Brothers in Blood: The True Account of the Georgia Massacre by Clark Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had never heard of the Georgia Massacre of 1973 until I read this book. This is the true account including the backstories of the victims, not just the perpetrators. I liked that the author went deep into the family history: the goals, feelings, and plans the victims had. Many times, the victim is not a feature character in a true crime book.
The author also included backstories showing all of the events that led the killers to cross paths with an innocent family and basically execute them when they were really only there to find gasoline or steal money to buy gas.
The main "holy terror" is Carl Issacs. Along with him is his brother Billy who had just started to get his life back on track after being in the reformatory. He had dreams and plans, and, at the young age of 16, was coerced to go along with his brother who wanted to reintroduce him to his oldest half brother Wayne. Had Billy not gone, things might not have happened the way they did, and Billy would have likely achieved his goals and dreams, but Carl bullied him into going along with them.
The novel is set in 1973, the year that Carl, 2 of his brothers, and his brother's friend George killed six people as they travelled through Georgia looking for a store to stick up or an empty house to rob. Carl, Wayne, and George had just escaped from prison in Maryland. Billy did not chose to go. The choice was made for him. On this night, they murdered six members of the Alday family, kidnapping and raping one man's wife and killing her in a secluded, wooded area.
The one thing I didn't like is that I think the author spent too much time on Alday family history. I think it was somewhat important to the story, but some of the day-to-day details about the Alday ancestors were a bit unnecessary. Another thing that rubbed me wrong was how the dialogue was written. The killers would use the word "Guy" in much the same way we use, "dude, broh, or bruh." It didn't seem to fit. I was only 8 when this crime was committed, but I've never heard anyone say it this way: "Guy, no! I think it's fabulous!" (page 205). This was used on multiple occasions throughout the book, and it just bothered me.
I think they author did a fairly good job of explaining the hardships in the lives of Carl Isaacs and Wayne Coleman. Less is know about George Dungee, but enough to show how he ended up where he was. I don't think the author is trying to solicit sympathy for the killers, just that their road to murder was set up by the circumstances of their backgrounds.
The author's characterization of both good guys and bad guys, mostly through their own actions, demonstrates the disparity between good and evil, city dwellers versus rural folks, and the haves and have-nots. The author was able to build suspense by starting with a place not far from the end, then going back to describe the events that led up to the tragedy.
I also notice several "To Kill a Mockingbird" references. For example, on page 136, the text says, "'Birds is part of the forest,' Jimmy said. 'They're harmless. And they sing pretty. Ain't no need to kill them.'" I see this as a nod to Harper Lee.
Governor Jimmy Carter (future President Carter) called it the most heinous crime in Georgia." And it was brutal! The saddest part is that it took the state 30 years to finally execute Carl Isaacs. If you can get past some of the racial slurs in the book, you might like it if you're a fan of true crime.
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