Cover Image: Starkweather


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**Thank you to NetGalley and Counterpoint Press for the eARC of this title!**

As I have been reading more true crime and dabbling in nonfiction a bit as well, I was looking forward to Starkweather. The subject matter was incredibly interesting and it is clear the author was very invested in his research. Unfortunately, I didn't love the writing style and this didn't have the hard-hitting narrative that In True Blood by Capote has. I hate to compare authors, but the things that didn't work for me in Starkweather are things that Capote does well IMO.

The story of the Starkweather crimes is insane and going into this blind left a lot of points for me to be shocked over. I found the book to be repetitive at times which dragged me out of the story when I would have otherwise been immersed. Overall, fans of true crime should check this book out (especially if you haven't heard anything on this case before.)

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Starkweather by Harry N. MacLean is a very highly recommended true crime story.

In the eight days from January 21-29, 1958 nineteen-year-old Charles Starkweather and (possibly) his fourteen-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, murdered 10 people the majority in or near Lincoln, Nebraska. (Another man was killed weeks earlier by Starkweather.) The killing spree began with Caril's mother, stepfather, and little sister. The reverberations of the case were immediate and Starkweather has been called the first modern-day mass killer. Caril's involvement has never been settled. Both were convicted. Charlie Starkweather was executed, while Caril Fugate served 18 years before her parole.

In Starkweather, MacLean re-examines official documents, interviews, and notes to provide a new account of this case. The book is broken down into six parts. Part I introduces Charlie and Caril. Part II, The Killings, sets forth two versions of the killings, one from Charlie's point-of-view and another from Caril's. Charlie gave at least 10 different versions and changed key facts in each version. Caril's version stayed pretty much the same. Part III. The Trials, details both trials. Part IV, Guilt or Innocence, MacLean shares his own analysis of what he believes happened. Part V, The Consequences, describes the effect of the killings on various people involved. Part VI, Impact, he discusses the impact on American culture. As the author grew up in Lincoln during the crimes, he saved the personal effect his research had for his epilogue.

Presenting the conflicting points-of-view of Charlie and Caril as well as then presenting the many changes Charlie made to his recounting of what happened is a smart move. MacLean's own analysis is quite interesting and he made some good points. This is a very well written account of a case many are familiar with and crime enthusiasts will appreciate the care taken to the story.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Counterpoint via NetGalley.
The review will be published on Edelweiss, X, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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I received this book in exchange for a honest review from NetGalley.

I have heard about the story of the Starkweather spree killing in the past on podcasts and other media but I was very impressed with the different approach taken by this author. I liked that he had a question to pose and focused in on that by looking into whether Caril Ann Fugate was a victim or part of the killings. The authors use of the differing accounts of both Caril and Charles was very interesting and overall I generally liked this book.

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I have read several books about Charlie Starkweather, listened to a few podcasts, and watched multiple documentaries. Why? Well, I'm a weirdo. But I'm not alone--the spree killings that Starkweather committed would shock the country if they happened today. For people who were there in square, 1950s America, it's safe to say the crimes were traumatic. It's not surprising that they've become a pop culture trope.

MacLean was there, a resident of Nebraska. He does a fantastic job recounting each murder and describing what Lincoln was like in the 50s: the landscape, the culture, the street dividing the city into the "good side of town" and the "wrong side of the tracks."

Americans have become enamored of a version of this story that centers on two rebellious teen lovers leaving a trail of blood in their wake. With time, cooler heads have begun to revisit the story to examine what was really happening to Caril Fugate. Was she a murderer, Bonnie to Charlie's Clyde? Or was she an unwitting victim herself?

MacLean presents a split narrative, describing each crime from Charlie's point of view and then presenting Caril's. Charlie's story, he notes, changed almost a dozen times whereas Caril's was consistent each time she told it. Charlie's story is also repetitive in a way that's familiar to anyone who's watched a lot of westerns or action movies. In his telling, his victims come at him with guns and knives. They wrestle his weapon out of his hands before he's able to overpower them and shoot in self defense. Funny, isn't it, that the majority of his victims were shot in the back?

