Neil Strauss Masters The Podcast Game

By Adam Baidawi
16 April 2019
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How one writer pivoted from the page to the microphone – and explored heartbreak along the way

Neil Strauss knows his way around a narrative.

He learned those ropes (and built an astonishing body of work) by profiling musicians for Rolling Stone and penning a batch of brilliant musical biographies.

Then, with The Game – a book that acted as both social commentary and gonzo-journalism – the narrative and spotlight shifted to Strauss himself, throwing him into a sometimes-public metamorphosis. He made a new name for himself, as a writer uniquely competent at infiltrating underground communities, and extracting stories that were read globally.

Now back on the other side of the coin – in this case microphone – Strauss has taken his keen storytelling skills to podcasts. To Live & Die in LA chronicles the life and tragic disappearance of 25-year-old aspiring actress, Adea Shabani. Strauss’ 12-part podcast, which concludes this month, features no shortage of twists and revelations, bringing light to a case that was being kept alive by Adea’s distraught family and Jayden Brandt, their private investigator.

“Through Jayden, the family asked me to help keep the case in the news and the public eye as a journalist,” says Strauss. “As I started talking and interviewing everybody, a suspect emerged. And since he was running around free, not even arrested or brought in for questioning, it fell onto Jayden and I to find out from him what happened. That’s where it started.” 

Strauss says that he hopes, above all else, that Shabani is remembered and honoured.

“It’s important that victims aren’t forgotten. There are ways in which the public can help with information so justice can be served.”

Sure, delving into the art form of audio storytelling brought Strauss a new medium to explore. But the pivot into unknown territory – crime – brought with it unexpected emotional consequences.

“When you’re working on a case in real time from the inside, you start to see how inaccurate and wrong the media coverage is,” says Strauss. “Emotionally, I’ve never experienced anything this tragic and hard in my life. I can’t even begin to explain it, or to imagine the magnitude of pain that those who know and love Adea have felt, and continue to feel. I don’t think I’ll ever really be the same again.”

'To Live & Die in LA' is streaming now on all podcast platforms