First, let it be noted that Mara Leveritt, the author of this, could obviously WRITE. Her prose is flawless, transparent, clear and concise. Good prose is like a windowpane, George Orwell once wrote. And this perfectly describes Leveritt’s writing style. Nowhere is she pedantic, nor is she florid, neither does she engage in slanginess; nothing at all that would distract the reader away from the subject matter.
This is a book that is not easy to put down once it has begun to be read. It is an absolute page-turner.
The setting is a small rural county in Arkansas in the 1980s. The story is all true. In fact, this could not be made up. It is too bizarre, too ominous, too sinister, and too sad. Perhaps you have heard of it; if you have not, that would be understandable. That’s part of the ominous and the sinister.
The book starts with the obvious late-night murders, and equally obvious local cover-up of the murders, of two teenage boys. The boys had very obviously been murdered and then their bodies moved to nearby railroad tracks to be run over by a train later that night in order to make the murders look like accidental deaths.
The rest of the book retraces the life of Linda Ives, the mother of one of the boys, as she perseveringly fought for answers and for justice, as the local cover-up eventually gave way to an alarming statewide cover-up, and then, to a really distressing cover-up at the federal level. Linda Ives never got answers, never got justice, for her son’s murder. Just about every county and state official she spoke with, it would seem, lied to her; just about ever federal alphabet agency strung her along, stonewalled, strung her along some more, stonewalled some more, and then lied to her.
This book is yet another confirmation of what is contained in other books such as COMPROMISED by Terry Reed, BARRY & THE BOYS by Daniel Hopsicker, CROSSFIRE by LD Brown, and others. For several years in the 1980s, as part of the now widely known, illegal, covert operation to fund the Nicaraguan Contras during the Reagan Administration, and under the direction of then-Vice President George Bush, and with the complicity of then-governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton, Arkansas had been turned into a main hub of a gigantic, international, illegal drug-smuggling ring utilizing the monstrous talents of a military-airline pilot/entrepreneur/illegal drug smuggler named Barry Seal. Seal was running an entire corporate enterprise of smuggling and in the 1980s he had shifted his central hub from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Mena, Arkansas.
All indications were and are that the two teenage boys had, knowingly or unknowingly, stumbled onto an illegal drug drop from a low-flying airplane late at night out in the middle of nowheresville. The airport at Mena was the center of operations, but late-night drops were evidently being made up and down the state, especially in rural counties like Linda Ives’s which bordered upon the city of Little Rock.
Sheriffs and deputies were in on it; the outrageously corrupt lightning rod of an arrogant state medical examiner was in on it; they didn’t call him “Slick Willy” for nothing, but the obvious message here is that Clinton knew about the whole operation and did nothing for years, and never did do anything; the REALLY bizarre episode, though, and where this tale takes a truly outlandish yet riveting turn, was when a masterfully corrupt, drug-smuggling, racketeering, wife-beating Arkansas state prosecuting attorney for many years stepped into the fray and deceived Mrs. Ives for years into thinking that he was on her side, that he too wanted to solve the mystery of what happened to the two boys, when all he really wanted was to help cover up the crime and simultaneously gain political notoriety by exploiting poor Mrs. Ives. For years this man, Dan Harmon, not only deceived Mrs. Ives, he also deceived and bullied the entire state of Arkansas, it seems. Had his illegal drug addictions not finally got the better of him, causing him to sabotage himself, it appears that he could have, at the very least, kept riding roughshod over Saline County, Arkansas for all of his life.
Still, Harmon’s jail sentence was extremely and unusually lenient, showing that he, like other high officials involved, was still being conspiratorially protected even here.
This book is both a murder mystery and an indictment of the entire American political and judicial system from top to bottom. It is a story of one mother’s unfailing loyalty to her son, and of her adamantine resolve, and of her awakening to the reality of vast illegal conspiracies from the local level on up to the highest level of government.
This is an extraordinary book. It was published in 1999. As I indicated above, once you open it, you will not want to put it down. It is perfectly written, and it is unfortunately all true.
Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