Fans of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil will embrace Poe Ballantine's Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere.
For well over twenty years, Poe Ballantine traveled America, taking odd jobs, living in small rooms, and wondering the big whys. At age 46, he finally settled with his Mexican immigrant wife in Chadron, Nebraska, where they had a son who was red-flagged as autistic. Poe published four books about his experiences as a wanderer and his observations of America. But one day in 2006, his neighbor, Steven Haataja, a math professor from the local state college disappeared. Ninety five days later, the professor was found bound to a tree, burned to death in the hills behind the campus where he had taught. No one, law enforcement included, understood the circumstances. Poe had never contemplated writing mystery or true crime, but since he knew all the players, the suspects, the sheriff, the police involved, he and his kindergarten son set out to find out what might have happened.
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Author reads a bit quick but he does a great job.
He describes Chadron NE very well too. I spent a week there and it is exactly as he describes. I would like to move my kids there. The book is more of a memoir of his time in Chadron but the sub story of the math professors death is intriguing as well.
I do recommend this book.
""Not what I had expected""
This is a very different read then the usual true crime tale. It's read by the author in a manner and style that I can describe as a his almost humming of the words , not choppy and has what I thought was a hint of dry almost "dead pan " humor which I found fit in with the manner in which he read.
With that said, this is more an memoir of his life not about the murder . He uses the murder as a back story that happen during his life journey , which he begins talking about 2/3 of the way through.
Granted he has had a some what interesting story, I felt slightly mislead after reading the description and though I was getting true crime not memoir , and then side story. Plus , the book leaves u with more questions then answers. "
"Great title; insighful memoir"
Poe Ballantine, of course. He tackles the difficult and the personal (marriage, parenthood, career and a local murder) with compelling openness, honesty and insight.
As a reader of his own writing, Ballantine knows how his book is supposed to be read. Compelling and enjoyable.
"It is all about Ballantine and not the murder"
Poor narration by the author and a self indulgent focus distracts from the key interest in the book.
Poe should have simply sought training before being a narrator. Just a few lessons and it could have saved us all a lot of pain.
The central character is not that interesting. The murder is the focus so a movie would need to focus on the murder and not the author.
It was the author, and he was a little flat at times.
There actually is a film ... same name. It's shot documentary-style. I enjoyed it... until the end. I saw it before I ordered the book. I would have loved some resolution... but it never came.
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