The Reinvention of Murder
Duncan Campbell on the British obsession with true crime
You were spoiled for choice. You could have to gone to ‘Murder Between Friends’ or ‘the Monster in the Morgue’ or maybe ‘the Covid Murders’ followed by ‘Murder in the Red Light’ and ‘World’s Most Evil Murders.’ Those were just some of the talks on offer for a few hundred pounds over a weekend at the recent CrimeCon – “the ultimate true crime event” – in the Leonardo Royal Hotel in London. Also on hand were the people behind the podcasts entitled British Murders, Scottish Murders and Morbidology.
Podcasts dealing with murder are flourishing. They are advertised in the cinema alongside commercials for McDonalds and Subway. Earlier this year, Bible John: Creation of a Serial Killer, a 10-part series made by Audrey Gillan for BBC Scotland about the unsolved murders of three women in Glasgow in the 1960s, won an international award. Scarcely a day passes now without a new podcast, documentary, or reconstruction of a notorious or forgotten murder being launched, broadcast or streamed.
Nor is there any shortage of new writing on the subject. August will see the publication of yet another volume on Jack the Ripper and we have just seen the arrival of two thoughtful books: Mark O’Connell’s A Thread of Violence: A Story of Truth, Invention and Murder about the aristocratic Dublin killer, Malcolm Macarthur, and Francisco Garcia’s own exploration of the ‘Bible John’ case, We All Go Into the Dark.
There was even a musical about the latter case, Dancing with the Devil, which opened in Scotland last year. And David Swindle, the now-retired detective who tracked down the Scottish serial killer, Peter Tobin, and who also looked into the ‘Bible John’ case, is currently on a national tour with The Makings of a Murderer, a lecture about investigating the UK’s most notorious serial killers. Promoted as “a chilling, thrilling night at the theatre”, Swindle has been talking to packed houses across the country and already has bookings into next year.
The popularity of CrimeCon, which originated in the United States, and the interest in the podcasts and the latest books mark what is essentially a new wave of interest in murder.
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