Alta Asks Live: True Crime

Writers Katherine Ellison and Zack Ruskin join Alta’s Beth Spotswood for a virtual panel discussion on true crime, trends in the genre, and the cases that haunt us.

True-crime content is enjoying a major surge: in literature, on television, in film, and, of course, on podcasts. What attracts us to relive grisly cases like those of the Zodiac Killer, the Golden State Killer, and the Grim Sleeper? Why have true-crime stories exploded in popularity? Join Alta and Books Inc. as we welcome Mothers & Murderers author Katherine Ellison and Alta contributor Zack Ruskin for a talk on true crime, trends in the genre, and the cases that haunt us. This event will be moderated by Alta digital editor (and true-crime buff) Beth Spotswood. 

Links to the books and podcasts we discussed: 

About the panelists

Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer Prize–winning former correspondent for Knight-Ridder Newspapers and the author of 10 nonfiction books. Her journalism, including articles on climate change, mental health, and education, has been published in major media like the New York Times, the Washington Post, Smithsonian, and the Atlantic. Ellison was a 23-year-old cub reporter covering a high-profile murder trial for the San Jose Mercury News when she was sued for libel for $11 million. The murder, the lawsuit, and the mesmerizing villainess behind both of them are among the topics of Ellison’s latest book, Mothers & Murderers: A True Story of Love, Lies, Obsession…and Second Chances.

Zack Ruskin is a freelance reporter living in San Francisco. His regular beats include weed, music, literature, comedy, and drag. He’s written the cannabis column “Chem Tales” for SF Weekly since 2016 and reviews new music releases for Variety. His byline has also appeared in Vanity Fair, Merry Jane, the San Francisco Chronicle, Alta, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, Cannabis Now, and Marin Magazine. Follow him @zackruskin on Twitter or visit his website at

About the moderator

Beth Spotswood is Alta’s digital editor, events manager, and resident true-crime aficionado. In addition to her work for Alta, Beth writes a Thursday column for the San Francisco Chronicle.


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