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A Violent Act

A Violent Act

by Alec Wilkinson

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
New Yorker writer Wilkinson chronicles an ex-convict's murder of his probation officer and subsequent rampage across rural Missouri. (Mar.)
Library Journal
What causes violence and what are the consequences of that violence? Wilkinson ( The Riverkeeper , LJ 8/1/91) tells the story of Mike Wayne Jackson, whose adult life was characterized by acts of rage, followed by imprisonment or commitment to a mental institution. Society, within its limits, tried to cope with Jackson, offering as much assistance as possible, but his behavior became more and more erratic. Ultimately, he killed his probation officer and then went on a rampage, killing two more people. After eight days of sheer terror for the small town he hid in, Jackson was found dead, killed by his own hand. But this book is also the story of the dead probation officer's family. Tom Gahl left a wife and two young sons, who have struggled to make their lives whole but who are constantly haunted by that one senseless act of violence. This is a powerfully written, searing story of violence and grief that forces the reader to confront the realities of an America not totally in control. Recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/92.-- Sandra K. Lindheimer, Middlesex Law Lib., Cambridge
Kirkus Reviews
Superb chronicle of a homicidal madman who terrorized a small midwestern town. Wilkinson (The Riverkeeper, 1991, etc.) uses spare narration, underpinned by potent detail, to vivify a chilling story. When the scruffy figure in a long blue coat strode in to James Hall's grocery store on September 22, l986, Hall might have figured the man was just another can-picker. A lone customer stared at the silver paint on Mike Wayne Jackson's long beard as Jackson raised a shotgun from under his coat and blasted Hall—the second man he had murdered that hour. Fifteen minutes earlier, Jackson's probation officer had arrived at the killer's new residence—an abandoned Indianapolis house without electricity or water where Jackson slept on a pile of straw. Jackson had gunned the P.O. three times, pausing to hear him beg for his life. Eight hours, four car-hijackings, and one murder (that of Hall) later, Jackson was the most wanted criminal in America. His life had been spent largely in prisons and state hospitals; his I.Q. was normal; the same woman had married him twice although he beat her, put LSD in her food, and was constantly unfaithful. Shortly after the murders, Jackson was spotted in Wright City, Indiana, a farming community of 1200—and panic ensued. Schools closed, farmers toted rifles on their tractors, and families practiced house-evacuation drills. The FBI set roadblocks and searched with helicopters and even with a special heat-detecting plane—to no avail. But someone at last remembered an expert tracker, J.R. Buchanan of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Flown in, Buchanan found the emaciated corpse of Jackson in a barn, eyes open, shotgun at his right side, a few soybean stalksand a milk jug of water at the other. Enigmatic to all, Jackson's paroxysm of random killing evoked a primal terror. Wilkinson's deceptively simple account of it is uncommonly thought-provoking and, using not one wasted word, exemplifies the writer's art.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st Vintage Books ed
Product dimensions:
5.21(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.68(d)

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