DNF files: Murder Book

Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession

By Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell

Page I bailed on: 165

Verdict: Wasn’t my thing. Every artist has their own style, and since Campbell has risen to what I reckon is the top of her profession – a cartoonist for The New Yorker – then it’s pretty clear hers is working for her. But for me the slapdash drawing, which extends to lettering that in places is so sloppy I had trouble reading it because the letters were so poorly formed or spaced, didn’t seem expressive of much. It fits with all of the verbal tics and mannerisms of a generational voice, but that’s the best I can say for it. And that voice, while I could understand it, was something I didn’t relate to. The ironic self-awareness that comes with mocking millennials and their narcissism, while very much indulging the same, gets on my nerves. The whole genre of true-crime memoir does that too.

I want to emphasize though that in saying it’s not my thing I’m not saying it’s bad. I just didn’t feel like I was the target audience here. This feeling began on the first page, where Campbell welcomes us to her Murder Book by saying that you (the reader) must have bought it because you love murder, are a murderer, or are “trying to understand why your wife/girlfriend/daughter/niece/aunt/partner loves murder.” She says this because the audience for true crime is “mostly female.” Which is kind of off-putting, if you’re a man.

After a while, the whole “Fuck the patriarchy!” bit (yes, she says that, or yells it in bold caps) became tiresome and then started to grate. When Campbell mentions how Ted Bundy approached his victims and introduced himself using his real first name it’s presented of evidence of “how confident men are.” Huh? That’s a man thing? And why was Bundy successful at picking up women? Not because he was good-looking and intelligent but because he played to their sympathy and “Women, partly because most of us are decent human beings and partly because we’re socialized to be helpful, want to help those in need.” Campbell gives this another wink by saying it’s a “blanket statement, I know,” but it’s something you still hear a lot and I don’t really get it. Men aren’t socialized to be helpful or to want to help those in need? When Bundy presents himself as a security officer to another victim she goes along with him because “Women are taught to trust authority, not to question it.” It was just after this that I gave up and didn’t even bother skimming the rest. Women still hold views like this in the 2020s? Campbell’s obsession with the 1970s may go a lot deeper than she thinks.

The DNF files

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