Tue, 10 January 2017
For this week's podcast, journalist and author Bob Kolker joins me to discuss his investigation into the Long Island Serial Killer case. He is the author of Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery. Here is a brief description of the influential and superbly-written true crime work:
Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, and presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of online escorts, where making a living is easier than ever and the dangers remain all too real. A triumph of reporting, a riveting narrative, and "a lashing critique of how society and the police let five young women down" (Dwight Garner, New York Times), Lost Girls is a portrait of unsolved murders in an idyllic part of America, of the underside of the Internet, and of the secrets we keep without admitting to ourselves that we keep them.
This brief interview focuses intently on how Kolker became involved with this unsolved serial killer case. At the time, he was a writer for New York magazine and became interested as more bodies were discovered off Ocean Parkway on Long Island while looking for a young sex worker named Shannan Gilbert.
Rather than report on the story as just yet another unsolved serial killer case, he dove headlong into the human element of the story, focusing on the victims as individuals and women, instead of as statistics.
Also, I have to mention at this point that, if you haven't read Lost Girls, you must. It's one of the most human stories about crime I have ever read, due in large part to the fact that Kolker approaches the subject with so much care and humanity. Very often, the victims of serial killers remain in the shadow of the monster who took their lives. In Lost Girls, though, the lives of women who took to Craigslist to make money are treated with such deliberate and thoughtful writing so as to render them as real people. It's a welcome departure from a great number of pulpy true crime books.