Accomplished novelist O'Brien (A Way of Life, Like Any Other, 1978; The Silver Spooner, 1981) switched to true-crime nonfiction in 1985 with the compelling Two of a Kind, The Hillside Stranglers. Here, he delivers another engrossing and horrifying true-crimer, the story of a father who killed two of his sons and of the community that considered him a hero. Little Egypt is southern Illinois, the rural, violence-plagued group of counties that got their nickname 150 years ago when northern settlers used the Biblical allusion of ""going down to Egypt to buy corn"" when they headed south for seed. Dr. Dale Cavaness was a local boy who made good, going off to medical school and returning home to practice, never sending bills to those too poor to pay. His patients adored him, but his reputation was not based entirely on humanitarian acts: his uncontrolled drinking, violent outbursts, threats, wife-and child-abuse, vicious and dangerous practical jokes, and cruel seductions were all widely known but only seemed to enhance his status. Almost no one sympathized with his victims. Cavaness flouted the law for years and was suspected of (but not charged with) the murder of one of his grown sons in 1977. His luck ran out in December 1984, when he killed another son in order to collect the insurance and made the mistake of doing so near St. Louis--away from the protection of local authorities. After arrest, trial, and conviction, Cavaness hanged himself in his cell on Death Row. A terrifying stoW of family violence and the community that honored the perpetrator.