Archive for True Crime

LIVE ON CROWDCAST: Amanda Montell, ”CULTISH” w/ Owin Pierson

Posted in skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books, True Crime, nonfiction, live on crowdcast by skylightbooks on December 23rd, 2021

What makes “cults” so intriguing and frightening? What makes them powerful? The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we’re looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join—and more importantly, stay in—extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has . . .

Our culture tends to provide pretty flimsy answers to questions of cult influence, mostly having to do with vague talk of “brainwashing.” But the true answer has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. In Cultish, Montell argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear—and are influenced by—every single day.

Through juicy storytelling and cutting original research, Montell exposes the verbal elements that make a wide spectrum of communities “cultish,” revealing how they affect followers of groups as notorious as Heaven’s Gate, but also how they pervade our modern start-ups, Peloton leaderboards, and Instagram feeds. Incisive and darkly funny, this enrapturing take on the curious social science of power and belief will make you hear the fanatical language of “cultish” everywhere.

Montell is joined in this Live Crowdcast episode by Owin Pierson. The episode was recorded on June 23, 2021. You can watch the Zoom recording here.


Produced by Maddie Gobbo, Lance Morgan, Natalie Freeman, & Michael Kowaleski.

Theme: "I Love All My Friends," an unreleased demo by Fragile Gang.

Visit for future offerings from the Skylight Books Events team.

SKYLIT: Sarah Berman, “DON’T CALL IT A CULT” w/ Ashley Ray Harris

Posted in skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books, True Crime, Crime, journalism, skylit by skylightbooks on May 8th, 2021
Sex trafficking. Self-help coaching. Forced labor. Mentorship. Multi-level marketing. Gaslighting. Investigative journalist Sarah Berman explores the shocking practices of NXIVM, a cult run by Keith Raniere and many enablers. Through the accounts of central NXIVM figures, Berman uncovers how dozens of women seeking creative coaching and networking opportunities instead were blackmailed, literally branded, near-starved, and enslaved. Don't Call It a Cult is a riveting account of NXIVM's rise to power, its ability to evade prosecution for decades, and the investigation that finally revealed its dark secrets to the world.
Berman is in conversation with Ashley Ray Harris.

Produced by Maddie Gobbo, Lance Morgan, & Michael Kowaleski

Theme: "I Love All My Friends," an unreleased demo by Fragile Gang.

Visit for future offerings from the Skylight Books Events team.

Emma Copley Eisenberg, “THE THIRD RAINBOW GIRL” w/ Steph Cha

Posted in skylight books, book stores, books, True Crime, Serial Killers, nonfiction by skylightbooks on March 13th, 2020

In the early evening of June 25, 1980 in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, two middle-class outsiders named Vicki Durian, 26, and Nancy Santomero, 19, were murdered in an isolated clearing. They were hitchhiking to a festival known as the Rainbow Gathering but never arrived; they traveled with a third woman however, who lived. For thirteen years, no one was prosecuted for the "Rainbow Murders," though deep suspicion was cast on a succession of local residents in the community, depicted as poor, dangerous, and backward. In 1993, a local farmer was convicted, only to be released when a known serial killer and diagnosed schizophrenic named Joseph Paul Franklin claimed responsibility. With the passage of time, as the truth seemed to slip away, the investigation itself caused its own traumas--turning neighbor against neighbor and confirming a fear of the violence outsiders have done to this region for centuries.

Emma Copley Eisenberg spent years living in Pocahontas and re-investigating these brutal acts. Using the past and the present, she shows how this mysterious act of violence has loomed over all those affected for generations, shaping their fears, fates, and the stories they tell about themselves. In The Third Rainbow Girl, Eisenberg follows the threads of this crime through the complex history of Appalachia, forming a searing and wide-ranging portrait of America--its divisions of gender and class, and of its violence.

Eisenberg is in conversation with Steph Cha, the author of Follow Her HomeBeware BewareDead Soon Enough, and Your House Will Pay, out from Ecco in 2019.


