A VIOLENT ACT by Alec Wilkinson


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 Superb chronicle of a homicidal madman who terrorized a small midwestern town. Wilkinson (The Riverkeeper, 1991, etc.) uses spare narration, underpinned by potent detail, to vivify a chilling story. When the scruffy figure in a long blue coat strode in to James Hall's grocery store on September 22, l986, Hall might have figured the man was just another can-picker. A lone customer stared at the silver paint on Mike Wayne Jackson's long beard as Jackson raised a shotgun from under his coat and blasted Hall-- the second man he had murdered that hour. Fifteen minutes earlier, Jackson's probation officer had arrived at the killer's new residence--an abandoned Indianapolis house without electricity or water where Jackson slept on a pile of straw. Jackson had gunned the P.O. three times, pausing to hear him beg for his life. Eight hours, four car-hijackings, and one murder (that of Hall) later, Jackson was the most wanted criminal in America. His life had been spent largely in prisons and state hospitals; his I.Q. was normal; the same woman had married him twice although he beat her, put LSD in her food, and was constantly unfaithful. Shortly after the murders, Jackson was spotted in Wright City, Indiana, a farming community of 1200--and panic ensued. Schools closed, farmers toted rifles on their tractors, and families practiced house-evacuation drills. The FBI set roadblocks and searched with helicopters and even with a special heat-detecting plane--to no avail. But someone at last remembered an expert tracker, J.R. Buchanan of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Flown in, Buchanan found the emaciated corpse of Jackson in a barn, eyes open, shotgun at his right side, a few soybean stalks and a milk jug of water at the other. Enigmatic to all, Jackson's paroxysm of random killing evoked a primal terror. Wilkinson's deceptively simple account of it is uncommonly thought-provoking and, using not one wasted word, exemplifies the writer's art.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41507-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992


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