cover image Once Upon a Time: A True Story of Memory, Murder, and the Law

Once Upon a Time: A True Story of Memory, Murder, and the Law

Harry N. MacLean. HarperCollins Publishers, $22.5 (485pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016543-7

This is a superb analysis of a case already widely publicized via 60 Minutes , a TV docudrama and Eileen Franklin's book, Sins of the Father , written with William Wright: a murder committed in 1969 brought a conviction in 1990 because of testimony stemming from a previously repressed memory. Susan Nason, 8, was molested and killed near San Francisco and 20 years later Eileen Franklin, who had been her best friend, accused her own father, George, of the crime. No forensic evidence substantiated her allegation, but as details of George's abuse of his five children--verbal, physical and sexual--emerged, the possibility grew that he could have committed murder. The case turned on the credibility of Eileen, who kept altering her story. Also looming large were the questions of accurate and false traumatic memories and of repression versus disassociation, which MacLean ( In Broad Daylight ) elucidates. In an epilogue, he presents his conclusion that Eileen was not a trustworthy witness--and his reasoning is highly credible. Photos not seen by PW . (July)