Liberty and the Pursuit

“Where can I find a podcast that satisfies my love of both literature and true crime? Particularly one that follows the extended play, narrative series format, i.e. one that I can binge?” That’s the question Corey Eastwood, Santiago Lemoine and Ramona Stout asked themselves almost two years ago, and the answer, sadly, was “nowhere.”

That podcast didn’t exist. So—you’ve guessed it by now—they spent the last two years creating Penknife, a podcast about writers who may or may not have written about crime, but who definitely committed it.

Season One is a ten-episode series focused on three writers:

Jack Henry Abbott, Norman Mailer, and Jerzy Kosinski. It charts their literary careers, which include some of the most celebrated books of the 20th century, and their criminal careers, which include murder, rape, felony assault, and plagiarism. Penknife examines how their crimes informed their writing, and how their writing informed their crimes. And likewise, how their status as writers managed to aid and abet their criminal behavior. Finally, it explores how a murder committed by Jack Henry Abbott had a profound—and in one case devastating—impact on the lives and careers of Mailer and Kosinski. 

Penknife is hosted by two booksellers, Corey Eastwood from New York, and Santiago Lemoine from Buenos Aires, both of whom currently live—and sell books—in Valencia, Spain. Each episode merges biography, true crime and literary criticism while always keeping things fresh with a sprinkle of creative non-fiction read by the show’s narrator, Ramona Stout, a writer and music researcher based in Chania, Crete. Among many other characters, Ramona brings to life Jerzy Kosinski giving a tour of a swingers club, William Burroughs seeing reptilian humanoids in Edinburgh, and Norman Mailer roiling himself into a delusional rage and stabbing his wife in the chest with—you guessed it again—a penknife.