In this week’s Advocate, I’ve got a story on Brian McDonald’s In the Middle of the Night, a true-crime take on the horrific Cheshire home-invasion case from a few years back. The story ended up focusing on the reaction to McDonald’s book as much as the book itself—especially when local residents started calling for the library to ban the book and launching ugly personal attacks at the head librarian. As I write in the story:
Let’s be clear: The only real villains in this mess are Komisarjevsky and Hayes, and, even three years later, it’s impossible to consider Petit’s tragedy without feeling fear, sympathy, and regret. But this tragedy occurred in and was assimilated by a culture that loves lurid details, easy-bake opinions, and petty personal concerns. And, in the reaction to McDonald’s book, you’ll find this culture’s usual suspects—duplicitous lawyers, lazy journalists, small-town politicos, quickie cash-in publishers, and a whole lot of people who’d rather react than read.
One thing I couldn’t work into the story was more on McDonald’s own career, which is fascinating. He described himself to me as “a reluctant true-crime writer” who took on In the Middle of the Night (and a previous entry in St. Martin’s True Crime Library series) “simply because I needed the work.” But McDonald’s far from a hack. He’s written three other books, including My Father’s Gun, a well-reviewed memoir about his family’s three-generation history with the NYPD. And I’d argue that, other than its poor pacing and organization, In the Middle of the Night also demonstrates his talents—as I say in the story, it’s a solid entry in the true-crime canon.
Of course, the only way you’d know that is if you actually read McDonald’s book.