Know Your Enemy: The Conservative and the Convict, with Sarah Weinman

Know Your Enemy: The Conservative and the Convict, with Sarah Weinman

The story of how William F. Buckley Jr. defied expectations and showed mercy to a death-row prisoner.

William F. Buckley Jr. and Edgar Smith (right) in 1971 (Bettmann/Getty Images)

Know Your Enemy is a podcast about the American right co-hosted by Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell. Read more about it here. You can subscribe to, rate, and review the show on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, and receive bonus content by supporting the podcast on Patreon.

Sarah Weinman’s new book—Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free—is both a gripping true-crime story and, perhaps, the tale of an ill-fated love triangle. It also is a story about how William F. Buckley Jr. defied expectations and showed mercy to a death-row prisoner, Edgar Smith, after finding out that he supposedly read the National Review. In this episode, Weinman joins Matt and Sam to talk about this fascinating, half-forgotten episode from a key period in Buckley’s life and career. Topics include how Smith and Buckley met; what Buckley did for Smith; the role played by Smith’s editor at Knopf, Sophie Wilkins, in what happened; and the sad ending toward which it all careened.

Sources and further reading:

Sarah Weinman, Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free, Ecco Press

Sam Adler-Bell, The Conservative and the Murderer, The New Republic

Christopher Buckley, Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir, Twelve Books

Garry Wills, Daredevil, The Atlantic

Sophie Wilkins, trans., The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil, Picador

Alexander Chee, Mr. and Mrs. B, Apology 

 

…and don’t forget you can subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon to listen to all of our bonus episodes!


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