In The Butterfly Effect, Jon Ronson dissected how technology shaped porn, which in turn shaped the internet, sexuality and arguably, all of us, whether we’ve looked at porn online or not.
The Last Days of August is a much more low-key project, but none the less fascinating for that. It tells the story of the suicide of porn star August Ames, after she was subjected to a Twitter pile-on for posting about her unwillingness to work with male actors who also did gay porn.
Her husband believed there was a clear causal relationship between the two, but as Ronson researches her death he uncovers a more nuanced picture.
Many suggested this wasn’t a suicide at all, but Ronson states early on that this is not a murder mystery. If The Butterfly Effect was about what porn does to us, The Last Days of August sheds light on what the porn industry does to the people who work in it, and particularly to its young female stars.
Although there is no big reveal, Ronson is a great storyteller and he isn’t averse to using the techniques of the true crime podcast. There are a number of hooks and twists. Unsurprisingly in the porn industry, there are people who disappear, who don’t want to talk or give their real name, who lie or contradict themselves or make accusations they can’t sustain.
At the heart of it is what we learn about August, with contributions from her husband, friends and family. It is particularly poignant hearing clips of August telling her own story, taken from a podcast recorded shortly before she died.
This is a beautifully told story about how a series of events led to one woman’s tragic death. It is a thoughtful and sensitive portrait of the porn world, but it also shows how events can escalate in any tight-knit community.
The Last Days of August is available from Audible and on podcast feeds including iTunes.
Enjoyed this? Jon Ronson gives a fascinating insight into his work and the emotional toll of working on Last Days of August on Russell Brand’s Under the Skin podcast