Guest Blog Post – All the Ups and Down

Guest Blog Post – All the Ups and Down

Me, OJ, & Psychological Suspense

I have had a love-ignorance relationship with football all my life. Despite having a father and husband (a former player himself) who were not only fans, but were extremely knowledgeable about the arcana of this complex sport, I never took the time to master that. Lazy Ellie! The rules still elude me, and I have only the broadest general understanding of the game. But that’s all I need. Because I LOVE watching football for completely different reasons. The extraordinary beauty and power of these athletes transfixed me from the time I was first exposed to them as a child. My abiding memory of how little Ellie perceived her first view of Jim Brown playing, only a day after my dad had introduced me to a wildlife special on the big cats of Africa, was “OMG – some rare humans can also effect the grace and power of wild animals”. (Not in those words of course. But that was the idea.)

So it is not a surprise that in every season since then, I have had a favorite player. My husband, who understands what attracts me to a player, often has a long-list for me to consider as each season starts. It is in his best interest. He knows he is far more likely to have a fully engaged spectating companion, if I’m vested in my yearly hero. Generally, there is a new heart-throb for each new season. But sometimes, my enthrallment spans many seasons. And my longest and most intense enthrallment was with OJ Simpson.

Those of you who were not yet born or sentient in the late 1960s and 1970s when OJ was in his prime, may not be able to find, in the bloated husk of what’s left of him now, the extraordinarily beautiful young man OJ was. Whether he was running on the field, or through airports (one of his most famous ads), or pitching any of the innumerable products which helped make him rich, his beauty was augmented by his evident intelligence and charm.

Which of course, worked in his favor, when in 1994 he was charged with the murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. By then, I was a committed feminist, which has in no way intruded on my appreciation of beauty, male or otherwise. Despite my long-standing admiration for OJ as an athlete, the evidence of his narcissism and long-standing abuse of Nicole, was irrefutable. OJ was NOT a good guy.

But having accepted that did not mean I was ready to join the majority of white Americans in assuming that despite the not-guilty verdict, OJ did indeed, do it. To this day, I am confident that my reluctance to subscribe to that prevailing belief was not predicated on my previous long-established romance with him. It was based on the evidence available to the public during and just after the period in which his trial dominated the world media. And I had access to so much of it! In addition to racing home from work every day to watch the trial (The Trial of the Century! as it was so-often heralded), my husband and I accumulated a sizable OJ library. Our shelves are still stocked with the work of prosecutors (Marsha Clark and Christopher Darden), the defense team (Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochrane) and other credible lawyers/legal pundits like Vincent Bugliosi and Alan Dershowitz. To this day, I still don’t understand:

  • How the timeline could possibly have worked
  • How OJ could have killed the vigorous, younger Goldman, in what had to have been a lengthy struggle to the death, without incurring any injury more significant than a cut finger, which OJ claimed happened in a hotel when he broke a glass, and which a passenger on the plane he took before he checked in to that hotel, failed to see when he studied OJ’s hands hoping to see his Superbowl ring
  • How the “blood evidence” against OJ could be only a few isolated drops in his car, on the gate to his driveway, and on a sock found under his bed, given the gruesome amount of blood spilled where Nicole and Ron died.

Now, almost thirty years later, I am still baffled by these logistical challenges. Over the years, affected by the weight of public opinion, I’ve come to accept that OJ MUST have done it. OJ’s own book (If I Did It) certainly didn’t make me any more confident of his innocence. But thinking about it again for this blog, has certainly re-ignited my curiosity. I will now turn to some of the more recent books on the subject, and see if I can gain any peace with these evidentiary challenges.

But I am much less-baffled in some respects than I was in the mid-1990s, when a major component of both my own response and that of much of the public, was how mind-blowing it was that someone we KNEW (because so many of us felt a personal connection to OJ), someone we’d found so charming….could have fooled us so completely. At that time, we already had a model for an appropriate serial killer. Charlie Manson, convicted in 1971, with his intense and openly malevolent mien, was the much more understandable face of evil. OJ took our innocence. We started to understand that evil is not necessarily detectable through some sort of physical imprint it makes on those who harbor it. In Charlie Manson and OJ Simpson, we saw two extremes on the spectrum of evil – one who projected villainy, and the other, charm. And sadly, in the years since then, we’ve filled in some of the space in-between these two extremes. Paul Bernardo in Canada and Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer in the states, created new stereotypes of the banality of evil.

Cognitively, I’ve realized for a long time now, that you never truly know anyone, and that evil can lurk behind a huge range of exteriors. But accepting that emotionally is much more difficult. Which I attempt to exploit in my writing, as does almost every other writer residing within the genre of psychological suspense.

Read the full post, and see an exclusive excerpt from Emergence, on Heather’s blog.

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