"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
The cultural obsession with crime, while not exactly laudable, is perfectly understandable. Devouring crappy paperbacks about Ted Bundy, DVR-ing “Unsolved Mysteries,” or subscribing to Vanity Fair solely for the magazine’s crime coverage doesn’t spring exclusively from prurient interest; it’s an attempt, at least in part, to understand and control something — evil, in short — that can’t always be understood or controlled.
Or so I tell myself. I own Jay Nash’s “Bloodletters & Badmen: A Narrative Encyclopedia of American Criminals from the Pilgrims to the Present” in two different editions; I have to tell myself something (besides, “Self, get a life,” which to date hasn’t worked).
So, the idea of planning a vacation, or part of one, around a famous unsolved case or notorious shoot-out isn’t unappealing to me — but there’s a difference between a tourist site and a memorial, Disneyland and Gettysburg. Anyone who’s visited a major Civil War battlefield (or presidential death sites, a la Sarah Vowell’s “Assassination Vacation”) and tried to comprehend how much human life was lost there, and how quickly, has considered the question: When does fascination become disrespect?
You’ll have to decide for yourselves whether a stop on Salon’s subjective true-crime travel syllabus is funny, sad, too tacky or scary to visit, or a combination of all of those things — but if you’ve run out of weird and/or thought-provoking vacation stops and none of your kids hates the sight of blood, we might just have something for the whole family. Or, we might only have something for your weird aunt who goes to Ann Rule book signings. And if we missed any stops, please feel free to revise our itinerary in the comments section.
Sarah D. Bunting doesn’t go to Ann Rule book-signings … but does have an Ann Rule shelf.
Sarah D. Bunting is a pop culture writer in Brooklyn, NY. Help her out with the "Briscoe Inferno" video at TomatoNation.com.More Sarah D. Bunting.