Salt of the Earth: One Family's Journey through the Violent American Landscape

Salt of the Earth: One Family's Journey through the Violent American Landscape

Salt of the Earth: One Family's Journey through the Violent American Landscape

Salt of the Earth: One Family's Journey through the Violent American Landscape



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Salt of the Earth is the true story of a courageous woman who survived a hellish twentieth-century nightmare. Mob violence, injustice, kidnapping, murder, and suicide were the black holes in the awful astronomy of Elaine Gere's life. Somehow she had to summon the courage to endure: to honor her beloved dead and to rebuild the shattered lives of the sons who depended on her strength. Jack Olsen has been lauded for his psychological insights into the most violent criminals in such previous masterworks as Doc, The Misbegotten Son, and Predator, but he has never overlooked their victims. By viewing the world through the eyes of Elaine Gere and her devastated family, he finds the core values that enabled them not only to survive and flourish, but, in the end, to triumph.

Gilbert Taylor: In the annals of humanity, the Gere family is unexceptional and ordinary--unless one looks as closely at their lives as Olsen does. A boomer-age couple, Joe and Elaine Gere move between California and Idaho a dozen times on their roller coaster ride of solvency and bankruptcy and have three children. Much the steadier spouse, energetic Elaine always manages to land a clerical federal job wherever Joe moves the family. The wanderlust ensues from Joe's first career misfortune, as a cop disabled during a melee with a mob. His relatives thought that incident started his slide toward suicide, and his addictive (regrets of hitting her and promises to reform) abuse of Elaine demonstrates the complexity of Joe's insidious demons. But he holds on, Elaine remaining loyal, until another bolt from the blue--the kidnapping and murder of their 12-year-old daughter. Here Olsen is at his dispassionate, yet concerned, best, introducing the subplot of the suspect's life (a wife beater), the course of the investigation, and the ultimate denoument of the case. In this mass-media age, many women will identify with, and perhaps be inspirited by, Olsen's fine chronicle of the Gere family.
Kirkus Reviews
Another solid true-crime entry from Olsen, author of (among others) Doc (a 1990 Edgar award winner) and Charmer (1994).
Elaine and Joe Gere were tough farmers' children who fell on hard times. Joe was a successful cop until he was beaten so badly he lost half his sight, then led his family on a peripatetic journey from Fontana, Calif., to Idaho and Seattle. Their oldest child, Brenda, was a stalwart but always had a fear of the bogeyman. On September 19, 1985, she met him. Her killer was the absurdly muscular Michael Kay Green, a weight lifter with a steroid-influenced penchant for rape. The police were immediately suspicious of Green but, since they couldn't find Brenda's body, were unable to charge him. Green ran off and committed a string of petty thefts and assaults before being jailed on separate rape charges. The Gere family never recovered. Joe was consumed by guilt and rage--as an ex-cop, he felt he should have been able to protect Brenda--and drifted into alcoholism. He moved the family back to Idaho and two years later committed suicide in front of Elaine and one of their sons. The police eventually found Brenda's bones and Green was convicted. While Olsen's portrait of the steely Elaine is fascinating, the book is skimpy on forensic details, and the examination of the extremely bizarre Green is far too short. Green claims to have killed at least three girls, but that tantalizing lead is unexplored. And it's disappointing that the eerie similarities between the Gere and the Green families--the ability to excuse rampant addiction, infidelity, and violence--go unremarked.

A detailed study of the disintegration of a family, but lacking in some of the finer strokes that make a great crime story.

From the Publisher
"Pulls you along irresistibly." - The New York Times
"The powerful, absorbing true story of the terror and tragedy that stalks our violent land, and how an ordinary woman triumphed over all of it."--Joseph Wambaugh

"Jack Olsen's particular gift is his ability to illuminate the souls of his characters." -Jonathan Kellerman

"A literary achievement of the highest order...A beautiful book."-David Guterson, author of Snow Falling on Cedars

Product Details

BN ID: 2940150582514
Publisher: Crime Rant Classics
Publication date: 11/07/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Sales rank: 412,288
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Jack Olsen is the award-winning author of thirty-three books published in fifteen countries and eleven languages. A former Time bureau chief, Olsen wrote for Vanity Fair, People, Paris Match, Readers Digest, Playboy, Life, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, New York Times Book Review and others. His magazine journalism appeared in thirteen anthologies. His books included The Misbegotten Son, The Bridge at Chappaquiddick,, the eco-thriller Night of the Grizzlies, and his monumental study of a Nazi massacre in Italy, Silence on Monte Sole. Three of his works were adapted for the screen, including Have You Seen My Son? on ABC.

Olsen's journalism earned the National Headliners Award, Chicago Newspaper Guild's Page One Award, commendations from Columbia and Indiana Universities, the Washington State Governor's Award, the Scripps-Howard Award and other honors. He was listed in Who's Who in America since 1968 and in Who's Who in the World since 1987. The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as "an American treasure."

Olsen was described as "the dean of true crime authors" by the Washington Post and the New York Daily News and "the master of true crime" by the Detroit Free Press and Newsday. Publishers Weekly called him "the best true crime writer around." His studies of crime are required reading in university criminology courses and have been cited in the New York Times Notable Books of the Year. In a page-one review, the Times described his work as "a genuine contribution to criminology and journalism alike."

Olsen is perhaps best known for his studies of rape: "Son": A Psychopath and His Victims, which won a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; Predator, the American Mystery Award winner for Best True Crime, and "Doc": The Rape of the Town of Lovell, awarded the 1991 Edgar for Best Fact Crime. He was named to the MWA's fact-crime committee in 1996 and appointed chair in 1997.
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