Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Long Dance

By David Nemeth
Jesse McBane and Patricia Mann, circa 1971
As I drove east toward Durham, the North Carolina Piedmont was hidden by walls of trees and occasional billboards for family restaurants. I tired of the monotony and jumped off Interstate 85 onto US Route 70 as I hoped to see the real Carolina. And not so much, everything seemed familiar, the strip malls, the box stores, and those stubborn little stores still fighting for a dollar.

In Durham, my plan was to catch up with Eryk Pruitt and eat some barbecue. Pruitt is a man of many titles: writer, filmmaker, gastronome, and podcaster. His latest book, What We Reckon, is "filled with love, drugs, jealousy, more drugs, rage, and then more drugs." Hell, it was one of the best books of 2017 as if you couldn't already tell. Pruitt's better half, Lana, met me at the front door and, contrary to popular rumor she does not appear to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. She walked me through their backyard to Pruitt's writing shed, which she jokingly called his kill room. (It was a joke, wasn't it?) After a brief tour of Pruitt's garden destroyed by the recent deep freeze, we headed out for some barbecue. He gave me the choice a barbecue restaurant with a chef or a joint attached to a gas station. I chose the latter.

As we headed to Johnson Family Barbecue, the conversation drifted to Pruitt's latest project, The Long Dance podcast, an investigation into the 1971 unsolved murders of Patricia Mann and Jesse McBane in Durham. I had the chance to listen to the first episode which told the stories of Mann, 20, and her boyfriend McBane, 19, who both disappeared on February 12, 1971. You can hear the sadness in the family and friends as they remember these two young people.

Our drive had us in an upscale development and Pruitt came to a stop in a cul-de-sac.

"This is where they found McBane's abandoned car," said Pruitt.

He pointed off in the distance and said that it was a three-mile walk to where their bodies were found tied to a tree two weeks later.


After eating some incredible barbecue, we got in Pruitt's car to grab a cup of coffee further in Durham. A few miles down the road we passed a high school that Pruitt pointed out used to be the hospital and nursing school where Mann studied. The Mann-McBane murders haunt Pruitt.

"When I go to sleep, I think about this case," said Pruitt. "And when I wake up, it's still with me. It's all I think about."

I listened to the first two episodes and I feel Pruitt's obsession. Pruitt, along with journalist Drew Adamak and sound engineer Piper Kessler, has produced a podcast that tells Mann and McBane's story compassionately. Not only do we root for The Long Dance team to catch the murderers, but you can tell that they genuinely cares for Mann, McBane, their families, and their friends. Listening to the podcast, Pruitt's prose tells the story gently but with a sense of urgency that unites the listener with the podcasters that the killers must be caught. They are currently putting the final touches to the last episodes and The Long Dance should be out in a few weeks.

1 comment:

Holly West said...

The Long Dance is impressive, isn't it? Eryk's passion for the project really comes through in the storytelling. And the production values are top notch. I can't wait until this podcast makes its way into the wider world.