HALLIE EPHRON: Margaret Mclean shares her fascination with crime, courtrooms, and law enforcement by hosting radio's "It's a Crime" on KCAA NBC NEWS RADIO 1050 AM. Listeners can stream the show live from her web site Saturdays, 3-5 (ET) -- or listen to programs that have aired.
Margaret interviews attorneys, cops, investigators, forensic experts, and writers on her two hour show. The best part is how much fun she seems to having doing it.
Margaret, you've argued cases in courtrooms and written two terrific legal thrillers (UNDER OATH and UNDER FIRE). How did that prepare you to host your own radio show?
MARGARET MCLEAN: As an attorney, I became skilled at interviewing witnesses in preparation for trial. I had to meet with them, listen to their stories, and build trust. I would explain courtroom procedure and how to best present their version of events on the witness stand.
The strongest cases are built on the testimony of witnesses. My novels draw strength from the same skill set. For example, to build solid characters, I had to interview seasoned investigators, a Senegalese Muslim woman, and parents whose children were killed in the Charlestown code of silence murders. In order to get them to open up, I had to build trust and make them feel comfortable. I learned to be a good listener.
Hosting a vibrant radio show boils down to telling a story through an interviewee. Preparation is key. I’ll also ask if they’ve collected any evidence throughout their research. One guest shared his exclusive Ted Bundy murder kit as it was laid out on his dining room table—ice pick and all.
HALLIE: Yikes. Bundy was a truly scary guy.
You've had some fascinating guests talking about some of the most controversial crimes and criminals. Could you share with us something surprising that you learned about...
MARGARET: I never knew much about the notorious 1947 Black Dahlia murder until I interviewed former L.A.P.D. Homicide Detective Steve Hodel. Elizabeth Short’s body had been surgically bisected and displayed at the crime scene and her murder inspired the largest manhunt in Los Angeles history.
In 1999, Steve’s father, Dr. George Hodel, died. As Steve sifted through his father’s papers, he discovered old photographs of the Black Dahlia in sensual poses which were taken while she was alive. Steve was chilled as if the dead Elizabeth Short had reached out to him from beyond the grave.
He immersed himself in an intense investigation, and uncovered extensive evidence that his father was the Black Dahlia killer. Steve also discovered that Dr. George Hodel had been a prime suspect for some time.
In my interview with Steve, he reveals how he felt upon uncovering evidence that his father was a psychopathic killer. He provided exclusive crime scene and personal photos and compared the artwork of Man Ray (Les Amoureaux and Minotaur) with the way the killer had posed Elizabeth Short at the crime scene. Dr. George Hodel and Man Ray were close friends. Steve believes his father had attempted to imitate art through murder.
HALLIE: Fascinating. And it segues nicely to...
ART THEFT AT THE GARDNER
MARGARET: I hosted Anthony Amore live in my studio to discuss the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum heist and his book, STEALING REMBRANDTS: THE UNTOLD STORIES OF NOTORIOUS ART THEFTS.
In preparation for the show, Anthony gave me a private tour of the Gardner museum and explained how in 1990, thieves disguised as Boston police officers stole thirteen pieces of art including works by Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer, and Manet. When Mrs. Gardner opened the museum in 1903, she donated her priceless collection to the public because Boston needed a great museum.
The empty frames hanging on the walls haunted me as I walked through Mrs. Gardner’s rooms. I am now following the most recent developments on the FBI investigation into the Gardner heist and hope they will be returned soon.
Before the show, I barely knew Anthony and now he has become a great friend. In fact, Anthony recently introduced me to Jon Leiberman, who is now my co-author for an upcoming book about the trial of Whitey Bulger.
HALLIE: Whitey certainly is a fascinating character. Can't wait to hear your take on him. On to...
MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS
MARGARET: Another guest, Karen Scioscia, author of KIDNAPPED BY THE CARTEL, shared a personal story about how her close family member, a twenty-two year old American woman, was yanked right out of her car, kidnapped, and held hostage by a cartel for eleven days. Cartel members drugged the young woman and were about to sell her into the thriving sex trafficking trade when Karen’s family hired private security to conduct a daring rescue with guns.
HALLIE: I see you enjoy covering history and crime.
MARGARET: I often view my show as a personal history book.
Certain chapters of American history have always fascinated me. The radio show enables me to call on leading experts in various time periods. It’s like having my own private professor.
For example, Veteran journalist Don Fulsom, author of NIXON'S DARKEST SECRETS discussed his career covering Richard Nixon. He shared recently declassified documents and recordings revealing an even more troubling side of our 37th President, and how he deceived the American public.
William Martin (THE LINCOLN LETTER) enlightened listeners about President Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, and civil war Washington.
Sherry Fiester, a senior crime scene investigator and blood spatter analyst, delved into a forensics analysis of the JFK assassination by providing trajectory diagrams for the website and explaining her theory of the assassination.
Boston College History Professor and author, Alan Rogers, discussed the historical impact that the Boston Strangler murders had on Boston and Cambridge, the uncoordinated investigative techniques, and theories that Albert DeSalvo may not have been the real killer.
HALLIE: Finally, tell us who you've got coming up as guests in weeks to come on It's a Crime?
MARGARET: This Saturday, I’ll be joined by Rick Baker, to discuss the McStay family disappearance, and Jenice Malecki, a New York based attorney and Today Show contributor, will inform us about consumer fraud and identity theft.
On April 6th, Hallie Ephron will talk about her new novel of suspense, THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN, and Scott Raab, writer for Esquire Magazine, will discuss the upcoming HBO documentary on the controversial Phil Spector trial.
Later in the month, I’ll be featuring a panel discussion on the latest developments in the Amanda Knox case, which will include Paul Ciolino, the leading private investigator for the Knox family, and Dan Hale, attorney and author. Casey Sherman will be joining me again to discuss his latest book, ANIMAL: THE BLOODY RISE AND FALL OF THE MOB'S MOST FEARED ASSASSIN.
HALLIE: Utterly fascinating. Thanks for joining us, Margaret.
For more information on upcoming shows, check itsacrimeradio.comhttp://itsacrimeradio.com and follow Margaret on twitter @margaretmclean_
Margaret will be checking in today, so if you have any questions about crimes she may have covered on her show, now's your chance to ask!