Writing crime fiction requires a serious appreciation for great storytelling technique and great crime stories. Maybe that’s why I, like many other crime writers I know, have become obsessed in recent years with true crime podcasts.
A great true crime podcast combines expert storytelling with appalling real-life crime stories. It can serve as a hunting ground for great story ideas, as well as the background music for almost any boring task.
But given the high number of true crime podcasts out there, where should crime writers who are looking to get into true crime podcasts begin? I’ve got you covered. Here are five true crime podcasts crime fiction writers will love.
1.) Sword and Scale
I’m starting off with Sword and Scale because it’s probably the most popular true crime podcast on the market. And with good reason. Host Mike Boudet does an incredible amount of research to find the most despicable, gag-inducing crime stories imaginable. The crimes take place across the US, and even occasionally abroad. Many of them are DARK.
I would be remiss not to include a trigger warning with this one. Some of the episodes have lots of gory details, and some of the crimes will shock with their sheer evil.
Throughout, Boudet demonstrates excellent journalistic storytelling (with occasional, understandable slides into personal emotion) and has clearly done his homework tracking down news clips and other audio to include. The show’s mixing style and music selection are second to none. It has millions of followers for a reason.
2.) Young Charlie
Young Charlie focuses on one of the most famous cases in American crime history, the Manson Family murders.
Podcast network Wondery (who also publishes Sword and Scale and another entry to this list below) has done a fantastic job handling other bigtime cases in this same one-season one-crime format, including The Wonderland Murders and The Black Dahlia.
What makes Young Charlie unique is the focus on not just the murders themselves, but also on how a skinny, dark-eyed runt from the wrong side of the tracks in Cincinnati, Ohio became one of America’s most notorious psychopaths.
Young Charlie features top-notch writing and has professional editing that would make any storytelling medium jealous. It’s downright addictive and will serve as the perfect gateway into Wondery’s stable of other great true crime podcasts.
3.) Dirty John
I can’t remember the last time a true crime podcast had me this engaged. Dirty John is a single-season podcast that focuses on a successful middle-aged interior designer who meets a handsome doctor on a dating site.
Before long, the two fall into a whirlwind romance that irks family and friends alike before taking a dark turn that will leave you speechless.
I don’t want to give any more away, but I guarantee you will be finding excuses to do chores or run errands just to have a chance to listen to Dirty John. Not to mention that, unlike many true crime stories, this one has a decisive ending that will make any storyteller worth their salt jealous as hell.
A great collaboration between the L.A. Times and Wondery, this one is an absolute gem.
4.) Lone Star Law and Disorder
A brand new podcast with seven episodes to date, I wanted to include Lone Star Law and Disorder on this list because I was blown away by host Krista Mendez’s poise and writing chops from the very first episode.
Each episode features a new case, and each case takes place somewhere in the Lone Star State. Mendez has a great voice for podcasting, not to mention the writing and editing are superb.
Plus, as Crime Syndicate’s resident Texan, I can assure you we have more than our share of bizarre, ridiculous, and violent crime stories down here. Especially when those stories originate from deep behind the pine curtain of East Texas, the same locale which Lone Star Law and Disorder podcasts from.
I have high hopes for the future of this podcast, and I think you will to.
5.) The Long Dance
This one is just plain obvious. Hosted by investigative journalist Drew Adamek alongside crime fiction wonderboy Eryk Pruitt, The Long Dance has all the great storytelling technique you’d expect from a good murder mystery novel because, well, it was written by a crime fiction author.
But if you come to The Long Dance for the storytelling chops, you’ll stay for the investigative work and reporting. These boys did an astounding amount of research, and it shows in the finished product.
Pruitt and Adamek obviously did their level best to try and help solve the fifty-year-old mystery of North Carolina’s Valentine’s Day Murders. They did an excellent job of highlighting the three most viable suspects and even spoke to one of them face to face.
The Long Dance is guaranteed to be a hit for crime fiction authors. Trust me.
The above podcasts are just an introduction to the true crime podcast rabbit hole. Once you get through them, here are few other listening suggestions: True Crime Garage, Small Town Murder, Crime in Sports, Crimetown, Locked Up Abroad, and Criminal.
And since we’re on the subject of podcasts, I hope you’ll consider giving our in-house crime fiction podcast, The Crime Syndicate Podcast, a try. This month’s episode features crime fiction author Mike McCrary discussing his latest psychological thriller, Relentless.
On a side note, if you like the podcasts mentioned above, please take the time to rate and review them on Itunes or wherever you get your podcasts. It’s the number one thing you can do to help a podcast find a larger audience.
If you have true crime podcasts you love, feel free to recommend them in the comments of this article. In the meantime, happy listening. Or… maybe not happy, but you get the idea. Enjoy!