I’ve got podcast fever. And I’m not afraid to admit it.
I resisted podcasts for a long time. I’d listened to the first season of Serial and really liked it, but that was it. Every time someone (mostly my sister) told me I should listen to this one or that one, I said if I’m going to just listen to something, I like my music. And yes I CAN listen to an endless loop of Tangled Up in Blue-Rosalita-I Want to Know What Love Is without getting tired of it. It’s how I roll.
My sister Becky had even been insisting for some time she and I do our own podcast. I resisted that even more — no way would it mesh well with my journalism career. If I was going to do a podcast, I wanted to speak my mind unfettered and occasionally use my favorite swear word, which begins with m, ends with r and has an f in the middle. Hint: It’s not mayflower.
But then a bunch of stuff happened at the right time: iTunes’ sabotage of my music library continued to such a frustrating extent my endless loop of favorite songs got smaller and smaller until practically all that existed was the U2 album they snuck on there that I can’t delete (memo to iTunes: I SKIP THOSE SONGS); my journalism career ended, I moved within blocks of my sister, and we attended this year’s New England Crime Bake, where the hosts of the popular podcast Crime Writers On… not only taped an episode of the show from the mystery writers conference (they even interviewed me on the air!), but also presented a panel on how you, yes you, can produce your own podcast.
Becky kept saying, “See, I told you.” And she had. So we were off and running.
I won’t go into all the nitty gritty, but once we created our own website, figured out how to do an RSS feed, found a host (thanks blubrry!), and, oh yeah, figured out a very loose theme and structure, we were up and running with Crime & Stuff, “The podcast you’d do if you didn’t have better things to do.”
A funny thing has happened since Crime Bake. Besides I’m now editing Episode 6 of our own podcast (everything you wanted to know about JonBenet Ramsey but were afraid to ask), I also can’t stop listening to podcasts. So long endless loop of music I’ve been listening to for years. Hello all sorts of people talking about cool and interesting stuff.
I am especially drawn to crime topics. You probably are too if you’re a regular reader of this blog. I’m by no means an expert on what’s out there in podcast land, but here are some podcast suggestions to get you started if you have been resisting, like I was. I know you have too much to do! But the beauty of podcasts is you can listen to them while doing something else.
I’d be a jerk if I didn’t start out with the folks who got me hooked, Crime Writers On… New Hampshire broadcast journalists Rebecca Lavoie and Kevin Flynn (the cutest couple in the Northern New England audio world); true crime writer/former journalist/licensed PI Lara Bricker and noir thriller writer Toby Ball weekly discuss podcasts (and some other things). They are pros and keep things hopping, but they’re also funny as hell. Lavoie usually interviews a podcast producer, and their in-depth discussions of podcasts are informed and, I’ll freely admit, have tipped me to most of the podcasts I listen to now.
My favorite so far is Missing and Murdered, Who Killed Alberta Williams? A CBC production, the show follows reporter Connie Walker and her producer Marnie Luke as they look into the cold case murder of a woman in British Columbia, but also explores Canada’s treatment of indigenous people and the shameful legacy of unsolved murders of women in the country. And I love those Canadian accents!
I just tonight finished Breakdown: Season 2, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution 17-episode production that covers the trial of Justin Ross Harris, who was convicted last month of murder after he left his 2-year-old son in the car on a hot day in 2014. Bill Rankin, a 25-year reporting veteran who covered the trial for the newspaper, does a great job presenting the story with wry humor, but also humanity. He’s not afraid to call out the lawyers or cops when they’ve overstepped or misled — something that’s fun for this (former!) journalist to listen to and is one of the things that makes podcasts a great addition to regular news coverage. I plan to now listen to Season 1, which looks at the case of Justin Chapman, who was convicted of murdering an elderly neighbor and burning down her house. I can’t get enough of Rankin and his reporting.
My sister Becky’s favorite is My Favorite Murder, hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstack, who discuss murders that interest them and also read emails from fans describing their own hometown murders. We’ve been asked if we’re “trying to be like” the My Favorite Murder gals with our own podcast. The answer is we’re not, we’re just being ourselves. But listening to them convinced me that it’s OK to be ourselves, and we don’t have to be as polished as the other podcasts I’ve named here. And when I learn how to do the audio better, or we can hire someone to do it for us, we may even be as smooth as these gals.
As for our own podcast, we’re just having fun. It’s a big learning curve figuring out how to do audio (especially since we could only afford one broadcast-grade microphone and free Audacity software), but we still hope to be interesting enough for people to listen. Our premise is that we take a crime story that’s been in the news or that interests us, and do some research to bring listeners a more detailed story than what they may have seen on TV or the web. Our first episode, Twisted Sisters: A Tale of Yoga and Death, was custom-made for what we were trying to do. I’d seen a 30-second TV news story on the topic of the death by plunging off a cliff in an SUV of Anastasia Duval and the subsequent arrest of her sister Alexandria for murder and was confused as hell. Becky delved into the story and it all became clear. More or less. We’ve even had some special guests: my high school classmate Matt Nichols, a Portland criminal defense attorney, is featured in our “Ask a Lawyer” segment each week and we convinced Ben McCanna, who covered the Ayla Reynolds disappearance in Waterville, Maine, for the Morning Sentinel newspaper during the first year of the investigation, to be on our episode marking the fifth anniversary of her disappearance.
We don’t take ourselves too seriously, hence our accidental catchphrase (remember? It’s “The podcast you’d do if you didn’t have better things to do.”) But we’re also excited to be part of a creative community where just about anything goes.
If you haven’t already, it’s time you checked out the world of podcasting. Turn off the TV and take a look. It doesn’t have to be about crime if you’re not interested (again, you’re reading this blog why?) I guarantee you’ll find something you won’t be able to stop listening to, and you’ll be hooked too.
EVENT: Thursday, December 29, Maureen Milliken, Jen Blood, Bruce Coffin and Vaugh Hardaker will be part of the Carrabassett Valley Library‘s Maine Crime Writers Death & Desserts presentation, 4:30-6:30 p.m. They’ll also be signing and selling books. Snow? What snow? As of this writing, the event is still on, so strap on your Maine-ness and get over there.
Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at@mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at maureenmilliken.com. She hosts the podcast Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.