by Richard Levine ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 29, 1982
A chilling, fascinating reconstruction of the 1975 murder of Jim and Naomi Olive by their 16-year-old daughter Marlene and her boyfriend Chuck Riley: ""an event that at first seemed impossible and became . . . almost inevitable, not so much a question of whether as when."" Both kids were outsiders. Chuck's extreme obesity had made him a social outcast, until he started dealing drugs. Marlene (an adopted child) had grown up in Ecuador as the overprotected daughter of a hardworking but emotionally reserved father and a schizoid, alcoholic mother. Uprooted to Terra Linda, CA, in early adolescence, she was totally unprepared for the lifestyle of a Marin County teenager in the '7Os: ""the thin edge of California's youth culture""--kids who had arrived too late for the social ferment of the '60s. They had inherited that elm's ""props and preoccupations"" (rock music, drugs, sex, the occult), says Levine, ""but not the time-bound urgency that had provided their older brothers and sisters with some sense of direction."" At Terra Linda High, drugs were sold and traded on the school's front lawn, and everyone ""seemed to be continually fighting a losing battle with boredom."" It was on the front lawn that Marlene met Chuck, and soon fell more heavily into the drug scene (she'd already become something of a ""downer freak"" from prescription medication): with uppers and downers ""she learned to tune her body like a twelve-string guitar."" And Marlene got more and more weird--her new self-image was ""Lady Stardust,"" a ""glitter chick"" decked out in flashy clothes she'd begun to shoplift. She retreated into a world of fantasy and her own poetry; and then came the occult. Chuck, ""a follower perpetually searching for someone to lead him,"" was (almost literally) entranced; she carved her initials into his shoulder. Marlene's home-life degenerated into daily fights--first, with her mother; later, as her delinquency became more public, with both parents. She talked about killing them. Her peers didn't take her seriously (didn't everyone have that fantasy?), but she bugged Chuck about it continually. Finally, one summer morning, it was done: Naomi bludgeoned brutally with a hammer, Jim shot four times, both bodies burned in an old concrete cistern (""Barbecue Murders,"" shouted the media). Chuck at first confessed to both killings (""We had no choice. They wouldn't let me see her""), then recanted as to Naomi's. Old enough to be tried as an adult, he was convicted on both counts and faced the gas chamber until his sentence was reduced to life. The kicker: Marlene, convicted as a juvenile, is already back out. A first-class study of a set of American dreams gone wrong.
Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1982
Page Count: -
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!