‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’: Golden State Killer Docuseries Comes to HBO

Retired detective Paul Holes has never read his friend Michelle McNamara’s book New York Timesbest selling book I’ll be gone in the dark, on the search for the Golden State Killer, despite taking much into account its content. First, he was too busy searching for the man he and McNamara had teamed up to find. Then it was too difficult: he died before the book could be finished, before the murderer was found.

“I’m looking at the book right now sitting on my bookshelf, and I can’t have the emotional courage to open that book and start reading it,” says Holes. Rolling Stone. “When she died, I lost someone in my family. I can still hear her voice in my head.

Holes feels the same way about the new six-part HBO docuseries (premiere Sunday) that shares the name of the book, though it appears in multiple episodes, he’s not sure he ever wants to see it. Comedian Patton Oswalt, who was married to McNamara before his death at age 46 in 2016, can only top four episodes. And that is not only because the subject is very difficult; that is because I’ll be gone in the dark it is imbued with the spirit of its writer. “It was like, ‘Oh, there she is,'” says Oswalt. Rolling Stone. “After a while, it was hard for me to see it.”

McNamara had long been engrossed in the dark, ever since her neighbor Kathleen Lombardo was murdered a few blocks from her home in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1984, when McNamara was 14 years old. However, she became obsessed as an adult with a dark figure. she called the Golden State Killer, a largely unknown serial killer / rapist suspected of having committed at least 12 murders, 50 rapes, and 100 robberies in California between 1974 and 1986. Her other names include East Area Rapist, the Original Night. Stalker and the Visalia Ransacker.

In 2006, McNamara launched a website titled True Crime Diary dedicated to harassing him and other demons, and then wrote articles for Los Angeles Magazine in 2013 and 2014 on the GSK. Those pieces earned him a book contract, and a ticket for a deeper fixation. She rode along with Holes while he was still an active detective in California’s Contra Costa County; She had been following the GSK’s trail since the 1990s. Holes was initially aloof, not wanting to be reprimanded for associating with the press, but they became friends as McNamara’s involvement in the case grew. “She was an investigator at heart,” he says. “Even without any experience or training, she seemed to have a gift.”

McNamara also teamed up with fellow internet detective Paul Haynes, whom everyone online called “The Kid,” to sort file box towers about the GSK, exchanging theories and chasing clues that often got cold. “Strange obsessions, like being obsessed with a decades-old serial murder case that never touched you personally, can make you feel uncomfortable and lonely,” says Haynes. Rolling Stone. “Connecting with someone like Michelle who shares her obsession and thinks the same way is validating. Suddenly, you are no longer operating in a vacuum, but symbiotically, in a society. “

Still, the story of the famous killer consumed McNamara, sometimes for the worse. Sometimes he leaned on prescription sleep medications and concentrated when the strains on the book and the subject were too much. “I knew there was an obsessive aspect to what I was doing,” says Holes. “I really wasn’t thinking that she had some kind of trauma as a result of what she was doing in the case. That may have been a massive oversight. “

The subtitle of his 2018 book, then, is totally apt: The obsessive search for a woman for the Golden State killer. A mixture of memories and true crimes, it shows not only the demon that was the GSK, but also the demons that stirred within McNamara. She died of an accidental overdose in 2016 without finishing the book; Haynes and crime writer Billy Jensen intervened at Oswalt’s urging to unite everything to achieve his wife’s dream. And so powerful was the book that HBO acquired the rights prior to publication and began working on a series based on it, enlisting veteran documentary director Liz Garbus to direct the six-part show.

Garbus never met McNamara, but was attracted to her anyway. “Her voice impressed me,” she says. Rolling Stone. “I identify a lot with Michelle. We were the same age, “he explained in a statement. “I identified with her.” Garbus, who has been nominated for two Oscars (for the 1998 prison document The farm: Angola, USAand the 2016 Nina Simone biopic What happened, Miss Simone?), is no stranger to true crime. He recently directed the Netflix movie. Lost girls, a criminal drama centered on the Long Island real-life serial killer and starring Amy Ryan, who also voices the McNamara character in I’ll be gone in the dark.

