Like most podcast listeners way back in 2014, I couldn’t get enough of Serial. I wasn’t quite as taken by Serial’s second season, but plenty of other true crime options started popping up in my feed. A couple of all-time favorites include Dirty John and S-Town.
My favorite new true crime podcast is The Long Dance. Here’s a description of the 8-part series from the show’s website:
A disclaimer before we begin. One of the show’s creators, Eryk Pruitt, is a friend of mine from the Indie crime fiction community. You’ll also hear my voice at the beginning of each episode because Mr. Pruitt and his team were kind enough to let us promote our crime, mystery and thriller fiction podcast, Writer Types, with a quick ad. If all of that will keep you from taking this review seriously, stop reading now—but definitely don’t let it stop you from checking out Episode 1 of The Long Dance. I have a feeling you’ll be hooked, just like I was.
Which brings us to my review…
Producing a podcast about an unsolved 46-year-old double homicide seems like a tricky business. Not only is the evidence old or missing, but many of the people you’d naturally want to interview have long since shuffled off this mortal coil. This includes everybody from law enforcement officials, witnesses and suspects, to family and friends connected with the victims. So it’s really impressive that Pruitt (pictured at left), Adamek (pictured below) and Kessler manage to weave a captivating tale despite the many roadblocks built up by the sands of time. Even more impressive is their ability to pull the story into the present by essentially re-opening the cold case themselves. In many ways, their dogged persistence is the real engine that moves this gripping story forward.
This mostly works because of the professional relationship Pruitt and Adamek developed with Major Tim Horne of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. If this story was one of Pruitt’s dark rural noir novels, Horne’s thorough approach, cautious optimism, and even-keeled demeanor would almost be clichéd—which makes him that much more engaging as the de facto third narrator of the series. That alone is worth investing 8 hours of your podcast-listening time, but it’s not even my favorite part of this series.
The main thing that kept me bingeing The Long Dance over the course of a couple of days was the well-developed sense of time and place. Durham, North Carolina is not the town it was 46 years ago, and neither are the people most affected by the Mann/McBane murders. Many of the interviews included in the series highlight how the world moves on, even from something as heinous as the brutal murders of a young couple. It’s possible to listen to The Long Dance as a straight true crime narrative and you definitely will not be disappointed, but the real triumph of this podcast is the way it showcases the pain, regret and anger that lives on inside the people touched by this almost forgotten tragedy.
S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna novella, CROSSWISE, and the sequel, CROSSED BONES. His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, GRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME. He is also the co-host of the Writer Types crime, mystery and thriller podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.