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I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
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True Crime > I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara - September 2019

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message 1: by Gem, Administration (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gem | 854 comments Mod
Hello fellow True Crime readers! This discussion is about I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara, your discussion leader is Gem.
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about spoilers

Please note: If you have not finished reading the book spoilers are permitted in this discussion from the start.
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I'll Be Gone in the Dark One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Summary

"You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark."

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.


message 2: by Gem, Administration (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gem | 854 comments Mod
Hi folks! I'm Gem and I'll be leading this month's discussion of I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. I haven't started reading this as yet, I'm trying to finish a couple of books for August, but I'll be back in a few days when I get started on this. In the meantime, if you've already started and would like to post some comments, feel free.


message 3: by Gem, Administration (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gem | 854 comments Mod
Here are some discussion question put out by the publisher that might give us some interesting things to discuss:

1. The book’s epigraph is the poem "Crime Club" by Weldon Kees. How does this poem set the tone for the story that follows?

2. Early in the book, Michelle McNamara writes, "I need to see his face. He loses his power when we know his face." What is the Golden State Killer’s power, and how would he lose this if he was identified?

3. Michelle writes about an incident in her own neighborhood in Los Angeles, when her neighbor’s house was robbed. "We make well-intentioned promises of protection we can’t always keep. I’ll look out for you." Do you think we, as a society, have lost a sense of neighborliness? What factors do you attribute to this loss? How have changes in technology, economics, architecture—house and planned community designs—impacted you, your neighborhood, and society? Is there a remedy to bring us closer together?

4. While I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a true crime story—a chronicle of the Golden State Killer—it is also a memoir. Why do you think she included the story of her childhood and relationship with her mother in this story? In the book Michelle confesses, "Writing this now, I’m struck by two incompatible truths that pain me. No one would have taken more joy from this book than my mother. And I probably wouldn’t have felt the freedom to write it until she was gone." Why couldn’t she write this book if her mother had still been alive? Why is it difficult for many people to reconcile parental expectations and disappointments with their own pursuits?

5. In following Michelle’s search to unmask the GSK, what did you learn about her and the kind of person she is? How does getting to know her shape the story and your understanding of the case as it unfolds? Meeting Michelle in these pages, does she fit with your "profile"of a true crime obsessive? How would you characterize Michelle if you were introducing her to a friend?

6. Novelist Gillian Flynn wrote the introduction to the book. How are crime novelists and true crime writers alike, and how do they differ? Do you read crime novels? If so, what draws you to them? How does the experience of reading a crime novel compare to reading a true crime account? What emotions do each elicit?

7. Michelle writes, "Sacramento’s was not an isolated problem. US crime rates show a steady rise in violent crime throughout the 1960s and ’70s, peaking in 1980." The term "serial killer" was coined in the 1970s. Why do you think so many of these serial offenders surfaced at this time?

8. What does Michelle tell us about the way crimes are investigated? What did you learn about the professionals who investigate them? What, if anything,might have helped them in their search for the GSK? How has technology improved their ability to share information? Has it in any way made solving crime more difficult?

9. In the book, Michelle reflects on the similarity between criminals like GSK and the people hunting them. "What I don’t mention is the uneasy realization I’ve had about how much our frenetic searching mirrors the compulsive behavior—the trampled flowerbeds, scratch marks on window screens, crank calls—of the one we seek." Are there other shared characteristics between these two different kinds of hunters?

10. Many of GSK’s victims were men. How did the crimes impact the surviving men and the women? Why do you think men might have a more difficult time coping with the aftermath of the kind of crime GSK perpetrated?

11. With so many attacks taking place in such a small area in Sacramento, do you think the East Area Rapist lived in one of those neighborhoods? Why do you think he chose the houses he targeted? How do you think the geography of those subdivisions contributed to the effectiveness of his attacks?

12. With the proliferation of genetic testing services, people can find out about their heritage and links to others who share their DNA. Currently, genetic testing services like 23andMe cannot upload the DNA of criminals for possible familial matches. The colleagues who finished the book after Michelle’s death use a quote from Jurassic Park to highlight the issue: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should." Why can’t law enforcement use these services as a tool? Should an exception be made in cases like GSK?

13. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a living testament not only to Michelle McNamara and her unwavering commitment to this story, but to the law enforcement professionals who have pursued him. What are your impressions of the detectives? Did you find yourself judging them for failing to capture GSK?

14. Many people have investigated this case, from police detectives to amateurs. What made the GSK case so difficult to solve? His crime spree seems to have stopped in 1986. Do you have a theory that explains why he suddenly disappeared?


Jennifer Rego (jennifur_reegz) | 4 comments 6. Novelist Gillian Flynn wrote the introduction to the book. How are crime novelists and true crime writers alike, and how do they differ? Do you read crime novels? If so, what draws you to them? How does the experience of reading a crime novel compare to reading a true crime account? What emotions do each elicit?

