Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South

Brooks Blevins, Author
Brooks Blevins. Univ. of Illinois, $29.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-252-03695-8
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
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In 1929, deep in the Arkansas Ozarks, five men murdered a drifter, burned his body, and raped his teenage fiancée. Or did they? Historian Blevins (Hill People: A History of Arkansas Ozarkers and Their Image) attempts to simplify the complicated saga of Connie Franklin, a harmonica-playing hobo whose alleged violent death put five men on trial for murder until Franklin—or a clever imposter—reappeared eight months later. Franklin worked various odd jobs. Along the way, he fell for 16-year-old Tiller Ruminer, and the pair decided to marry. Months after the alleged murder and rape, Ruminer finally shared her story, and bone fragments thought to be Franklin's were found in a fire pit. The gruesome torture-murder put the tiny towns of St. James and Mountain View on the national map, with reporters pouring in to cover the trial. But days before the trial began, the defense produced a man claiming to be Connie Franklin, though the townspeople were divided as to whether he was the "real" Franklin. The question remains open, though the men were acquitted of murder. Blevins's knowledge of life in the pre-Depression Ozarks is impressive, but this overlong account of the convoluted and unresolved tale of Franklin's "death" is frustrating. (Apr.)
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