The True Story of a Murder Spree
By Lili Ristagno
Dymaxicon, $19.95, 104 pages
In 1958, two teenage lovers left home and travelled through rural Nebraska, leaving a trail of bodies behind them. Charlie Starkweather was a troubled 19-year-old who dropped out of school in the 9th grade. Caril Fugate was only 14 and in the 8th grade when she became involved with Charlie. This book tells the true story of their shocking actions as they stole cars, robbed, and murdered 14 people, including Caril’s family.
The brilliance of this book is in its simplicity. It is refreshing to read concise, unembellished facts that form such a compelling story. Wonderful illustrations by the author fill every page. The descriptions of the hard lives of families living in the open plains of the Midwest are moving and memorable. After reading a book about Starkweather and Fugate, author Lili Ristagno was deeply moved by their romance and after learning more, felt empathy for them. She moved to Lincoln, researched their story, and interviewed people who had known them. She found the local people to be reticent about the subject, wanting to leave it in the past. She later returned to Portland, where she works at the Multnomah County Library. Only a few words on each lavishly illustrated page, it takes just half an hour or so to read, yet the haunting story remains in the mind for a long time after putting it down.
Reviewed by Fran Byram