If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer, by O.J. Simpson

Geeze Louise. This is the first book ever that I just haven’t know how to rate.

I’ve written a few times about how this summer’s excellent American Crime Story turned me on to all sorts of the trial books, from Marcia Clarke’s Without a Doubt, to Jeffrey Toobin’s basis for the TV series, The Run of His Life, and finally to Daniel Petrocelli’s account of the civil trial that finally convicted Simpson, Triumph of Justice. I’ve had If I Did It sitting on my Kindle for a while, but something about the whole concept felt and still feels tawdry, as if there’s a grubbiness just attached to its existence.

Needless to say, If I Did It reads like absolute crap. Simpson comes across as a delusional fantasist – the perfect husband in the before and after, just trying to do his best for Nicole and their family. The murder chapter depicts a different man altogether, a furious, disturbed (and conveniently amnesiac) Simpson who immediately vanishes in the next chapter, because after all – nudge nudge, wink wink – this is just theory, not a confession. Ugh.

Perhaps the strangest thing is that there’s a distinctly Gone Girl vibe about If I Did It. Were it a psychological thriller, readers would be waiting for the switch to Nicole’s POV, wherein Simpson’s lies would come to the fore, and the whole affair would be cast in a different light. Sadly, the book is not fiction. It’s a pathetic, futile attempt for a violent, awful man to yet again excuse his actions and display no remorse. I’m delighted that the Goldman family were able to procure the rights and use it against Simpson, and the surrounding chapters by the family, writer and legal aide made for a far more interesting read than the book itself.

One final, unsettling thought is that, of all the above-mentioned books, Nicole is the most present in this one. The accounts Simpson presents may have no bearing whatsoever in reality, but she’s at least cast a real person, with feelings and wants and desires – something most of the trial books failed to capture. I don’t feel that I learned anything at all about the real Nicole here, but there’s at least a sense of her, which doesn’t exist in the books that treat her as just another victim. And that really is criminal.

[Read from 15-19 November 2016]

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