PAWN OF EVIL by Paul I. Wellman


Email this review


A companion volume to the author's A Dynasty of Western Outlaws, this book concentrates on villains of the area between the Ohio and the Mississippi valleys. From Revolutionary days, the soil there was mixed with blood. The title could easily be the epitaph of Micijah and Wiley Harpe, two brothers whose compulsive killings and way of life make them seem like violent members of the Jukes tribe. With a shared harem of three women, they ranged the forests, killing as often for pleasure as for profit. John A. Murrell, whose ability to organize and away his contemporaries should have made him at least a Senator, seems to have been a model for Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry. Totally amoral, he used church pulpits for lecterns and, when captured by a dedicated spy, was about to pull off a slave revolt in which his lieutenants would ransack the Southern cities during the confusion. The others reported on do not reach the peaks of depravity documented for the Harpes and Murrell. However, all the outlaws appear to have shared a talent for escape, for they were seldom successfully jailed. Put together from contemporary diaries, journals and letters, the author has made of his research a popular chronology of crime with an evaluated bibliography and an index.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 1964
Publisher: Doubleday