You guyyyyyyyyuuuhhhz! I wanted so badly for this to be good. I spent a year watching a concerning amount of The First 48 Hours with my roommates (we also watched a shit-ton of CSI and Dog the Bounty Hunter. It was a weird year) and I was always like WHY am I watching this garb-ohmanIhopetheyfindthatgirl. And Popular Crime is ALLEGEDLY about, not true crime itself, but why we dig it so deeply. INNERESSING AMIRITE? That question was rhetorical, because of course I am right.
But I DNF'd. I DNF'd on page 128 in the middle of a paragraph, and the only reason I made it so far was because I was stuck on a ferry and my iWhazzit had died.
I should have known the outlook was dour in the (prolonged) introduction, when James is delineating what exactly makes certain crimes into THE MURDER OF THE CENTURY while others slip by unnoticed, and his logic is that the ones that hit close to home, like when a young girl is murdered and makes us feel like 'somebody is after our women,' tend to get bigger press because they violate our inner sanctum. He goes on to say that 'The murders of black people tend not to explode as popular crime stories because we tend, on some level, to perceive them as not belonging to "our" group, our camp.' He admits that this is both racist and archaic, yet somehow also true.
Which, ok, the murders of black people may not make big noise because they aren't perceived as belonging to some hegemonic group or camp, specifically the one that runs the media, and my beef is not with James presenting this theory but with his alliance of himself and the reader WITH said group, as though black people don't fucking READ, and might not 'tend, on some level, to perceive' other black people as belonging to their camp, and as though WE WEREN'T ALL ONE BIG CAMP ANYWAYS HOLY SHIT I HAVE GOT TO LET THIS GO because I read on, and this book is awful completely aside from any unintentional racist idiocy.
*shotguns a beer to numb the fury*
Where were we? Oh yes. Dissecting this loose, baggy monster. I'm down with factoidal diversions when it's Bill Bryson, and each detour is a koi pond or an intellectual look-out, but with James it just feels like re-treading the same tired ground a few times. Like, 'To the people of the South in that era, nurtured in the belief that blacks were congenitally stupid, it was inconceivable that a black man could outsmart the police and the jury' and then seven sentences later, 'To people taught since birth to see blacks as inferior and of limited intelligence, it was inconceivable that this drunken, filthy, nearly illiterate black janitor could be smarter than most of them.' We...I think we get it.
It's like listening to your drunk college friend who thinks he knows shit pontificate on things, but because he doesn't actually know shit he's always saying things like, I'm not sure if this is the first literary detective but I'm pretty sure it is, and I forget where I read this anecdote so I can't cite it IN THIS NON-FICTION BOOK but I'mma relate it anyways, and here are some random books you should read and here are some half-baked, waffley opinions on whether crime stories make us more paranoid (they do! But also don't! And will we eventually be passing through magnetic screening devices to go into grocery stores and 'At some point can we vote on this?' [and then he
Nonsense-content aside, this is a shitty first draft and I badly want to edit it. I want to be like, it's 'talk pretty well,' not 'talk pretty good,' when you say 'upon her death the newspapers immediately reverted to calling her that. It depended on the newspaper; some called her Maizie, some Grace' you have to PICK whether 'the newspapers...reverted' or 'it depended on the newspaper,' and What Is Your POINT in this section? This chapter? Because you should put that somewhere, probably near the beginning and maybe near the end. Also, your stated aim is false advertisment.
Because ultimately this is just a BUNCHA FACTS! SPECULATION! HERE ARE SOME DATES! I'mma pepper you with seven unconnected stories and then maybe come back to some of them later at random or not at all! And there's some loopy analysis wedged hither and thither but you'll forgive me if I can't quite take it seriously. James says 'maybe' a lot when, dude, do your research and stand by your opinions (such as they are).