Posted in skylight books, book stores, books, True Crime, nonfiction by skylightbooks on July 19th, 2018

Recent years have seen an explosion of protest against police brutality and repression--most dramatically in Ferguson, Missouri, where longheld grievances erupted in violent demonstrations following the police killing of Michael Brown. Among activists, journalists, and politicians, the conversation about how to respond and improve policing has focused on accountability, diversity, training, and community relations. Unfortunately, these reforms will not produce results, either alone or in combination. The core of the problem must be addressed: the nature of modern policing itself. "Broken windows" practices, the militarization of law enforcement, and the dramatic expansion of the police's role over the last forty years have created a mandate for officers that must be rolled back.

The End of Policing attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice--even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.

David Correia and Tyler Wall, “POLICE: A FIELD GUIDE”

Posted in skylight books, book stores, books, True Crime, Crime, journalism, activism by skylightbooks on July 14th, 2018

Join author/activists David Correia and Tyler Wall for an in-depth discussion on the language that we use to talk about policing and police reform in the hopes that understanding the historical context of these terms will help us move beyond the limits of police reform and toward a society free from police violence and free from police entirely.

Police: A Field Guide is an illustrated handbook to the methods, mythologies, and history that animate today’s police. It is a survival manual for encounters with cops and police logic, whether it arrives in the shape of officer friendly, Tasers, curfews, non-compliance, or reformist discourses about so-called bad apples. In a series of short chapters, each focusing on a single term, such as the beat, order, badge, throw-down weapon, and much more, authors David Correia and Tyler Wall present a guide that reinvents and demystifies the language of policing in order to better prepare activists—and anyone with an open mind—on one of the key issues of our time: police brutality. In doing so, they begin to chart a future free of this violence—and of police.


Posted in skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books, True Crime, Serial Killers by skylightbooks on April 9th, 2018

In 2006, Christine Pelisek broke the case of a terrifying serial killer who went unchecked in Los Angeles for decades. Two years later, in her cover article for L.A. Weekly, Christine dubbed him "The Grim Sleeper" for his long break between murders. The killer preyed on a community devastated by crime and drugs and left behind a trail of bodies--all women of color, all murdered in a similar fashion, and all discarded in the alleys of South Central.

The case of the Grim Sleeper is unforgettably singular. But it also tells a wider story: about homicide investigations and police-community relations in areas beset by poverty and gang violence; about how a serial killer could roam free for two decades in part due to society’s lack of concern for his chosen victims; and about the persistence of those women's families and the detectives who refused to let the case go cold.
No one knows this story better than Pelisek, the reporter who followed it for more than ten years. Based on extensive interviews, reportage, and information never released to the public, The Grim Sleeper captures the long, bumpy road to justice in one of the most startling true crime stories of our generation.

Christine Pelisek is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been covering crime for almost fifteen years. She is currently the crime reporter for People Magazine, and previously worked at LA Weekly; she has also covered national stories for The Daily Beast and 20/20. She’s been profiled in the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Columbia Journalism Review, andOttawa Sun, and has been interviewed as a crime expert by CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Headline News. She lives in Los Angeles. 

 Photo by Amanda Pelisek

Deborah Vankin is an arts and culture writer for the Los Angeles Times. Her award-winning interviews and profiles unearth the trends, issues and personalities in L.A.’s explosive arts scene. She has live-blogged her journey across Los Angeles with the L.A. County Museum of Art’s “big rock,” scaled downtown mural scaffolding with street artist Shepard Fairey, navigated the 101 freeway tracking the 1984 Olympic mural restorations and ridden Doug Aitken’s art train through the Barstow desert. Most recently, she spent a day roller-coastering at Universal Studios with Chinese piano virtuoso Yuja Wang for a profile. Her work as a writer and editor has also appeared in the New York Times, LA Weekly and Variety, among other places. Originally from Philadelphia, she’s the author of the graphic novel “Poseurs.” Her career began, more than a decade ago at the LA Weekly, where she was situated at a desk next to another young, budding reporter, Christine Pelisek...

Event date: 
Saturday, July 29, 2017 - 5:00pm


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