This kind of elitism and snobbishness has always existed in the arts. However what the many who tightly cling to this sense of superiority do not realise is that it is only very recently that realism has crept into literature - think about Homer, Beowulf, Shakespeare with his Wyrd Sisters, Titania and Oberon. Human beings have always enjoyed a good does of the mysterious, miraculous, mythological and the unexplainable in our stories.
Bentley talks admirably and openly about the impact the operation had on his mental health, and the lack of aftercare and support that he got from the force. One of the most psychologically fascinating parts of Operation Julie is how Bentley manages not just his dual identity, but how his experiences in Wales, and getting closer to the people who were involved in the making and selling of LSD changed him as a person. It feels obvious that Bentley could not finish the job and simply go back to who he was before, he needed to find a new self, and that was no easy feet.
If you are looking for the next great literary piece of true crime in the tradition of Capote, then this will not be the book for you, and that is exactly as it should be. True Crime while often tending towards the most shocking, spooky or gruesome does reflect life, thankfully an extreme of life many of us won't experience, but life none-the-less. Burke, who comes across as a down to earth man of the people makes this memoire all the stronger by retaining his authentic voice, which is the books ultimate strength, rather than trying for literary kudos.
McGowan, feels like the right person to have written this book. It is true as a fiction writer she doesn't have the investigative experience of a journalist or former detective, nor the sharp academic skill of a criminologist or sociologist, but what makes her perfect is that she herself grew up in the triangle and was a young woman at the time of the dissaperances and murders.
What Russo firmly does is place the outcomes of the cult, within a cultural context of the crumbling American empire, and the death of the public service ideal. By doing this he makes the scared, isolated lives the cult members live much more a symptom of the modern worlds lack of connection, community and shared values, rather than the punchline of a joke.
Bates book is part of a genre I have decided to name True Dystopia, so unrelenting and difficult to counter are the subculture she maps. However, at the end of the book we do gain some glimmers of hope as to how these incidious and dangerous ideas can be dealt with, and it will take a lot more energy and time than I suspect many realise. It is not the internet per say that has created these groups, but general culture, the internet just allowed communications between their individual members, who have used that opportunity the way any living organisim does, to grow, to become stronger, to reproduce.
By trying to inhabit both the best of true crime and crime fiction Chizman displays an admirable amount of creative ambition and playfulness. Of course some of the best work in true crime comes is in the first person, and to truely inhabit that position he has to write as himslef. There is the added bonus that this lends great authenticity to the time and place, but this is perhapse at the expense of the telling the story, and it feels to me that in this novel at least everything should be in greater service to the story.
Yet, when we look at the evidence over time it's likely that women have been just, if not more prolific in their voilence. A combination of using methods which have been more difficult to detect and less showy, such as posoin, combined with cultural taboo's that still exist around women, caring and motherhood which mean their violence can often not be contemplated, very weirdly leads me to conclude this is yet another area in which women's contributions have been overlooked. And as pshycologist Anna Motz says, when we deny women's violence, we deny women.
It is a sign that Black is a talented writer, not just scientist, that she can translated these parts of ourselves, that literally no one ever wants to see, into not just a compelling read but an education tool that reframes our internal world.
Podcast episode here. While I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, with this one it has not been possible, mainly because the pod progresses in a way I want to discuss, and talk about - which is a testament to how powerful a piece of investigative journalisim it is. If you do not want …