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Publisher's Summary

Casper, Wyoming: 1973. Eleven-year-old Amy Burridge rides with her 18-year-old sister, Becky, to the grocery store. When they finish their shopping, Becky's car gets a flat tire. Two men politely offer them a ride home. Yet they were anything but good Samaritans. The girls would suffer unspeakable crimes at the hands of these men before being thrown from a bridge into the North Platte River. One miraculously survived; the other did not.

Years later author and journalist Ron Franscell - a childhood friend and next-door neighbor to the girls - can't forget his hometown's shocking story of abduction, rape, and murder. Exploring the nature of a small town's memory and the poison of survivor guilt, The Darkest Night races toward a shocking ending. The result is one of the most provocative true-crime stories of the decade, told by one of the nation's finest narrative journalists.

©2007 Ron Franscell (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This uncommon story has every chilling component of human terror, drama and suspense that readers of true crime look for." (Vincent Bugliosi, author of Helter Skelter)

What listeners say about The Darkest Night

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Profile Image for C S Sinc
  • C S Sinc
  • 13-12-2019

Why?

The first two thirds of the book told a heart wrenching true story of rape and murder in the Wyoming town of Casper. It also covered the trial and punishment the two perpetrators received for the crime. And then about two thirds of the way through the author suddenly turns to an autobiography one of the criminals wrote while in prison.

The autobiography maligns the reputation of the sheriff of Natrona County, Mr. Louis Cooper, who served the county honorably from 1947 to 1966. But the murderer/rapist claimed as a 7th grader he assaulted the sheriff after the sheriff assaulted his sister and as a result the sheriff was forced to resign in the summer of 1960.

But the lies do not stop there. The convict also alleges that as a 7th grader he was seduced by an 18 year old nurse, wonder how she got her nursing certificate at such a young age, who worked in the Casper hospital. That seduction was followed by sex with 10 other nurses at the hospital around the same time. So any nurses working in the hospital at that time are now branded as pedophiles. In addition, he alleged he delivered cocaine to judges, prosecutors, police, prominent businessmen and politicians residing in Casper during the summer of 1960. Wonder how they may feel about that declaration.

Why would the author provide this liar, murderer, and rapist a forum for spewing his phantasmagoric and self serving writings. Maybe he figured the number of pages he filled for the first two thirds of the book would not warrant a label of novel. Whatever the reason he certainly aided and abetted the smearing of reputations of many individuals who resided in the city of Casper, WY. back in the late 1950's and early 1960's. And I am sorry I ever spent one minute listening beyond the 2/3 mark.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Mel
  • 02-08-2015

Impact Beyond the Crime: the girl that died twice


In some ways, I wish I wouldn't have read this book, like I *kind of* wish I wouldn't have read In Cold Blood, Helter Skelter, and other nightmare inducing true crime novels. While listening to TDN, I'd pass a mirror and see a face contorted in repulsion and agony looking back at me, wearing my headphones.

How author/journalist Franscell even delivers this story on a tolerable level is by hitting you with the facts at the beginning (like a sledge hammer to the head); while you are still slightly numbed and can take the atrociousness, he backs into the story. It's a little like a dentist numbing you up before he drills into your nerves. An adult, living in Texas, far removed from Casper, Franscell tells the story that has haunted him since the night he came home from H.S. football practice. His mother announced "Amy's dead." He had just waved to her that morning, pulling out of her drive-way next door. "What happened?" "A couple of guys picked them up from the store and took them out to some bridge and raped them and threw them off." The impact of the crime on the author still is evidenced by the passion with which he tells the story, poetically at times.

Two factors give this book a *readability* cushion, in my opinion, and that is no easy accomplishment when you are writing about any murders, especially children. Franscell was an adolescent living in Casper at the time of the murder; he went on to become a journalist. His familiarity with the town's social structures and geography are insightful. [Do you know the origin of the term "the wrong side of the tracks"?]

