The day after an event in which comedian and actor Patton Oswalt talked to an audience in Naperville, IL, about his late wife’s true crime novel, an arrest was made in the Golden State Killer case.
Patton Oswalt (Happy!, Mystery Science Theater 3000) made a special appearance at a Naperville bookstore author event Tuesday, April 24, to discuss his late wife’s true crime novel, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. Moderated by Gillian Flynn, who wrote the introduction, along with McNamara’s co-researchers Paul Hanes and Billy Jensen, Oswalt talked to the audience about his Michelle McNamara’s novel. After her sudden death, Oswalt worked with Hanes and Jensen to finish the book. This event, according to the host, was the first time that all four collaborators were together in the same place.
The Book and the Golden State Killer
In the 1970’s, California was terrorized by a man whom McNamara would dub the Golden State Killer. The crimes ranged from sexual assaults to murders. He was never caught. One theory could have been what Oswalt referred to as “poor branding”. Police at the time were unable to come up with a pithy nickname for the attacker, calling him the EAR/ONS (East Area Rapist Original Night Stalker). “He had the Wes Anderson version of a nickname,” Oswalt joked with the audience, helping to keep the air light when the conversation got too dark and heavy.
McNamara, who was most known for her blog True Crime Diary, first wrote about this case in 2011 before delving deeper. According to Oswalt, the book works on three levels: the first is as a true crime narrative, the second is the details of the time period such as the geography, architecture, and music of the area, and the third is that the reader gets to be in McNamara’s head as she became obsessed with the case. It was McNamara who gave him the name of Golden State Killer.
The Writing Process
As part of her own investigation, McNamara had about forty bankers boxes full of files and a thumb drive with about seven thousand pages of digitized files, according to Hanes and Jensen. Flynn commented on McNamara’s attention to detail and her ability to get people to talk to her and open up about their experiences with the Golden State Killer. Of course, writing these kinds of stories can take a toll on someone. “There were days when she just had to shut off,” Patton Oswalt said, referring to the emotional aspect of writing something so dark. One way of bouncing back would be to spend time with her friends or family; she even had books that she would re-read such as Zodiac by Robert Graysmith. “She had ways to get back into the light,” Oswalt told the audience, “but the shadows were always beckoning.”
Maybe that time spent writing in the shadows was worth it. Five months after McNamara passed away, the FBI reopened the case. Jensen told the audience that the book closed on two key areas that McNamara was sure held a key to the case: geography and familial DNA. Hanes said that he was sure the answers were in the files that McNamara had or on the hard drive. If someone were to be arrested, Hanes said that he would go to McNamara’s files. “It’s only a matter of time,” Jensen added.
That time would run out the next day, when Sacramento authorities announced they had arrested a suspect in the case. According to an ABC 7 news article, the suspect Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested April 25, 2018. Authorities have said that there is DNA evidence that could link him to the crimes. Patton Oswalt tweeted that if they really caught him, he wants to visit to ask him questions that McNamara penned in a letter to him.
If they’ve really caught the #GoldenStateKiller I hope I get to visit him. Not to gloat or gawk — to ask him the questions that @TrueCrimeDiary wanted answered in her “Letter To An Old Man” at the end of #IllBeGoneInTheDark. pic.twitter.com/32EHSzBct5
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) April 25, 2018
Have you read McNamara’s book? Do you plan to? Tell us in the comments!