Hilary F. Campbell, Murder Book & Killer Cartoons


New Yorker cartoonist Hilary Fitgerald Campbell is far too young to have a full-blown biography,
so this Press Democrat profile will suffice.

When Campbell was a kid, a sketch of Charles Schulz’s Snoopy hung in the hallway of her Sonoma home, a gift from Schulz to her mother. Campbell’s grandfather, the late Daniel Vaughan, was Schulz’s golfing buddy.

“I wanted to draw Snoopy just like him (Charles Schulz),” Campbell said. “My mom had me in every art class she could find growing up. My mom put me in cartoon classes. I didn’t know I wanted to be a cartoonist, but if you look at it when I was 5, it was in the stars.”

The stars also foretold being a New Yorker cartoonist,
though she had to orbit that special planet for a while before landing.

I was so nervous. I walked in and handed my cartoons to Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor. I was shaking in my boots. He said, ‘Don’t come back until you’ve done a thousand of these.’”

Campbell didn’t listen. She was back the next week with another batch to show him. Undeterred, she submitted cartoons every week for a full year. But she didn’t break through until Mankoff retired in 2017, making way for Emma Allen, his replacement.

© Condé Nast

Unfortunately The New Yorker is not steady work, yet.

Campbell continues to pitch her work to the New Yorker weekly, with each cartoon earning the standard $700.

“As cartoonists, you have major droughts,” she said. “I’ll go months without selling a cartoon to the New Yorker. It’s not an easy game to play.”

So in her freelance free time Hilary has, among other things, written
Murder Book, A Graphic Memior of a True Crime Obsession.

© Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell

The unconventional memoir teases out the dark-humor aspects of murder, from our fascination with true crime TV, while also empathizing with murder victims.

“It’s walking a fine line, laughing at murder, but it’s in no way laughing at victims,” Campbell said. “It’s laughing at the genre. … True crime is like horrible gossip. It’s the feeling you get when you can’t walk away from a car crash. You want to see and know more.”

Hilary talks to Peg Melnik about her new book and her career.