Secondly; the last portion of the book is a jaw-dropping look into the mind of a psychopath, at least this one. (I think in this case we can clearly pass on the DSM-5's politically correct Antisocial Personality Disorders [ASPD] and distinguish sociopathy from psychopathy without any confusion.) Franscell reads Kennedy's memoir (one of the murderers), which reads like a fantastical fairy tale where he is the omnipotent, yet always victimized, hero. The author refrains from giving his own perspective on the obvious, and allows research and facts to debunk the outrageous aggrandizements.

It is a sad ending, and a sad statement on the political/judicial system that handled this case. I still kind of wish I wouldn't have read this. There is some degree of gruesome fascination we have with human predators; society elevates some to almost celebrity status (Dexter, Hannibal, Aquarius). I think next I'll read author/PhD Scott Bonn's book "Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World's Most Savage Murderers" and find out why. I'm as fascinated as a moth is of a lit candle (and my smoke detector).

At your own risk--well written, well told, graphic violence and sex, and not a happy moment in 320 pgs., but how else are you going to tell a violent story. I found value here in reminding myself that these kind of monsters are real and walk amongst us.

39 people found this helpful

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  • Jacklyn Balser
  • 06-06-2015

Great read/listen.

I love that the author didn't go into a lengthy family history of less prominent characters like most true crime authors tend to do. It was direct and focused. The story coming from someone living with the ghosts of this tragedy added a unique personal emotion to the story. I really enjoyed this!

7 people found this helpful

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  • Aurora Campbell
  • 29-06-2015

Heartbreakingly good

This book is heartbreaking but I couldn't stop listening to it. The ripple effect that one night can have is astounding.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 10-06-2015

An Amazing Rendering Of A True Crime Story...

I was instantly stunned and delighted with the level of writing attained by Franscell in this book: half reporter, half poet, he brings every event of this tragic crime to life. It is like nothing I have ever encountered in a true crime book before, as it attains a literary quality rarely seen in the genre. I first encountered this story on 48 Hours Live To Tell and went looking for the book. What a delight that I did! Highly recommended!

18 people found this helpful

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  • Patty Stull
  • 12-02-2017

Absolutely a good read!

If you could sum up The Darkest Night in three words, what would they be?

Keeps your attention and desire to continue reading.

What did you like best about this story?

Many things. The characters were described in such a way you feel a part of the book.

What about Rob Shapiro’s performance did you like?

Great reader!!!!!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Terry Lane
  • 08-07-2015

If you like true crime, you'll love this book

As a person who reads, studies, and writes true crime, this book will rest among the greats of our time. The author brilliantly and fairly tells the story of four individuals whose unfortunate paths cross one faithful night. I loved the narrative, the narration, the pace and the attention to detail. I highly recommend this book.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Kelly
  • 04-08-2018

2nd Time reading

This is the second time I’ve read or listened to this book. Written by a man who, as a child, was a friend of both victims. The point of view and insight are gripping and heart breaking at the same time.
This crime has stuck with me for many years.

1 person found this helpful

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  • inov8v
  • 16-08-2015

sad story...

enjoyed the book and narration...quite a sad story but told very well with solid narration...

2 people found this helpful

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  • I'm Chris Frey
  • 13-06-2015

Horrific Story

And some horrific writing as well. The author, in parts of the book, just drones on and on with big words and unnecessary explanations, adding personal paragraphs that have nothing to do with the book's main idea. I'm not sure I care to purchase any additional books from this author.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Linda
  • 21-07-2015

Fantastic tale

Where does The Darkest Night rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best

Who was your favorite character and why?

The sister who survived because she was so selfless and thought only of her younger sister

Which character – as performed by Rob Shapiro – was your favourite?

The same

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jackie
  • 03-10-2020

Tragic beyond tragic...insightful...sad...

The events that happen as time passes never cease to bring us back to the fragility of life. Living next door to a sociopath, it may be easier for me to grasp how their minds work but it does not soften the blow of cruelty. For Ron to return to this part of his life was brave and he did it in a way we feel the pain.

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