Oswalt shared with Garbus countless artifacts and writings from his wife, from photos of her as the big-eyed youngest daughter of a massive family, to images of her pranks in high school, and the video of McNamara fighting with her baby, Alice, as she talks about the GSK. “My paper [in making the series] It was the same as my role when the book was being completed, ”says Oswalt. “I gave materials to professionals who knew how to shape and tell the story. I got in touch with all the members of his family, all his friends, I checked all my things. I handed her Michelle’s two laptops, her phone, iPad. Basically, I put the material in the hands of someone who I knew I could do for him. ”

Armed with McNamara’s physical memories, Garbus turned his film into a visual representation of McNamara’s book, which fused his search for a murderer with his life as a mother and wife. McNamara is in the whole document: a story about how he initially joined Oswalt during the 1954 classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon It becomes a visual motif through old black-and-white movies, a substitute for the GSK, which hunts its victims down the California waterways. Her journal entries and articles serve as voiceovers. Her office is painstakingly recreated, complete with a bulletin board filled with clues about the GSK and your child’s art. Most surprisingly, though, his empathy and close relationships with survivors of the GSK rape, along with expert filming by Garbus, put the film’s emphasis not so much on the monster as on the humanity it attempted (and failed) to strip.

“We are getting closer [the film] From her point of view, “says Garbus.” I think the focal point is what happened to all of these amazing survivors during this period when the Golden State Killer was active, and Michelle’s drive to solve the case. ” The docuseries show McNamara’s deft handling of a rough subject: When interviewing a survivor, he laments with the woman about his relationship with his mother, letting out that his own mother used to slide notes under her door when she was angry instead of openly discuss their problems The Garbus document echoes McNamara’s respect for these traumatized women. “Some of them were people who had not spoken before,” Garbus says of the women featured on the show. “I think they knew we were going. to take this case very seriously. And we had Michelle’s approach, which was very survivor oriented. “

“It was very quiet,” Holes recalls of McNamara’s interview style. “I have the same kind of things, the same set of skills, because I was a military brat and I had to constantly integrate with new children as I grew up, from all movements. She was able to integrate with different people. And I think that benefited her greatly. “

“The word that kept popping up for me while I was watching the series was ‘love’,” adds Haynes. “It is both a loving tribute to Michelle and the definitive document of the case film, which erases everything else that preceded it. When I talk about Michelle to people, I often hear “I wish I could have met her.” Look at these docuseries and you will meet her.

Viewers will also meet survivors. We see them strolling through its gardens, visiting Paris on a hard-to-win trip, hugging each other at a backyard party after the alleged GSK is caught, which happened, coincidentally, just as the documentary began filming. McNamara’s book came out in February 2018, and former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested on April 24, 2018, due to DNA evidence. He is charged with 13 felony crimes with special circumstances and 13 counts of kidnapping to commit robbery (related to his sexual assault cases).

“It was literally the first day of filming,” says Oswalt, laughing. “We had read a book in Chicago that night, and we all went to bed, woke up the next morning, and it emerged that he had been captured and arrested. And you see it in the documentary. My reaction. We are all like, ‘What? Where do we go from here? ‘”

As it turned out, DeAngelo’s arrest didn’t change much about the show’s original thrust: The story isn’t about the now-frail old man in a wheelchair, a specter who hasn’t yet publicly spoken a word about the case. His next hearing is June 29; Garbus and Holes plan to watch, Oswalt does not. “I wanted to approach it as a research trip where Michelle was making us go with her,” says Garbus. “Of course, once you find out who this person is [DeAngelo] that is, as a filmmaker it is irresistible to want to know more. But really, the movie is about the survivors and Michelle. “

One of the last parts of the document was filmed first: that book event in Chicago, where survivors and readers mingled with Oswalt and other friends of McNamara. It is a joyous scene, which contrasts with the dark tales of the GSK’s misdeeds and machinations. Oswalt remembers being overcome when meeting these people, talking to the women who had lived in his wife’s head for so many years. Who, in some cases, had become his friend. “It’s overwhelming, but it’s hopeful,” he says of McNamara’s legacy. “It means that she really isn’t gone.”