SWIFT JUSTICE: Murder and Vengeance in a California Town by Harry Farrell
Kirkus Star

SWIFT JUSTICE: Murder and Vengeance in a California Town

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A historical true-crime chronicle of remarkable immediacy and force. Writing in a style that combines polish and punch, Farrell, a longtime reporter for California's San Jose Mercury, delves into events--a kidnapping and brutal murder and the subsequent lynching of the kidnappers--that rocked San Jose and the nation nearly 60 years ago. On the evening of November 9, 1933, Brooke Hart, scion of a wealthy San Jose family, stepped out of his father's department store, walked a half block to pick up his Studebaker roadster, and disappeared. Three hours later, a phone call informed the concerned Hart family that Brooke had been kidnapped: $40,000 ransom was demanded. The police were notified, and, almost at once, the FBI became involved in the case. During subsequent negotiations, the kidnappers seemed laughably incompetent: Brooke's car was found abandoned in the countryside beyond town and barely literate notes kept appearing. Eventually, one of the kidnappers was apprehended as he talked on and on by telephone with Brooke's father. The man implicated his confederate, and the pair--bumbling Harold Thurmond and spiffy, fast-talking Jack Holmes--were jailed. When Hart's body was discovered floating in San Francisco Bay, it became clear that the kidnappers had slain Brooke almost immediately after the snatch. San Jose exploded in fury, with enraged citizens gathering by the thousands outside the jail. Despite the efforts of police, who were hampered by official noncooperation (the governor refused to call out the National Guard), the mob broke in and hanged the pair across the street in a public park. Farrell's treatment of the lynch scene is a model of Zola-like scene-painting, and he caps his impressive research with shocking revelations--that former child-star Jackie Coogan was involved in events at the jail; that then-California Governor ""Sunny Jim"" Rolph praised the lynch mob. One of the most riveting, revealing, and intensely readable true crimers to appear in a long time.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's