What does it take to catch a killer? Michelle McNamara may have some answers.
In her book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” she chronicles her search to find the Golden State Killer. Her search unfortunately ended when she passed away in April 2016, but her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, decided to honor McNamara’s memory through conversations on her work and her life, like the recent talkback hosted by the New York Public Library.
The event began on a bittersweet note, with Oswalt noting that his wife should have been there in his place to discuss her research and book in a way that only she could have achieved. Oswalt served as a fitting stand-in for his wife, as he was able to tell stories of McNamara that made it seem like she was there.
The Golden State Killer, whom McNamara was searching for when she died, was a notorious serial killer who prowled the streets of California in the late 1970s and had never been caught. But McNamara’s fascination with crime solving and investigation began long before she started her hunt for him.
As Oswalt humorously described, his late wife’s fascination with criminal investigation began when a woman was murdered in her small Indiana town. Not only did the crime interest her, it made her realize how unjust it is that a person’s life could be taken away so soon. This led her to research the psychology of killers and understand why they kill.
This research soon turned into obsession. Using examples from his own life, Oswalt hilariously described in detail his obsession with old films. Much like McNamara, he was inexplicably drawn to film noir. However, McNamara’s obsession was much more all-encompassing, according to Oswalt.
Oswalt described her painstaking research and how McNamara would duck out of family dinners and holiday events as soon as she received a new lead to chase. She invited cops to parties to schmooze them into giving case details, and she would spend hours on end poring over case files. Eventually, Oswalt developed a “whatever you need” mantra to enable his wife’s research.
McNamara’s diligence did not go unnoticed. Eventually, the District Attorney’s office lent her all case files on the killer. Unfortunately, she died before examining all the evidence. Still, it was not for nothing. McNamara left behind a beautifully written, insightful and engaging book with understandable prose that delves into a grisly murder case.
Email Lily Dolin at [email protected].