The United States of True Crime

In each episode of Small Town Murder, a true crime podcast, the hosts tell the story of a murder that happened in a small town somewhere in America (mostly).

But rather than just tell the story of the murder, the hosts tell the story of the town itself; its people, its history, its legend, and why to the people that live there, it’s home.

At 63 episodes in, the hosts have hit 49 of 50 states, telling the stories of Appalachian coal towns, seaside villages along the Pacific, wealthy suburbs, mountain resorts, and historic towns in the deep South. The only state that’s missing is Mississippi.

Here’s a map of the murders:

Crime is often deeply rooted in place, both its genesis and its aftermath. Small Town Murder is the opposite of something like Serial, which sees in a single crime a microcosm of national, cultural forces. Here, the crime is connected to the physical place, to the specificity of the mountain, or beach or town square. For the locals, the crime looms large in a way it never could for the rest of us.

I initially intended to map several true crime podcasts, and I found that there are at least 26 states that were the setting for a serial true crime podcast, or an anthology podcast specific to that state. The full list is here.

That turn out to be a challenge that would have required some more serious NLP skills, so this is the first step.

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