I love holding a physical book in my hand and although Kindle and all ebooks are much more convenient somehow I just don’t like them and I return to the paper version. Some people say in the future there will be no paper version of anything and I think that would be a shame. There is something about holding a book or a magazine in your hand that just doesn’t get captured through other media.
So, what does this have to do with podcasts you might ask – well I can’t read while walking and quite honestly, I don’t think anyone should as it is fundamentally dangerous. I walk my dogs everyday for between 6-10km and I like to listen to something on my phone while walking. Of course, I could listen to books through Audible or something of that nature and sometimes I do but mostly what I love to listen to is podcasts. I especially like true crime podcasts. It is also much easier to listen to podcasts in the car and even more fun when you can cast them into your car speakers so everyone can listen.
Serial started my interest in true crime podcasts. My son’s girlfriend knew I loved mysteries and suspense thriller films. She found out about Serial first and told me I needed to listen to it because she knew I would love it. If you haven’t listened to Serial you have to listen to it; Sarah Koenig, a journalist from This American Life, tells the story of a young Asian girl’s murder, Haymen Lee, and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who 18 years later after exhaustive appeals claims he was poorly represented and that he is innocent of the crime.
Sarah lays out the information for you and it is up to you to decide if Adnan is guilty or not. This American Life released Serial one week at a time and it was so compelling I couldn’t wait for the next episode to come out. The first season of Serial was so wildly popular that it got all kinds of people talking and wanting to find out who the real killer was if it wasn’t Adnan.
Legal experts tried to poke holes in both the prosecution’s and the defence’s case and experts from different crime fields wanted to comment on different aspects of the case. This led to a number of spin off podcasts to try to either prove the prosecution’s case or prove someone else killed Haymen Lee. There were also lots of online chat groups and Facebook and Twitter groups that continued to discuss the case well after Serial was finished. From Serial I started listening to two other podcasts: Undisclosed and Truth and Justice. I came late to Serial so there had already been several episode produced by the time I started listening; Truth and Justice podcast had also been going for awhile before I started listening to it.
Truth and Justice is a podcast that is hosted by Bob Ruff who is an ex-fire chief. He believes crimes can be solved by crowd sourcing and sought to do just that with the Adnan Syed case. Another spin-off of Serial came from Adnan Syed’s friend Rabia who is a lawyer and family friend. She has always believed Adnan to be innocent of this crime and developed a podcast with two other very accomplished litigators whose knowledge of criminal law is very advanced: Collin Miller, a professor and Dean at South Carolina School of Law and Susan Simpson, a lawyer also accomplished in the technicalities of criminal litigation and detail.
These three break down the problems with the prosecutors case from a legal standpoint and try to explain what the defence did wrong and what evidence was missed and why. Both podcasts are very engaging for very different reasons. Undisclosed is very technical about aspects of lawwhich I find intriguing and they also examine the flaws in the US criminal justice system. Truth and Justice, on the other hand, tries to set out solving a crime using the common sense and intelligence of everyday people. Both podcasts have gone on to other cases since the Adnan Syed case because this case is now hung up in the court on appeal and has been for years.
Serial had a second season with Sara that was extremely different from the first; for one thing the main character was not nearly as likeable: Bowe Bergdahl who was the only solider captured and held by the Taliban for five years before he was finally released in a prisoner exchange during President Obama’s time in office. He was considered to have walked off base and basically into the Taliban’s hands. It was considered desertion.
I liked the second season but did not find it as compelling as the first and many people I spoke with totally went off Serial altogether and stopped listening because they didn’t find the second season engaging. This American Life put out another Serial like podcast called S Town or so they touted it to be. I enjoyed S Town because the people in the story are so odd it seemed their stories couldn’t possibly be true and yet they are.
These three podcasts have got me into so many more, mostly true crime but not always. One that I have recently begun listening to and just love the podcasters is Crime Writers On. This reviews other podcasts, films, Netflix series, books, almost anything that deals with true crime or surrounds true crime. They have lead me to some really wonderful ones like: Empire on Blood, ESPN 30 for 30 (an investigation into Bikram yoga), Caliphate (an amazing journalistic investigation into ISIS and how they recruit from abroad) and In The Dark to name a few extremely well produced productions.
Undisclosed led me to Real Crime Profile which is one of my favourites. In this the podcasters are professional profilers and their focus is on the victim. They are especially concerned with exposing crimes of domestic violence, cohesive control, and stalking. Almost all of them will briefly talk about what they feel is worth watching, listening and seeing. This has led me to some truly fascinating entertainment: Finding Cleo was about a native Canadian that was taken from her home and adopted by a family in the US. This was a huge scandal for Canadian society.
The government took many Native Canadian children out of their homes and put them in residential schools where many of them were abused. They were also adopted and fostered out to people all over North American often to farms where they were used as cheap labour and treated almost like slaves. Some others that I listen to and love are Actual Innocence by Brook who is a social worker and started doing a podcast of people who are convicted and incarcerated but are actually innocent. Many of them spend decades in prison before they are released and then once released they have to learn how to live in the outside world again and are given very little help. Actual Innocence is such a refreshing series because it is real bare bones.
She started producing the programme in her closet and she gradually brought on sponsors when she realised she couldn’t afford to have it as a hobby and live. She was very conflicted about that and talked about it on the recording. Another that deals with a similar subject matter: is Wrongful Conviction. This is a bit more professional but also very informative. It is simply amazing how many wrongful convictions there are based on all kinds of misconduct on the part of law enforcement and justice.
Another that is very good but different from all the others that I have mentioned because it focuses on the crimes themselves and how they were committed and the criminals that committed the heinous acts: Sword and Scale. Sometimes however, this can be just too graphic and that particular episode I will skip. It is not for the faint of heart. We were recently given the opportunity through Audible to listen to West Cork. It is an absolutely brilliant audible book about Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s unsolved murder in 1996 and the investigation surrounding it in West Cork, Ireland. It is an Audible original.
Recently, simply by chance, I downloaded Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays and it is fantastic. Each episode she has someone on that she finds inspirational in some way. Quite often what they have to say has led me to other references and so it is with all that I listen to. There is such a wide variety of information out there right now that if you have an interest I am sure you can find a podcast discussing it and if you can’t maybe you should develop one like many of the people I listen to have done.