An intriguing but dry homicide account.
A true-crime book focuses on the murder of a small-town physician’s wife.
Call it Arkansas noir. In September 1974, Fern Rodgers, the estranged wife of a small-town, septuagenarian doctor, was found shot to death in her Searcy, Arkansas, home. After a few weeks, law enforcement cracked the case, arresting an unlikely trio of suspects—the physician, Porter Rodgers; his 21-year-old mistress, Peggy Hale; and Berry Kimbrell, a friend of Hale’s whom the doctor agreed to pay $6,000 for killing Fern. Nall and Allen capably deliver this tale of greed, sex, and betrayal. The book’s most compelling character is Porter, who, after building a successful practice in Searcy, bought the local hospital and renamed it for himself. But “there were rumors around town that Doc Rodgers had an eye for the ladies,” and his marriage to Fern crumbled amid mounting debts and his gambling habit. Often, Porter “would leave his office at 5:00 p.m., would fly from Little Rock to Las Vegas, and then would be back at work by 9:00 a.m. the following morning,” police reported. By 1974, he had moved into a Searcy motel and become infatuated with Hale, whom he met when she was working as a waitress and hired as his secretary. “The only reason I can explain Fern’s killing was because I was hungry for Peggy Hale,” he told police in his confession. The authors deftly cover the entire arc of the case through the trial of Porter, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1975, quoting extensively from police reports and trial transcripts. But Nall and Allen fail to supplement the documentary record with vivid details from secondary interviews, missing opportunities to provide context, color, and nuance that might have helped their book stand out in the true-crime crowd. Both the prosecution and defense in Porter’s trial, for example, referred to “social position” being a motivation for Hale, but the authors never explore class or social structures in Searcy or portray the physician’s paramour as anything more than a low-rent femme fatale. Nall and Allen present the story in such a bland, one-dimensional way that it may only appeal to the most fanatical of true-crime aficionados.An intriguing but dry homicide account.
Pub Date: N/A
Page Count: 489
Review Posted Online: March 14, 2021
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.
Awards & Accolades
The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.
Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.
Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020
Page Count: 272
Publisher: Celadon Books
Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020
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by Jimmy Buffett ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 1, 1998
Lg. Prt. 0-375-70288-1 This first nonfiction outing from singer/songwriter Buffett (Where Is Joe Merchant?, 1992, etc.) is more food for his Parrothead fans, but there is some fine writing along with the self-revelation. Half autobiography and half travelogue, this volume recounts a trip by Buffett and his family to the Caribbean over one Christmas holiday to celebrate the writer’s 50th birthday. Buffett is a licensed pilot, and his personal weakness is for seaplanes, so it’s primarily in this sort of craft that the family’s journey takes place. While giving beautiful descriptions of the locales to which he travels (including a very attractive portrait of Key West, from which he sets out), Buffett intersperses recollections of his first, short-lived marriage, his experiences in college and avoiding the Vietnam draft, and his brief employment at Billboard magazine’s Nashville bureau before becoming a professional musician. In the meantime, he carries his reader seamlessly through the Cayman Island, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Amazon basin, and Trinidad and Tobago. Buffett shows that he is a keen observer of Latin American culture and also that he can “pass” in these surroundings when he needs to. It’s perhaps on this latter point that this book finds its principal weakness. Buffett tends toward preachiness in addressing his mostly landlubber readers, as when he decries the seeming American inability to learn a second language while most Caribbeans can speak English; elsewhere he attacks “ugly Americans out there making it harder for us more-connected-to-the-local-culture types.” On the other hand, he seems right on the money when he observes that the drug war of the 1980s did little to stop trafficking in the area and that turning wetlands into helicopter pads for drug agents isn’t going to offer any additional help. Both Parrotheads and those with a taste for the Caribbean find something for their palates here. (Author tour)
Pub Date: July 1, 1998
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998
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