I read this book over the summer but remember it like I finished it yesterday. It kept me up at night. Also, a week after I finished, the GSK was captured (what a coin-ky-dink am i right?). I decided to focus on this discussion question because the introduction was actually one of my favorite sections of the book. I am a huge Gillian Flynn fan and upon purchasing the book, I was unaware that Flynn wrote the introduction. She write an amazing piece opening up on her love for true crime and the author herself. Although, I do find a difference between crime novelists vs. true crime authors. I am a HUGE fan of true crime stories, especially those written by the journalist/reporter who had direct contact with the perpetrator (hello Ann Rule). The difference between the two (in my opinion) is all emotion. Not that I don't think crime novelists pour emotions into their book, they totally do. But what I found in true crime stories is that usually at one point during their journey of their story, they show emotion that they have never felt before. Michelle confesses to her obsession over the GSK and even admits to the case taking over her life. There is a type of vulnerability that true crime authors have that crime story novelists to not. The raw emotion that is poured onto the pages is something that touches a part of my heart that a crime novelists cannot reach (perhaps because these are all true and candid emotions). As a reader, I am drawn more to the true crime authors as opposed to crime novelists solely because what they feel (frustrated, vulnerable, angry, sad, disappointed, excited, etc) is a huge rollercoaster of emotions that leaves the reader no choice but to ride that coaster with them. You open the book knowing that what your about to read REALLY happened. The dead ends Michelle faced (after getting SO close to a lead) REALLY happened. Its the nonfiction factor of these books that keep me wanting more. Nothing draws me like someone pouring their heart and emotions onto pages for millions to read and this is exactly what this book is. At times, I felt her disappointment in my heart and it stuck with me. When I put down this book I was equally as upset that all these possible leads lead to no one. So you can imagine my excitement when he was caught. I couldn't help but think that the late author is finally at peace after years and years of hard work and dedication. I wish she was around to celebrate this capture like her friends and fans did.


message 5: by Gem, Administration (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gem | 854 comments Mod
Jennifer wrote: "6. Novelist Gillian Flynn wrote the introduction to the book. How are crime novelists and true crime writers alike, and how do they differ? Do you read crime novels? If so, what draws you to them? ..."

Jennifer, I totally agree about the roller coaster. I read a True Crime last year In Plain Sight: The Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders that make me feel exactly what you described. The man who committed the murders thought he was so much smarter than everyone else. I keep getting really disgusted with him and saying out loud, "Really? You dumb a$$!"

Thinking about it, there are few fiction books that take me on that kind of journey. Certainly, there are ups and downs when reading fiction but I know it's fiction and don't get nearly as caught up in the stories as I do with True Crime.

Thanks for your thoughts!


message 6: by Moonlight (last edited Aug 30, 2019 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Moonlight | 10 comments Well, Gem, that's quite a few questions. 14 in all and most of them consist of more than one question each. But I have missed really good book discussions so I picked one:

12. With the proliferation of genetic testing services, people can find out about their heritage and links to others who share their DNA. Currently, genetic testing services like 23andMe cannot upload the DNA of criminals for possible familial matches. The colleagues who finished the book after Michelle’s death use a quote from Jurassic Park to highlight the issue: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should."

a. Why can’t law enforcement use these services as a tool?
b. Should an exception be made in cases like GSK?

Scientists being too preoccupied by whether they could do something that they fail to ask if they should do it is an old story. You have only to read the history of the research to build atomic weapons conclude that this is a pattern with far reaching implications.

Research is by it's nature rapid paced and does not leave time for very careful evaluation of how a new breakthrough can or should be used. That evaluation is never ending. Ethics evolve. And generally speaking, ethics evolve because we are expanding our definition of who should to be considered when we make ethical choices.

That circle starts with me and grows to include family, friends, neighbors, nation, ethnic group, all humans, future generations, all living things. In the case of atomic weapons, the first circle of ethical considerations was the nation and our allies. The decision was made to use that weapon. But today, you will find few people who think using such a weapon is ethically acceptable.

I have a high regard for privacy and as a result, I have not nor do I plan to upload my DNA to any of these services. I have at least one sibling who made a different choice. These websites are actually in business to make a profit and they can change their rules at will. You could upload to a company that doesn’t share and find sometime later that they have changed their rules. Knowing this, I don’t plan to participate.

But if you share your DNA results with strangers, you have to deal with the consequences of what they might choose to do with that knowledge, just as scientists have to deal with the consequences of what other’s choose to do with their research.

This is the same issue we have with Facebook. Give away your life story and all your associates to them and they can turn around and sell it to a consulting agency who might do business with a hostile foreign government.

A police agency looking for sadistic killer is the least of our worries.


Beth  (techeditor) | 998 comments I read I’LL BE GONE IN THE guess and, sorry to say, wasn’t impressed. It is billed as true crime, which It isn’t in the way I expected. It is actually the investigation of the investigation of true crime.

