The Last Days of August: what led to August Ames death?

The Last Days of August audiobook review

What is this about?: August Ames was a famous porn star who by all appearances committed suicide in a park a day after she had tweeted something others in the industry thought homophobic. Her husband, Kevin, emphasised that in the aftermath of her death, insisting that Twitter killed his wife. Jon Ronson had been doing another story/podcast on the porn industry when Ames killed herself, and after that he decided to investigate what happened to her

What else is this about?: This isn’t a straight up investigation into Ames death, but instead delves into how women are treated in the industry and what brings them to it in the first place. I want to stress that Ronson doesn’t generalise or want to make statements about the industry and women at large in it. His investigations and conclusions are about specific instances and women and he takes great care to respect everyone in the industry.

Blurb

In December 2017 the famous porn star August Ames committed suicide in a park in the Conejo Valley. It happened a day after she’d been the victim of a pile-on, via Twitter, by fellow porn professionals – punishment for her tweeting something deemed homophobic.

A month later, August’s husband, Kevin, connected with Jon Ronson to tell the story of how Twitter bullying killed his wife. What neither Kevin nor Ronson realized was that Ronson would soon hear rumors and secrets hinting at a very different story – something mysterious and unexpected and terrible.

In The Last Days of August, Ronson unravels the never-before-told story of what caused this beloved 23-year-old actress’ untimely death.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect of The Last Days of August when I first started listening to it. A true crime story, I think? But it was more a character-driven investigation into August, her experience of the porn industry and Kevin, her husband.

Jon Ronson is a Welsh journalist and documentary filmmaker and podcaster who was doing an investigation into the porn industry when August Ames, a popular porn star in the industry committed suicide. One of Ronson’s previous shows is The Butterfly Effect,  which explored the porn industry so when it came out that August had been cyber-bullied on Twitter for a tweet about a scene she was going to do and committed suicide as a result, it made sense that he was interested in it. The tweet was considered homophobic and as you can imagine, Twitter was not understanding.

This isn’t an easy listen by any means. August had done podcasts previously, and Ronson samples relevant bits of that in setting the scene for this show. August is wonderfully vivacious, and brutally honest in the Holly Randall Podcast about her past,  her mental health issues, the abuse she suffered as a child and the effects on her relationship with her family after. Which makes it all the powerful and sad to listen as Ronson uncovers more and more about her life.

The investigation begins with Ronson interviewing her husband, Kevin and learning about the aftermath of the tweet that began the cyberbullying. Kevin is clear that it was the cyberbullying that caused August to commit suicide, and starts a quest to turn a lens on the industry, and the actresses and actors who need help and aren’t getting it to honour August. In his hands August becomes a poster child for cyberbullying, and Kevin’s determination to make a change to the industry.

Except, as Ronson and his producer continue to investigate and begin to uncover that Kevin has been lying about certain aspects of the night August died, and slowly he becomes the subject of this podcast. Ronson doesn’t pretend that he is going to find the answers to August’s suicide, but he does pose pertinent questions to Kevin, and about Kevin. And his investigations and interviews with several other people in the industry and her brother James, reveal insights into Kevin that shape how you will think about his marriage to August.

If I had to describe this as an audiobook, I would say it’s a character-driven story that reveals that the truth behind August’s death might not be what anyone thinks at all.

The Last Days of August will still be with you long after you are finished listening to it.

4 Comments

  • I used to read a ton of true crime books but I don’t have time for all the stuff I used to read. It sounds like you had an interesting time with the book (I didn’t want to say ‘enjoyed’, as that sounds insensitive for a true crime book).

    • Verushka says:

      I’ve just recently got into true crime but I am finding audios like this are so much more fascinating than reading sometimes. Or podcasts for that matter. And I hear you — I am always so careful when describing a true crime novel bc I don’t want to sound like I am enjoying it too much and it’s a true crime novel.

  • This sounds like an interesting book. I’m always drawn to stories that explore social media and its possible culpability when something tragic happens as a result of someone’s actions on a platform Facebook or twitter. Sounds like it might just be a red herring in this case since Kevin obviously has a case of “Liar, Liar. Pants on Fire”, but still very interesting to me. Great review!

    • Verushka says:

      It was very interesting and eye-opening, and a it made me sad for August. The social media angle was really well done, and investigated really well, and the podcast narrator did brilliantly being objective, but asking the big questions too. And by the end, yeah. I was left wondering what exactly when on between Kevin and August.

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