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

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2021

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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