Both these podcasts are written and presented by jobbing journalists, but produced by the podcast firm Wondery. I don’t really like the excessively smooth American production values Wondery use. Somehow their work sounds too polished when compared with the visceral honesty of something like Serial or CBC’s Someone Knows Something. Still… now that I’ve got that off my chest, these are two fascinating stories worth a listen. ‘Dirty John’ is the better of the two, recounting how a serial fraudster John Meehan targeted women and controlled them to the point of terror for his pleasure and enrichment. It’s an incredible true crime story with stunning honesty and openness from his victims and their families. I was surprised that his 110% narcissism isn’t called out in the series, they struggle to know what to call his ‘issues’, but that’s a minor quibble.
‘Over My Dead Body’ is the tale of a dream couple’s nasty divorce ending in one of them being killed in an apparent paid assassination. It’s bit slow to build but stick with it, as the FBI wiretaps of some of the alleged conspirators in the murder makes for compelling listening as the case progresses. Also the follow-up episodes on the New York Rabbi who kidnaps Jewish husbands and tortures them until they grant divorces (there is a connection to the main story, I kid you not) is seriously weird.
The BBC World service have excellent form, and superb production values, on their podcasts (see Death in Ice Valley and The Hurricane Tapes) and this is no exception. With a huge soundtrack, superb access to archive materials as well as new interviews with the big names, this is a must-listen on the history of the Apollo moon landings. I love the detail they put into understanding the technology, maths and people behind the programme. Great stuff.
Culture.pl produces this series of little known stories from Central Europe, the ‘Eastern West’ as they like to call it. There’s a great variety of fascinating tales covered from the history of Esperanto to how Warsaw Zoo was used as a cover for rescuing Jews from the ghetto. The banter between the presenters can be a little forced sometimes but other than that it’s a brilliant series bringing a wonderful part of the world to greater prominence for Anglophones.