Fans of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil will embrace Poe Ballantine's Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere.
For well over twenty years, Poe Ballantine traveled America, taking odd jobs, living in small rooms, and wondering the big whys. At age 46, he finally settled with his Mexican immigrant wife in Chadron, Nebraska, where they had a son who was red-flagged as autistic. Poe published four books about his experiences as a wanderer and his observations of America. But one day in 2006, his neighbor, Steven Haataja, a math professor from the local state college disappeared. Ninety five days later, the professor was found bound to a tree, burned to death in the hills behind the campus where he had taught. No one, law enforcement included, understood the circumstances. Poe had never contemplated writing mystery or true crime, but since he knew all the players, the suspects, the sheriff, the police involved, he and his kindergarten son set out to find out what might have happened.
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Since taking my first creative writing class in 2008 the pleasure I used to get from reading has been greatly reduced. I notice things I never noticed before. That said, I think I rate books pretty generously. Anyone who actually manages to write a whole book and then get it published deserves an extra star.
Poe Ballantine, of course. He tackles the difficult and the personal (marriage, parenthood, career and a local murder) with compelling openness, honesty and insight.
As a reader of his own writing, Ballantine knows how his book is supposed to be read. Compelling and enjoyable.
Poor narration by the author and a self indulgent focus distracts from the key interest in the book.
Poe should have simply sought training before being a narrator. Just a few lessons and it could have saved us all a lot of pain.
The central character is not that interesting. The murder is the focus so a movie would need to focus on the murder and not the author.
It was the author, and he was a little flat at times.
There actually is a film ... same name. It's shot documentary-style. I enjoyed it... until the end. I saw it before I ordered the book. I would have loved some resolution... but it never came.
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