June 6, 2021
We’ve always been obsessed with crime – podcasts about real crime have made it easy to consume ridiculous amounts of it. ‘Serial’ broke podcast records with Sarah Koenig’s calming, no-nonsense voice telling us the story of Adnan Syed seven years ago, and by the time it was done, millions of listeners were hungry for their next fix. So a thousand and one investigative podcasts were born – and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
This is good news for us armchair detectives. If there is one thing these podcasts showed us, it is that while there is no substitute for professional production and great sound quality, anyone can create a podcast. And some people are even great at it. If you’re obsessed with a local case in your town that has never been resolved, you can get yourself a microphone, download an audio editor, and get started. With a little talent, good luck, and a sacrifice to the algorithm gods, you could even fascinate thousands of other people as much as you do.
It’s not just about entertainment. Cases have actually been resolved by podcast hosts and their listeners – and not just in fictional books like mine! I made the decision to turn my main character into a podcast host, not just because I love the medium, but because podcasters get results. It should come as no surprise that amateur investigators crack cases. After all, it was only a few hundred years ago that most crimes were solved by the communities in which they occurred and justice was found between perpetrator and victim. Why shouldn’t the digital generation use the tools we have to find clues, speak to potential witnesses, and try to find justice for people whose cases have been forgotten?
That’s what the main character in my novel Girls, 11 does. Fed up with the inaction of her local police force over several cold cases of crimes against children, Elle Castillo is starting her own investigation on a podcast. She picks up the dusty files that have been lying in a cabinet for decades, and finally proves that many “unsolvable” cases can actually be solved with commitment, attention and public engagement. That’s the strength of a good podcast – a passionate investigator and direct action by the crime-hit community can often lead to justice.
We are still living in a pandemic. The people are at home more than usual and have a lot of time. We’re all just trying to get by as best we can. And some of us used that time to pick up a microphone, unearth old articles and theories about Reddit, and finally try to crack the cold case in their town that kept them up at night and them on the computer screen Burned squares in the eyes.
And we all have the chance to tune in.
Amy Suiter Clarke is a writer and communications specialist. Originally from a small town in Minnesota, she studied theater in the Twin Cities. She then moved to London and earned an MFA in Creative Writing with Publishing from Kingston University. She currently works for a university library in Melbourne, Australia. Girls, 11 is her debut novel published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 20, 2021
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