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I'll Be Gone in the Dark

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I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
First edition cover
AuthorMichelle McNamara
true crime
Publication date
February 27, 2018
Publication placeUnited States
Media typeBook
LC ClassHV6565.C2 M36 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer is a true crime book by the American writer Michelle McNamara about the investigation of the Golden State Killer. The book was released on February 27, 2018, nearly two years after McNamara's death and two months before an arrest would be made in the case.

The book's title is a reference to a direct quote spoken by the Golden State Killer to one of his victims: "You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark."[1]


After becoming interested in the crimes of what was then known as the "East Area Rapist" (among other names) McNamara wrote a 2013 Los Angeles magazine article about the serial killer, and ultimately signed a book deal with HarperCollins to write about the case.

McNamara is credited with coining the moniker Golden State Killer[2] to refer to the criminal who had previously been referred to by various other names including the East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, Visalia Ransacker, East Bay Rapist, and Diamond Knot Killer.[3] McNamara's coining of the Golden State Killer moniker is credited with heightening awareness of the then-unidentified serial killer who operated throughout California in the early 1970s to mid-1980s.

McNamara died in her sleep on April 21, 2016, at the age of 46 due to an accidental prescription drug overdose in conjunction with atherosclerosis.[4] It was later disclosed she suffered with opioid addiction.[5] Her book was about two-thirds completed at her death.[6] The book was completed after McNamara's death by crime writer Paul Haynes, investigative journalist Bill Jensen, and McNamara's widower, comedian Patton Oswalt. Jensen later explained that while McNamara had completed numerous chapters for the book they were not in any particular order in her computer files; consequently he, Haynes, and Oswalt mainly focused on sequencing her material and filling in gaps from her voluminous notes and copies of police documents.[7]

The book – McNamara's debut – was released on February 27, 2018, and reached the top of The New York Times Best Seller list for non-fiction.[8] The book remained on the list for 15 weeks.[9]

I'll Be Gone in the Dark contains an introduction by the American writer Gillian Flynn and an afterword by Oswalt.


On April 25, 2018, the Sacramento Sheriff announced the April 24 arrest of a suspect in the Golden State Killer case: 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo (born November 8, 1945). DeAngelo, a former police officer in Auburn and Exeter, California,[10] was arrested and charged with six counts of first-degree murder.[11][12][13] Authorities in Sacramento, Orange, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties prepared charges against DeAngelo for all 12 of the murders in the Golden State Killer case.[14] The sheriff credited McNamara's dedication to the Golden State Killer case for raising publicity, but added that her work did not directly generate any critical tips or information that led to DeAngelo's arrest.[7]

The book and McNamara's work on the case are frequently discussed in the true crime podcast My Favorite Murder, which boasts a large fan base of true crime aficionados. The debut episode of the show, "Episode 1: My Firstest Murder," featured the case as well as a discussion of McNamara's work.[15] Prior to the arrest, "Episode 115: I'll Be Gone in the Dark at Skylight Books" featured Oswalt and Jensen discussing the book and their roles in finishing the project following McNamara's death.[16] In that episode Oswalt discussed McNamara's writing process, including making "era-appropriate playlists to help her get into a proper mindset".[17] Oswalt described the finishing of the book as a bittersweet experience: "It's another part of her that's kind of gone. In a very sick way, not having the book done—and us working on it—meant she was still here."[17]

Jensen appeared on the My Favorite Murder episode "Golden State Serial Killer Caught", on April 26, 2018, immediately after the arrest was made, and discussed the case and his work on the book following McNamara's death.[18] The episode "Surprise! It's Paul Holes" also featured Jensen and Holes discussing the case and the impact of McNamara's work.[19]


In April 2018, HBO announced they had purchased the rights for I'll Be Gone in the Dark and were developing it into a documentary series.[20] Filming for the series began April 24, 2018,[21] directed in part by Academy Award-nominee and Emmy-winner Liz Garbus.[22] The documentary premiered June 28, 2020.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Russell, Allison (April 26, 2018). "Suspect Arrested in Golden State Killer Case, the Subject of Michelle McNamara's True Crime Novel I'LL BE GONE IN THE DARK". BOOK RIOT.
  2. ^ Oswalt, Patton (May 3, 2016). "Patton Oswalt Remembers His Wife, Michelle McNamara: 'She Steered Her Life With Joyous, Wicked Curiosity'". Time. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  3. ^ McNamara, Michelle (February 27, 2013). "In the Footsteps of a Killer". Los Angeles. Archived from the original on October 20, 2017. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  4. ^ "Actor Patton Oswalt says prescription medications and heart condition caused wife's death". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. February 4, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  5. ^ Alter, Ethan (June 25, 2020). "Patton Oswalt reflects on 'I'll be Gone in the Dark' and Michelle McNamara's accidental overdose: 'There were signs that I didn't know to look for'". Yahoo! Entertainment.
  6. ^ Beale, Lewis (February 24, 2018). "Patton Oswalt Looks Back at His Late Wife's Serial-Killer Obsession". The Daily Beast. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Jensen, Billy (2019). Chase Darkness with Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders. Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1492685852.
  8. ^ Canfield, David (March 7, 2018). "Michelle McNamara's posthumous I'll Be Gone in the Dark is a No. 1 best-seller". Entertainment Weekly.
  9. ^ "The New York Times Best-Sellers: Hardcover Nonfiction". The New York Times. Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  10. ^ Myers, Paul (April 25, 2018). "Sacramento Sheriff's Department arrests Visalia Ransacker, confirms he was an officer of the Exeter Police Department in 1973". The Sun-Gazette. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  11. ^ Fuller, Thomas; Hauser, Christine (April 25, 2018). "Ex-Cop Arrested in Golden State Killer Case: 'We Found the Needle in the Haystack'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  12. ^ Egel, Benjy (April 25, 2018). "Who is the East Area Rapist? Police say it's this ex-cop who attended Folsom High". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  13. ^ Stanglin, Doug (April 25, 2018). "Golden State Killer: Ex-cop Joseph James DeAngelo arrested as suspect in serial murder-rapes". USA Today. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  14. ^ Lillis, Ryan (April 25, 2018). "Here's where East Area Rapist suspect worked for nearly three decades before retiring". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  15. ^ "1 - My Firstest Murder from My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark". stitcher.com. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  16. ^ "115 - I'll Be Gone in the Dark at Skylight Books from My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark". stitcher.com. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  17. ^ a b Puchko, Kristy (April 9, 2018). "Patton Oswalt's 'My Favorite Murder' Appearance Is An Ode To His Late Wife, Michelle McNamara". Pajiba. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  18. ^ "118 - Golden State Serial Killer Caught". myfavoritemurder.com. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  19. ^ "122 - Surprise! It's Paul Holes from My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark". stitcher.com. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  20. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (April 9, 2018). "Docuseries Based on Michelle McNamara's 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark' True-Crime Book in Works at HBO". Deadline Hollywood.
  21. ^ Raphael, Michele (April 25, 2018). "Arrest of 'Golden State Killer' Mirrors Prediction in Michelle McNamara's Book". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  22. ^ Otterson, Joe (May 1, 2018). "Michelle McNamara's 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark' Greenlit as HBO Docu-Series". Variety. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  23. ^ Merrett, Robyn (May 4, 2020). "I'll Be Gone in the Dark: Watch the Trailer for HBO's New Docuseries About the Golden State Killer". People. Retrieved June 26, 2020.