Author and private investigator Catherine “Cat” Townsend — known for her podcast “Hell and Gone” — will speak at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre, 615 Champion Way. The lecture is free and open to the public, with doors opening at 5 p.m.
“I chose Catherine Townsend for the Distinguished Lecture Series because I was absolutely taken by her podcast, ‘Hell and Gone,’” said Elizabeth Q. Wright, MTSU Criminal Justice Administration associate professor, who organized the event. “Her presentation style, production quality, and insights always left me wanting more.”
Townsend’s writing career launched as a staff writer for New York magazine. She then moved to London to create The Independent’s popular “Sleeping Around” dating column. While in Britain, she interviewed everyone from the prime minster to a Playboy bunny and wrote bestselling books “Sleeping Around” and “Breaking the Rules: Confessions of a Bad Girl.”
Her work has appeared in publications such as Elle, GQ, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post. Several articles have been optioned for film and television and she’s appeared on national media programs including the “Tamron Hall Show,” “Dr. Phil,” “Dr. Oz” and “Dateline.”
But her greatest passion has always been solving mysteries. So in 2010, she channeled her inner Nancy Drew and signed up for detective school, where she was immediately thrown into the field with former FBI agents, police officers and other private investigators. Over the next three years, Townsend completed well more than 6,000 hours required to become a licensed private investigator in California.
Her search for answers to a cold case in the small town where her father and sister lived led her on a path to her first podcast, “Hell and Gone,” which launched in October 2017. The podcast was a real-time pursuit of justice in the case of 22-year-old college student Rebekah Gould, who was found murdered in 2004. Eventually Townsend’s persistence with the podcast helped in the capture and conviction of the killer.
She also hosts the podcast, “Red Collar,” where she deep dives into the lives of psychotic killers “who are often hiding in plain sight,” according to the description on her podcast.
In the six years since she started “Hell and Gone,” Townsend’s podcasts have been downloaded 40 million times. She is also on the cusp of releasing a true crime memoir, “How to Survive a Murder Investigation,” set to publish in 2024.
“She has an incredible presence and is both remarkably clever and relatable all at the same time,” Wright said. “Anyone who is a true crime enthusiast and hasn’t yet listened to ‘Hell and Gone’ or ‘Red Collar’ will become fast fans after they come to our event.”
The Distinguished Lecture Series is sponsored by the MTSU Distinguished Lecture Fund, the Department of Criminal Justice Administration, the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, and the School of Journalism and Strategic Media.
— Nancy DeGennaro (Nancy.DeGennaro@mtsu.edu)