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Cascade PBS Ideas Festival

Journalists, politicians, authors and newsmakers from around the world come together.

Critics at Large: Crazy for Crime

Are audiences still hooked on true crime? The New Yorker team breaks down the genre with author Patrick Radden Keefe.

True crime is more popular than ever — but audiences are also reckoning with the ethics of the genre. Patrick Radden Keefe, author of books like Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Family and Say Nothing: A True Story of Memory and Murder in Northern Ireland, has made a career of telling nuanced stories about unconscionable acts and the people who commit them.  
In this live taping of The New Yorker’s podcast Critics at Large as part of the Cascade PBS Ideas Festival, hosts Alexandra Schwartz, Naomi Fry and Vinson Cunningham talk to Keefe about his work, the state of the genre and writing about terrible things. 

Rather than dwell on the gory details of these horrific scenes, Keefe seeks to understand the root circumstances that led to people committing these crimes. He uncovers the pasts of the perpetrators and victims, empathizes with their families and finds commonalities in their human stories. He shares what he has learned from studying specific cases and writing stories, including “The Oligarch’s Son,” as well as the challenges of adapting these written materials into other formats like television and podcasts. 

This conversation was recorded in Seattle on May 4, 2024.   

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