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July 22, 2018

Criminal – an oddly soothing podcast about people who done wrong

Tr00 Metal Life

criminal podcast

criminal podcast

I’m a recent convert to podcasts. I usually prefer to devour my media through words, but after a friend introduced me to My Dad Wrote a Porno, I’ve discovered how much fun it can be to listen to a podcast over dinner. I usually play music, but I’ve been digging the opportunity to learn things while I’m cooking things.

I’m no podcast expert and I’ve only listened to a handful. Kevin J Anderson has a cool one called Creative Futurism. I love the SFF Marketing podcast for career and writing advice, and the Guilty Feminist for the giggles and the learnings.

A fellow writer friend recently introduced me to Criminal, a critically-acclaimed independent true crime podcast. Based in Durham, North Carolina, and released by Radiotopia for PRX, the show has been running since 2014 and racking up awards and acclaim for it’s anthropological approach to true crime.

Host Phoebe Judge has this beautiful husky voice that delivers each story with grace and restraint. There’s no relishing of gory details, no over-simplification or dumbing down. The subjects they choose are endlessly fascinating – from how fraudulent mediums pull off their tricks, and a woman who discovered her apartment was also inhabited by a silent stranger, to a visit to one of the forensic body farms where donated corpses are left outside to decompose so scientists can study them, and a clergy-run organisation in the 1960s that helped hundreds of thousands of women obtain safe and illegal abortions.

Julienne Alexander Criminal art

Artist Julienne Alexander creates a unique image for each episode, such as this one for episode 90, Sharks.

What I love about this show is how it delves into crime as a sociological and cultural construct. The stories are rooted in place and time and context and ask more questions than they answer. Many stories – such as the one about the escapees from Alcatraz – include interviews with people closely connected to the crimes or subject. Often, there is an unsolved mystery or a moral question posed, but you’re not beaten over the head with it. I’ve already had ideas for about ten books just from the episodes I’ve listened to, and it’s been a hugely entertaining distraction while I’m cooking.

Find out more about Criminal and listen to episodes on their website.