Laura Wilkerson

Laura Wilkerson
July 27


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OCTOBER 18, 2012 11:45AM

Book Review: Murders of Muhlenberg County

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            When I stopped writing so frequently I filled my time with something else I love but which was getting short shrift, reading.

            In poking around on the Internet I became enthralled in reading about Kentucky murders as discussed in local Topix forums. One of the most interesting discussions centered around Muhlenburg County.

            Growing up in Daviess County, Kentucky I was vaguely aware of Muhlenburg County. My spouse tells me that Muhlenberg County's football teams play Daviess County football teams but I'm not a football person so I never really noticed.

            Muhlenberg County is separated from Daviess County to the north by Ohio County, home of Beaver Dam. I have been to Beaver Dam once. I remember cabins on stilts along a jungle-like part of the Ohio River like a Bluegrass Vietnam but I don't think I've ever been to Muhlenberg County.

            Kentucky's name derives from a Native American phrase that translates into a Dark and Bloody Ground and Muhlenberg County cleaves deep to those roots. Muhlenberg County is in coal country, deeply pitted by mines and poverty. The Topix page on Muhlenberg County was fascinating because of the seemingly large numbers of bizarre unsolved murders for such a small, insular community but also because of what seemed to be an unusualy high level of murder overall. In reading the Topix comments I ran across several metions of a book, Murders of Muhlenberg County by Mike Moore (McDowell Publications, 2004). Some people wrote admiringly of it while others seemed to revile it for bringing up cases they believed would be better served buried.

            My curiosity aroused, I ordered a copy through the interlibrary loan service of my local library and about a week later a copy arrived supplied by the Library of Congress.

            Murders of Muhlenberg County proved to be a fascinating work. Covering the years from 1900 through 2000 story after story piles up. Most of these involve a potent mix of alcohol and guns and even if there is a certain sameness among the cases the sheer weight of them as they come one after enough provides a unique snapshot of a particular place and culture.

            Author Moore also adds depth to the work by virtue of the fact that his own grandfather, Bossy Moore, 68, was murdered in 1947 along with a friend, John Amos, 73, in a crime that remains unsolved to this day. Mr. Moore introduces this book with this crime and effectively revisits it throughout the book providing depth, and a surprising coda, to this work.

            One of the most surprising revelations is the overall brevity of sentences. Not only in earlier crimes but also crimes committed after the Get Tough on Crime era of mandatory sentencing was firmly in place. Life comes across exceedingly cheap in Muhlenberg County. Ending in 2000 the book really doesn't delve into what the advent of Meth has meant for Muhlenberg County but one can only imagine how that devastating drug has added to the gruesome tone of an already unsettling place.

            Mike Moore informs us that he spent ten years compiling this document and though the Reader must comment the Author for his perseverance the fact that this work was compiled over a decade leaves it with some inconsistencies in tone that this Reader in particular would have liked to have seen edited for consistency.

            There is also something lacking in outcomes, something Mr. Moore acknowledges but this Reader would have liked to have known more about the obstacles that prevented, in some cases, a more complete resolution but these are just quibbles over one of the best books I have encountered recently. Murders of Muhlenberg County is an outstanding accomplishment. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in true crime, sociology or Kentucky and would personally buy this book as part of my permanent collection as it is extremely worthwhile and, in this Reader's opinion, should be more widely acknowledged and read.

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