerous cold cases and pieces of breaking news, pulling at threads and constantly finding new angles to investigate. Her interest in unsolved crimes dated back to an incident from her childhood in Oak Park, Ill., when a woman named Kathleen Lombardo was killed near where McNamara lived. Fourteen at the time, McNamara was drawn to the site where Lombardo’s body was found, and she wound up picking up pieces of her broken Walkman at the scene.
The woman’s killer was never caught; McNamara found a lifelong obsession. During her career, McNamara became known for pursuing justice for the survivors of the violent, murderous figures she exhaustively researched. The case of the Golden State Killer absorbed her for years—after she published an account of her pursuit of the serial rapist and murderer in Los Angeles Magazine in 2013, McNamara began work on a book to expand the story.
As I’ll Be Gone in the Dark also shows, McNamara was a loving mother and wife, an empathetic listener and an insightful interviewer. Each episode is guided by McNamara’s own voice, brought through recorded voice memos, podcast episodes, voicemails and various readings—so viewers become familiar not only with her fascination with unsolved cases, but also her personality, and …read more
Source:: Time – Entertainment