Marcia Clark’s The Competition: Media’s Influence On Terror (Book Review)

Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson to those alive in the 1990s and a CNN correspondent on the George Zimmerman trial for those a bit younger, has also penned a series of books about L.A. prosecutor Rachel Knight. In her fourth installment, Knight finds herself investigating a mass murder: a high school shooting that plays on those crimes that have come before it.

We are introduced to several of the high school students starting off a normal day prior to the shooting, and Clark provides enough detail that we can feel the dread of the onslaught. I found the text easy to read, and clever, but there wasn’t a more palpable feeling than the first few pages, that felt like a documentary version of the Columbine shooting, reflecting Sandy Hook as well. (Later, a Dark Knight-like shooting will also scream “ripped from the headlines,” but it’s not as graphically, slowly delivered. In the opening pages, I felt sick to my stomach with the violence threatened and inevitable.)

Knight proves to be part lawyer-part detective, and her involvement lends a different view of the effort to track down the murderers than we’ve seen in our view of CSI or Law & Order. It’s apparent that Clark knows more about this than we do, but it doesn’t bog down, as she mixes the flow with several side stories about Knight’s personal life and the ongoing drama of family dynamics in the lives of the people associated with the school.

But there’s a moral here that rises above the thriller: we know early on that the people responsible for the shooting want to be “bigger” than Columbine. They want to murder more people; they want to get away with it. The impact that the media has had on escalating the violence can’t be missed here, and it begs the question: how much information or exposure is too much? When do we glorify versus educate, prove newsworthy versus glamorize?

You can appreciate Clark’s prose, her expertise, and still hear her whisper: “we create some of these monsters on our own.” Where will that violence end?

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About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at ChristianCinema.com, Cinapse.co, and the brand new ScreenFish.net.
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