In 1929, in a remote county of the Arkansas Ozarks, the gruesome murder of harmonica-playing drifter Connie Franklin and the brutal rape of his teenaged fiancee captured the attention of a nation on the cusp of the Great Depression. National press from coast to coast ran stories of the sensational exploits of night-riding moonshiners, powerful "Barons of the Hills," and a world of feudal oppression in the isolation of the rugged Ozarks.Read more...
In 1929, in a remote county of the Arkansas Ozarks, the gruesome murder of harmonica-playing drifter Connie Franklin and the brutal rape of his teenaged fiancee captured the attention of a nation on the cusp of the Great Depression. National press from coast to coast ran stories of the sensational exploits of night-riding moonshiners, powerful "Barons of the Hills," and a world of feudal oppression in the isolation of the rugged Ozarks. The ensuing arrest of five local men for both crimes and the confusion and superstition surrounding the trial and conviction gave Stone County a dubious and short-lived notoriety.Closely examining how the story and its regional setting were interpreted by the media, Brooks Blevins recounts the gripping events of the murder investigation and trial, where a man claiming to be the murder victim--the "Ghost" of the Ozarks--appeared to testify. Local conditions in Stone County, which had no electricity and only one long-distance telephone line, frustrated the dozen or more reporters who found their way to the rural Ozarks, and the developments following the arrests often prompted reporters' caricatures of the region: accusations of imposture and insanity, revelations of hidden pasts and assumed names, and threats of widespread violence. Locating the past squarely within the major currents of American history, "Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South" paints a convincing backdrop to a story that, more than 80 years later, remains riddled with mystery."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-03-05
- Reviewer: Staff
In 1929, deep in the Arkansas Ozarks, five men murdered a drifter, burned his body, and raped his teenage fiancée. Or did they? Historian Blevins (Hill People: A History of Arkansas Ozarkers and Their Image) attempts to simplify the complicated saga of Connie Franklin, a harmonica-playing hobo whose alleged violent death put five men on trial for murder until Franklin—or a clever imposter—reappeared eight months later. Franklin worked various odd jobs. Along the way, he fell for 16-year-old Tiller Ruminer, and the pair decided to marry. Months after the alleged murder and rape, Ruminer finally shared her story, and bone fragments thought to be Franklin's were found in a fire pit. The gruesome torture-murder put the tiny towns of St. James and Mountain View on the national map, with reporters pouring in to cover the trial. But days before the trial began, the defense produced a man claiming to be Connie Franklin, though the townspeople were divided as to whether he was the "real" Franklin. The question remains open, though the men were acquitted of murder. Blevins's knowledge of life in the pre-Depression Ozarks is impressive, but this overlong account of the convoluted and unresolved tale of Franklin's "death" is frustrating. (Apr.)