Wednesday, November 22, 2023


Starkweather by Harry N. MacLean
11/28/23; 432 pages

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.

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