Lonesome Death of Billie Grayson: Table of Contents

Note: This book was available at Amazon.com for about a year but is now out of print. I expect to republish it soon, so stay tuned. 27 March 2017.

Annotated Table of Contents

1. “Dispatching Postmaster Rhine”: A mild man with a wife, six daughters, and a pharmacy is killed one midnight when he answers an emergency knock at the door and is greeted with a shotgun blast. Though his killer was known, why was he never apprehended? 

2. “Drawn Needle Work”: An old Bohemian woman, sentenced to life for killing her husband and unable to understand English, sits in prison knitting. Without speaking the language of her captors, how can she get anyone to listen to her? 

3. "The Anvil and the Rock": After thirty-five years of marriage, a farmer kills his wife in front of their three youngest children, aged eight to thirteen. He was a man caught between the rock of his wife's intransigence and the anvil of the law. Who initially picked up the murder weapon, the husband or the wife? Could the children have colluded in the crime in order to free themselves from the rock and anvil of parental restraint?  

4. “The Baby in the Blue Hotel”: Two women and a baby girl arrive by train, spend the night in a hotel, and the next morning the infant is dead. Did the baby’s young mother kill her or was it the older woman who claimed to be the child's grandmother? 

5. "Matt Fooks Kills Price Stoneking": Fooks, an English immigrant, kills his enemy Stoneking on the courthouse stairs at high noon as the District Court is descending the steps. When the story hits the newspapers, a distressed mother writes from Kansas about the murder of her daughter, who had married Fooks, and a series of dead wives is discovered, but is it the whole series?

6. “The Hoeing Down of Chief Dan Tohee”: It takes very little to kill your father-in-law--a hoe is enough to take a man’s life--but how does the killer escape the vengeance of his grandmother, who is the victim's mother and also the tribal chieftain? 

7. “The Lonesome Death of Billie Grayson”:  At the start of this long story, a choir singer is picked up on Route 66 and sings no more. The story is woven from three strands.  1. A twelve-year-old girl whose people are poor farmers fights back against  a defense attorney from Kentucky landed-gentry who attacks her character and credibility.  2. The killer’s estranged wife (a cousin of the defense attorney) first marries a hoodlum and then  a flashy bootlegger who kills  the hoodlum. Later still, the bootlegger Orval Chambless marries her teenage daughter. Chambless, in turn, is killed for his part in a hijacking that links to Jack Ruby and the mob.  3. The convicted slayer, a roughneck reared in a Kentucky orphanage, spends decades in prison maintaining an absurd fiction of innocence before he learns to sing for the parole board. A crucial event from his childhood helps explain why he killed Billie, why he could not admit it, and why, once he’s paroled and pardoned, he cannot go home again. 

8. “Doc Fenton and the Fatal Shot”: A country doctor gets rich, becomes feared and hated for his lethal needle, and goes on getting richer. This story was not included in the Tate publication, as I was leery of being sued by Doc's heirs, who might recognize him even under his fictitious name. I would like legal advice on this question before publishing it. 

9. “The Naming of Amon Johnson”: The first man from Lincoln County to be executed is convicted on the basis of a written confession, though he can neither read nor write. None of his friends will give him a good name. A black man, his only friend seems to be the white Sheriff. 

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