The Big Issue : Edition 557
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 9–22 MAR 2018 33 work, outrageous negligence and – as a result – more crime. Its second season is due to drop this autumn. Gimlet’s Crimetown is a knockout. The Goodfella-esque, long-form tale of Rhode Island’s corrupt mayor and the mafioso that surround him is as addictive as it sounds. As is Criminal, an interview-based crime show that relies on the interviewing chops of the aptly named Phoebe Judge to reveal a constellation of crimes, and the victims or perpetrators behind them. Australia entered the fray in 2016 with Phoebe’s Fall, The Age’s podcast into the puzzling 2010 death of 24-year-old Phoebe Handsjuk – and the controversial coronial finding of accidental death. The pod probes theories surrounding Phoebe’s fall down her apartment building’s garbage chute, only to bleed to death from her injuries, as well as the family’s suspicions about her erstwhile partner, Antony Hampel, and the alleged conflict of interest that may have surrounded the case due to the lofty positions in the legal establishment of Hampel’s parents. Hampel denied under oath any involvement in his girlfriend’s death. In a statement released after he was exonerated by Coroner Peter White’s findings, Hampel said: “These wild allegations have now been put to rest by the robust Coroner’s investigation and report.” Last year, Radio National’s Trace picked up the investigative cudgel, taking on the unsolved 1980 murder of Maria James, in her inner-urban Melbourne bookshop. The show, which resulted in at least one news scoop, ultimately led down the very dark rabbit hole of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests. Although the narration feels tepid at times, it is a worthy addition, both in its thorough reporting and the valiant attempt to give voice to Mrs James’ son, Adam. Also released in 2016 was Bowraville. The Australian’s Walkley Award- winning venture into the genre follows crime reporter Dan Box’s heart-breaking re-examination of three unsolved murders. The victims, two teenagers and a four-year-old, went missing over five months, and all had been living on the same street in the eponymous coastal New South Wales town. Box’s investigation points the finger at suspiciously race-biased police inaction, which delayed the crucial initial search for the three Indigenous children. A white suspect was ultimately arrested and tried for two of the killings, but found not guilty – something Box paints as a potential miscarriage of justice. Now is the time to listen to the podcast, if you haven’t already. The coverage led to calls for a retrial – which was ultimately granted at the end of last year. AFTER LISTENING TO the banter of hosts on My Favourite Murder – an evolution of the form that really highlights the combination of titillation and repulsion serious crimes evoke – it’s hard not to question just why podcasts have become so bound up in true crime. Last year, Rolling Stone tried to answer this question. The writer asks podcast hosts, psychologists and behavioural experts to weigh in. And the answer is complex. Podcasts allow for the pleasure of immersive listening almost anywhere. You can binge them while exercising or sitting on the train. Podcasts feel more confessional, and – therefore – honest. As though someone is whispering a secret, just to you. We gravitate towards audio storytelling – it’s like being read to as a child. We get a frisson from the danger, a risk-free reminder of the dangers of the world that – unlike the real world – can be switched off, and safely stored in our bags. It’s edited reality, and all too addictive. » Melissa Cranenburgh (melissacranenburgh.com) is The Big Issue’s former associate editor. In 18th and 19th century England, gruesome murder pamphlets telling tales from the gallows earned people’s thrilled attention. Criminally Good Podcasts to Download CRIMINAL An interview-based crime cast that is addictively well-told, and covers a breadth of misdemeanors, from a truly “haunted” flat to a mother’s theft of her daughter’s identity. IN THE DARK A look into the 1989 abduction of a young boy and the police bungling that left the case unsolved for 27 years. PHOEBE’S FALL Investigative journalists probe theories behind Phoebe Handsjuk’s bizarre death. CRIMETOWN Rhode Island has a problem, and it goes all the way to the very top...