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Heavy-duty, heavy-handed horror: the ghastly 1973 murder of six members of the Alday family in rural southwest Georgia, and the stories of the four losers, three of them brothers, who did it. When Betty Isaacs walked out on her twelve kids, the youngest were packed off to foster-homes--divided up, Carl Isaacs recalls, ""like sticks of firewood."" He was ten then and from the time when, a few years later, his mother told him he couldn't come back and live with her (""Don't let's rock the boat""), he didn't care about anything. Foster-homes, reform schools, escapes--it all led at 19 to a Maryland prison where, lo and behold, there was his half-brother Wayne Coleman, 26, a shiftless and somewhat dim character with a violent streak. Wayne's prison sidekick was a surprise: a black convict named George Dungee, Wayne's homosexual lover (to Carl, the ""nigger fuck-boy""), doing time for non-support(!). The trio escaped, picked up 15-year-old Billy isaacs (himself a reform school runaway, but trying to go straight), and headed south. Aimless travel eventually brought them to a rural road near Donalsonville, Ga., where they tried to burglarize a house trailer belonging to Jerry and Mary Alday. Various Alday family members showed up unexpectedly, but Wayne had a solution--""Let's blow 'em away."" It was a challenge and, insane as it seems, Carl couldn't back down:he was the leader, and his status with his brothers was all he had. Five male Aldays murdered; Mary Alday gang-raped and murdered. Once it started, Carl made certain the woman was his ticket to the electric chair--he wanted it, anything but being raped again himself by the black studs in the general prison population. Carl, Wayne, and George all drew death sentences but, ten years later, still languish on Death Row amid legal appeals, while at least one Alday relative regrets not having accepted an offer of a lynching. Howard (American Saturday, Zebra) tries hard to elevate this senseless tragedy into something more than a simple horror story--where-did-they-go-wrong flashbacks to Carl's and Billy's childhoods, interspersed with scenes of the hard-working, God-fearing Aldays--but everything other than the gore here seems manufactured.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's