Excellently written and researched, crisp prose that conveys the harrowing nature of the murder plus the swirling aftermath that made it the Event ThaExcellently written and researched, crisp prose that conveys the harrowing nature of the murder plus the swirling aftermath that made it the Event That Launched a Thousand Thinkpieces. I gather the author is a playwright and this is her first nonfiction work, which would account for her being able to balance a style which leaves you in no doubt about the horrific crime, the shock and sadness it left in its wake but without being sensationalistic and giving a thorough accounting of all the facts. There's a second book on the murder (it being the 50th anniversary) which also got good reviews and which I'd like to also read but this one is highly recommended. (I listened to the audiobook and the narrator is good, too). ...more
This is one of the best "true crime" books I've read but also one of the best non-fiction books in general of this year and deserves wide readership eThis is one of the best "true crime" books I've read but also one of the best non-fiction books in general of this year and deserves wide readership even amongst those who might avoid yet another ripped-from-the-headlines serial killer bestseller, fact or fiction.
The title and subtitle are as unpromisingly generic as can be, but the depth and nuance of the book itself anything but. A lot of crime writing claims to give victims their due but, as an avid consumer of the genre, in truth they rarely do. Perhaps the only way for these women (usually women, as we all know) to compete with the modern age's most treasured creation, the serial killer, is if the killer is unknown and thus cannot be a 'distraction' and if, as Kolker has done, you write a book explicitly about the victims and their families. It reminded me of the field of "Ripperology" where everything that could possibly be said, has been (1000x times over) and amateur and professionals had no choice really but to turn to the more interesting sociological/historical aspects of, not the crimes themselves, but the environment and society in which they happened. With nothing more to be said about suspects, the last decade or so has seen an intense look at the victims as women in their society and has produced some very interesting work. I couldn't help but see the parallels.
Apart from the prologue which thrusts you into the centre of Shannan Gilbert's disappearance (I was not aware of the circumstances and it gets more stranger than fiction with each reveal), fully the first 50% of the book is everything a skilled longform magazine writer can draw from their lives and their families' lives so that when phrases like 'after she disappeared' creep in to the narrative you are a bit surprised, oh yes, I'd forgotten these human beings die. Kolker is generous in his assessments but without romanticising and the complicated relationships particularly between the mothers and daughters are vividly and realistically drawn.
I'm very pleased this lived up to the hype, both my own expectations (after reading Wright's brilliant The Looming Tower about al Qaeda a few years agI'm very pleased this lived up to the hype, both my own expectations (after reading Wright's brilliant The Looming Tower about al Qaeda a few years ago) and the froth in the press. The opening section ( the subtitle "Scientology" "Hollywood" and "the prison of Belief" are the names of the three sections of the book) is basically a bio of the century's greatest huckster L.Ron and the epic con that became Dianetics and then Scientology. Having said that, Wright is fairly persuasive that it couldn't have been *just* a con, for who puts in 18 hour days every day for decades to refine an entire 70 billion year cosmology for just a con? But it's still a con, even if it's something else too. He is also generous about the fact many people genuinely say they were helped by the practical application of auditing and whatnot, although they could probably have got the same for a lot cheaper at the local therapist. The most disturbing part is the present day, which involves actual torture, violence and other unethical or semicriminal or actually criminal shenanigans each more unbelievable than the last but being the Very Serious Journalist that he is, all is meticulously corroborated. 5 paws, I mean, stars....more
Characters profiled in “What it Takes” ranked by how interesting they are: Biden>Dole>Dukakis>Hart>Bush>the copyright page>a bunch oCharacters profiled in “What it Takes” ranked by how interesting they are: Biden>Dole>Dukakis>Hart>Bush>the copyright page>a bunch of people not even in the book>Gephardt....more