What is Death in the West?
Glad you asked. Death in the West is a history and true-crime podcast dedicated to the American West’s strange crimes and historically resonant intrigues. Our debut season examines the murder of union organizer Frank Little in Butte, Montana, during the summer of 1917.
What can I expect from Season One?
Over 10 episodes, we’ll spin a tale of assassination, idealism, and long-forgotten national crisis. The cast of characters includes revolutionaries, shady detectives, corporate overlords, and corrupt cops. The setting: the wildest mining city in the West. While the story of Little’s murder is rooted squarely in the turmoil of the early 1900s, its echoes still rattle in 2019, as the nation once again confronts rising nationalism, record wealth disparity and a fracturing political system.
Each episode will include direct narration, field recordings, interviews and archival audio. While the show opens with the salacious details of Frank Little’s unsolved murder and reviews the most likely suspects and theories, we quickly broaden our focus beyond the whodunit angle. And while Butte, Montana, is our primary setting, this is a national story, reaching into the Arizona desert, the Oklahoma oil fields, and the highest echelons of Wall Street.
What are some of the wider implications of the story?
We’ll examine how Little’s murder set the stage for the federal breakup of his union, the radical Industrial Workers of the World, and forever altered the nature of labor in America. We’ll chart the rise and fall of Butte as an archetypal blue collar town: used, abused and eventually abandoned by one of the world’s most powerful corporations as the price of copper rose and fell. We’ll document the nation’s plunge into WWI, and how tumult of the early 1900s seems eerily relevant to life in 2019.
Along the way, we’ll explore forgotten radical and social history, the role of women in the West, ethnic diversity (and tension), and the displacement of indigenous people.
Who are some of the characters?
From Little himself to a hook-handed street enforcer to an ingenious robber baron/bon vivant who single handedly crashed the US economy, the season will teem with fascinating people.
Death in the West won’t merely examine the past. We’ll transport listeners to modern day Butte, a proud and resilient community still grappling with the social, economic and environmental fallout wrought by its industrial forefathers. We’ll also look at the potential resurgence of the IWW, including the union’s ongoing efforts to organize fast food workers in Portland, Oregon.
Who is behind this podcast?
Everybody on our four-person production team are Montana natives and most of us still live in the state. We are also two sets of siblings and each of us has deep family ties to Butte. For a full accounting of who we are, check out our about us page. For now, here are the Cliff’s Notes: Chad Dundas is a novelist, journalist and podcaster. Zach Dundas is a longform nonfiction writer and magazine editor. Erika Fredrickson is a journalist and editor. Leif Fredrickson is a historian and professor.
Does Death in the West coincide with my interests?
We hope so! Our show straddles the divide between history and true crime. If you love podcasts like Crimetown, S-Town and In the Dark, we feel confident you’ll dig DITW, too. Our wide-angle view of history should also appeal to readers of pop history books like Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City and David Grann’s The Lost City of Z. While our inspiration comes largely from the North American west, we believe our stories will appeal to national and international audiences.
The world has long been fascinated with the “Wild West”; its stories of indigenous people, the iconic cowboy, the explorers, the region’s rebels and legendary independent spirit. Death in the West will satiate listeners with the characters they crave, while offering unexpected twists and smashing stereotypes to reveal the real stories that shaped half a continent. It will provoke listeners to dive deeper and think bigger.
When will it start?
Death in the West’s first season is set to debut early in 2020.