Starkweather provides a detailed retelling of a brutal series of crimes and their aftermath. I'd recommend it to anyone new to the story, but there's a lot that true crime weirdos like me will find revelatory no matter how familiar with it we are. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ARC in exchange for this review.

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"Starkweather" by Harry N. MacLean is a compelling exploration of one of America's most infamous crime sprees. As someone who's always been intrigued by true crime stories, this book offered a unique perspective on the shocking events that unfolded in 1958.

The narrative begins with a vivid and gruesome description of the murders that marked the start of Charles Starkweather's reign of terror. MacLean's writing paints a haunting picture of the small town of Lincoln, Nebraska, which descended into chaos and fear due to Starkweather's actions. His ability to transport readers back to the 1950s era is commendable, making the book accessible even to those who don't typically delve into true crime literature.

One standout feature of "Starkweather" is MacLean's approach to presenting conflicting narratives. He skillfully weaves together the testimonies of the individuals involved, especially Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, the teenage girl who accompanied him. This technique leaves readers pondering the truth behind the events and adds a layer of complexity to the story. MacLean's central focus on unraveling Caril's role in the murders raises important questions about her culpability—whether she was a hostage, a participant, or a victim of an imperfect justice system.

However, there were certain aspects of the book that didn't quite resonate with me. MacLean delves deep into technical aspects of the legal system, such as fight-or-flight responses and references to other cases. While these details may be relevant to the overall narrative, I found them to be somewhat excessive and distracting from the core story.

One significant drawback for me was the book's repetitive nature. The author's organizational choices led to an abundance of repeated details throughout the narrative, which made the reading experience somewhat tedious and tested my patience.

In conclusion, "Starkweather" by Harry N. MacLean is an intriguing read that transcends the typical true crime narrative. While the subject matter is fascinating, the excessive repetition and deep dives into technical aspects may not appeal to everyone. Despite its flaws, the book offers a fresh perspective on a notorious crime spree that once gripped the nation, making it a valuable addition to the true crime genre. However, if you are already familiar with the Starkweather case, this book may not provide much new insight.

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I once rode shotgun with a quiet coworker, and we shared hours of silence during our daily car rides. The only disruption to our monotony was his choice of true crime podcasts as the soundtrack to our journey. Although I had a personal connection to a famous case, I usually steered clear of true crime as a genre. But lately, it seems everyone is binge-watching true crime shows on Netflix, and those car rides immersed me in a world of gruesome murders that I found unsettling.

Enter "Starkweather," the chilling surname of the killer chronicled in Harry MacLean's book. It is the start of spooky season in America, and a series of small events led me to this book. Admittedly, I don't fit the typical true crime reader profile, but MacLean manages to captivate a broader audience.

One standout aspect of the book is MacLean's approach to detailing the killings. He not only recounts the events but also presents the conflicting narratives of the individuals involved, Charlie and Caril. Throughout the book, these testimonies evolve, leaving readers to ponder where the truth truly lies. MacLean's primary focus is unraveling Caril's role in the murders: was she a hostage, a participant, or a victim of an imperfect justice system?

In my opinion, the weakest part of the book is MacLean's deep dive into the technical aspects of the legal system. He delves into topics like fight or flight responses and includes references to other cases, even recent ones like the college student killings in Idaho. While these details aim to shed light on Caril's situation, I found them somewhat excessive.

What truly resonated with me was how MacLean vividly set the stage in 1950's Nebraska, transporting readers to that era. His ability to provide clear imagery of the events, blending facts with idealized portrayals, makes the book accessible to those who don't typically read about real-life crimes or murders. Overall, "Starkweather" is an intriguing read that goes beyond the typical true crime narrative.

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