EXECUTION EVE by William J. Buchanan


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 One of the strangest, most convoluted true-crime tales of the year, recounted with skill by Buchanan (Creative Writing/University of New Mexico), whose father figured prominently in the case. On February 23, 1943, three men counted down the hours to their electrocution in Kentucky State Penitentiary. Bob Anderson- -owner of a Louisville nightclub--was the first scheduled to be strapped into a wooden chair and jolted with 2300 volts of electricity; following him would be Bob Penney--Anderson's former employee--and Willie Baxter, the waiflike, painfully self-effacing groundskeeper of the Louisville Country Club. The three had been convicted of the murder of 27-year-old Marion Miley, a vivacious pro golfer who ranked #2 nationally and was killed during the robbery of a cash box at the country club, where she lived. But Penney, while awaiting execution, had converted to Catholicism with an ardor rarely encountered by priests--and, just prior to Christmas, he'd made the astounding announcement that Anderson was innocent. Then, reversing field, he'd declared he would say no more--and the Lexington court had announced that, because of his refusal to cooperate, it couldn't retry Anderson. The law at the time stated that in multiple executions, the order of execution should be in the order of conviction. But the shrewd warden of the prison, Patrick J. Buchanan, the author's father, convinced the governor to put Penney on the chair first: Face to face with God, the man might reveal the truth. At the 11th hour, however, the wily Buchanan told Penney that Anderson would be first to go: ``If Bob is innocent and [you don't try] to stop it,'' he proclaimed, ``his death will be on your soul.'' And so the white-faced Penney, who ended up being executed first, wrote a letter, entrusted to his priest, to be given to Buchanan only after his death.... Well done and satisfying. (Photographs--not seen). (First printing of 20,000; film rights sold to Multimedia Motion Pictures)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-88282-121-0
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: New Horizon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993