Michelle McNamara liked to think that she could assist in the investigation and the serial killings more than 10 years later. But she actually wrote about her investigation of the investigation of the crimes.

The way I heard it before I read the book was that she died before the case could be solved. I was given the impression this was an open case when it was actually a cold case.

I feel like I was fooled because this book is not at all what I expected. Dates were all over the place, and the true crimes were not given in any type of order. I was confused throughout.

Could it be that its great reviews are mostly because McNamara died before she could finish her book?


message 8: by Moonlight (last edited Aug 30, 2019 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Moonlight | 10 comments 14. Many people have investigated this case, from police detectives to amateurs.
a. What made the GSK case so difficult to solve?
b. His crime spree seems to have stopped in 1986. Do you have a theory that explains why he suddenly disappeared?

DNA was first used in a criminal case to identify a false confession in England in 1986. It was first used to obtain a criminal conviction in the United States in 1987.

Talk about being scared straight!

I read this book last year around the time GSK was arrested. I found the book well written and riveting reading. But it also made me sad to think that the last years of the author's life were spent obsessing over such a dark topic.

****** Spoiler Alert ******
When the GSK suspect appear in court after his arrest, he was in a wheelchair with a blank expression that gave the impression of advanced dementia. All I could think of was the part of the book when a police officer chased and then confronted GSK late one night. GKS pretended to be weak and vulnerable. Then he shot the officer.


message 9: by Gem, Administration (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gem | 854 comments Mod
Beth wrote: "Could it be that its great reviews are mostly because McNamara died before she could finish her book?"

That is absolutely possible, it has happened before. I think, over time if this is the case, the reviews will get closer to the truth.

I have about 30 pages of the book I'm currently reading before I start this one. Now I'm more intrigued than ever.


message 10: by Summer (last edited Sep 03, 2019 08:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Summer (paradisecity) | 37 comments Beth wrote: "Could it be that its great reviews are mostly because McNamara died before she could finish her book?..."

I've seen similar sentiments elsewhere and I wonder if it has something to do with the difference between true crime fans and other readers. True crime books have always seemed...very stark, upfront, very in your face and kind of grisly. And with certain writers, certain readers, etc., there's almost an enjoyment of that grisliness. If you're a true crime aficionado it makes sense: You've read about plenty of cases where someone was dismembered or a body grossly decomposed; it's not a big deal anymore.

And I think this book was a marketed as a softer entry for non-true crime fans. It's part memoir, part research history, and doesn't have the same narrative throughline. For me, that made the author, the victims, and everyone else more human and it definitely made it easier to read. For example, there were photos of the victims alive and vibrant, rather than crime scene photos zeroed in on blood and weapons and underwear. It felt less like murder tourism and more like I was reading something substantive.

Caveat here: That's not at all to say true crime writers or fans are wrong or weird or anything like that! Just that I think there's a difference between true crime readers and non-true crime readers, and I wonder if that's part of the disconnect people are picking up on.

And Moonlight, those are great points about privacy. Reading about DNA testing companies like these and more recently Ring video doorbells really shows that capitalism and reasonable privacy protections don't really share space on a Venn diagram.


message 11: by Gem, Administration (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gem | 854 comments Mod
Hi everyone... how is everyone liking the book so far and how far along are you

I've had once heck of a week, my computer crashed and my grandson was home from school with a fever. I'm on page 87 and while I don't think the books is horrible so far, I'm not all that impressed with the writing or even how the book is organized. I'm going to finish it but it's slow-moving for me.


Summer (paradisecity) | 37 comments I've been listening to the Man in the Window podcast that covers this case and that's a much more straightforward accounting of the facts. I'd definitely recommend it for folks who are interested in the case.


message 13: by Gem, Administration (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gem | 854 comments Mod
Summer wrote: "I've been listening to the Man in the Window podcast that covers this case and that's a much more straightforward accounting of the facts. I'd definitely recommend it for folks who are interested i..."

Oh good to know. I'm hoping I'll make it to the end of the book... honestly I'm not impressed.


Summer (paradisecity) | 37 comments I'm hoping that we'll get some better written books about this in the future, especially now that authors will have the benefit of all the facts and hopefully a conclusion to the legal proceedings.


Linda (beaulieulinda117gmailcom) | 847 comments I had a hard time with this also but kept reading to see if it ever gets solved.


message 16: by Gem, Administration (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gem | 854 comments Mod
I think one of the issues I'm struggling with is that there isn't a chronological timeline. The author keeps jumping back and forth, the chapter I just finished was in 1986 the next one is 1980. I am not getting a clear picture of what happened when.


message 17: by Gem, Administration (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gem | 854 comments Mod
I finally finished, I didn't like the book at all. The author might have been a lovely person but I got so lost with all the jumping back and forth I could not keep track of what was happening when. It was like pulling teeth to finish.

Other than thank God I'm done, I don't have anything else to say.


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