An urgent, highly readable work of crime swiftly committed and justice long delayed.

THE DEVIL'S HARVEST

A RUTHLESS KILLER, A TERRORIZED COMMUNITY, AND THE SEARCH FOR JUSTICE IN CALIFORNIA'S CENTRAL VALLEY

Most contract killers view their acts as a job. BuzzFeed News West Coast investigations editor Garrison portrays one who took pleasure from murder.

Jose Manuel Martinez killed nearly 40 people in a 30-year period, sometimes for pay, sometimes simply because, in one case, someone parked in his driveway. He was finally convicted in three different states, but it took the police more than three decades to catch up to him even though they suspected him. There were a couple of reasons for the lag; Martinez claimed it was because he was “so damn good,” but Garrison has a different take: Of the Golden State Killer, who killed mostly white women, some 2,800 stories were written, whereas in the case of Martinez, “there were fewer than fifty.” The author ventures that Martinez, whose victims were mostly Mexican Americans and immigrants presumed to live in crime-ridden places with no advocates in law enforcement, “had found an ideal place to ply his trade” in California’s impoverished Central Valley. Garrison constructs a horrifying portrait of a man who began to kill when a relative was raped and murdered, found he was good at it, and made it a profession alongside drug-dealing and other crimes. The police caught up with him time and time again but could never make the charges stick beyond short sentences—as when he killed “a rat” and failed a lie-detector test on the matter but soon walked away because polygraphs aren’t admissible evidence in California courts. Garrison’s story involves a lot of personal back and forth with the now-imprisoned Martinez, who called her during his Florida trial to ask, “What is a sociopath?” “When I told him it referred to someone who had no conscience and lived outside the rules of society,” she writes, “he responded, ‘Huh,’ as if he wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.”

An urgent, highly readable work of crime swiftly committed and justice long delayed.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45568-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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