If you’re looking for a quick summer read that will make you laugh, cry and ask yourself if someone got hold of your diary, then look no further than the memoir “Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered,” written by podcast royalty Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark.
Kilgariff and Hardstark have hosted the true crime comedy podcast “My Favorite Murder” since 2016 and have built up quite a cult-following (pun intended), with over 19 million downloads worldwide from fans who call themselves “muderinos.” The podcast features true crime stories from listeners, along with retellings of famous cases, such as the Golden State Killer, with a splash of women’s empowerment, cursing and plenty of inside jokes.
The ladies behind “My Favorite Murder” have been very loyal to their fanbase since the launch of their podcast and have enjoyed touring around different cities all over the world, meeting individuals from all walks of life that share a love of all things true crime. It was only a matter of time before the podcast duo released a book, and in May 2019, they did just that.
“Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered,” a phrase borrowed from the podcast’s sign-off, is a raw and authentic look at the lives of Kilgariff and Hardstark, and how the two became the voices behind one of the most successful podcasts of all time. The book is broken down into eight chapters covering various topics based on catchphrases from the podcast, like “F*ck Politeness,” “You’re In a Cult, Call Your Dad” and “Stay Out Of The Forest.”
Kilgariff talks about her upbringing during the 1970s in Petaluma, California; she tells stories about her beloved mother and the lessons she taught, like not taking s— from anyone and creating a life you want to live. In the chapter, “Send ‘Em Back,” Kilgariff mixes in personal anecdotes — similar to the ones that viewers send in to the podcast every week — with humorous musings of being a latchkey kid, a combination that results in a method of storytelling to which even millennials can relate. Through these stories, readers catch a glimpse of the circumstances that led to many of the crucial life events that Kilgariff focuses on later in the book, while still feeling nostalgic about their own childhoods.
Hardstark, who is 10 years younger than Kilgariff, also shares childhood stories with readers, but they aren’t as warm and fuzzy as her partner’s. Hardstark divulges her lifelong love of reading that began when she was just a misfit kid living in “waspy” Orange County. Unlike Kilgariff, Hardstark experienced being a child of divorced parents, and she expresses how much of an effect it had on her and the different ways she coped, such as sitting in her cozy book nook under the stairs.
Hardstark explains how the divorce affected both of her parents and recounts the interesting events that ensued with her mother’s dating life. In some of the most relatable parts of the book, Hardstark details camping adventures with her father and siblings in the summers of her youth. She chronicles the long car rides with her older brother and sister, and the chaos of pitching a tent and entertaining themselves before smartphones (or even Gameboys) ever existed.
Both Kilgariff and Hardstark have a great number of tales about their awkward teen and preteen years. The duo reflected on their relationships with food in the past, as they had dealt with eating disorders in their formative years and adulthood.
Both women had also struggled with substance abuse and did not hold back on the details regarding that time. Kilgariff discusses her drinking problem that began at the age of 15, and how she hit rock bottom when she began to have seizures that she believed were induced by her drinking. Hardstark also gets real with readers about her addiction to meth that began at age 13 and her stint in rehab in a hilarious and heartbreaking section near the beginning of the book.
Many fans and readers will appreciate and connect to the various discussions throughout the book on mental health and self-care. The podcasters have grappled with anxiety and depression at various times in their lives and explain how they have been able to work through these trying times.
Hardstark recalls how finding and reading Ray Bradbury novels helped her get clean, and how they served as an escape from her anxiety during her high school years. Kilgariff stresses the importance of self-care and gives fans a list of ways to practice loving themselves, like adopting a pet or talking to older relatives and family figures. The two agree that therapy has had a large impact on their lives in terms of working towards becoming the best versions of themselves. They advocate that everyone who can see a therapist or mental health counselor should do so.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a project from Kilgariff and Hardstark without some true crime, and they certainly do not disappoint in that department. The women retold stories of growing up and discovering the world of true crime through shows and books, like “Unsolved Mysteries” and “The Stranger Beside Me.” The duo also shares the cold cases and crimes that have stuck with them over the years, and the meaningful lessons that have come along in each one.
Readers will enjoy hearing both Kilgariff and Hardstark recall meeting each other and creating a friendship built on an equally-shared passion, where they could finally discuss true crime without fear of judgment for their interests. “Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered” truly offers something for every reader and is highly relatable no matter what your background. The book is currently on The New York Times’ best-seller list and can be found on Amazon and in bookstores across the country.