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Joan Jacobs Brumberg discovered the story of ‘Kansas Charley’ Miller while researching juvenile male violence in the aftermath of the 1998 Jonesboro massacre. It’s clear why she found Miller fascinating: “killer kids” are presumed to be a modern phenomenon, yet in September 1890 this fifteen-year-old orphan and drifter murdered two sleeping youths in a boxcar. His trial in Cheyenne, Wyoming, aroused nationwide interest, and when he was pronounced guilty, many questioned the justice of hanging a teenaged boy. Suffragists, business leaders, and politicians campaigned to have his sentence commuted, but Miller was executed almost two years later, at the age of seventeen. Brumberg has done a masterful job in reconstructing Charley’s life. Using public records, she describes the loss of his parents to illness and suicide, his chaotic relationships with temporary guardians, and his life as a ‘boy tramp’. She also presents a convincing argument that Amos Barber, Wyoming’s acting governor, shied from commuting Miller’s death sentence because rampant violence among cattlemen in the state demanded that he appear to be tough on crime. Barber’s conscience was probably assuaged by the fact that Charley Miller was not a repentant or sympathetic defendant. Some reviewers have chided Brumberg for injecting too much sentiment into Kansas Charley: the Story of the 19th Century Boy Murderer. I didn’t detect any. I did find that Brumberg tries to explain the conditions that turned a boy into a murderer, but to me that’s elucidation, not sentiment. The author does not excuse the double homicide that sent Miller to the gallows. Nor does she whitewash his other misdeeds, such as stealing from benefactors, breaking out of jail, and having the gall to demand that a prostitute visit him in the death cell. It’s plain that the boy was grossly self-centred, with a sense of entitlement that cost him a lot of public sympathy. My only complaint- and it’s a mild one- is that there’s an undercurrent of idealism in Brumberg’s views on children and their accountability when it comes to violent crimes. She opposes the juvenile death penalty, which makes the book read like an opinion piece in parts. But this did not detract from its value as an entertaining and thought-provoking addition to the study of kids who kill.
R. St. Amour, Retired ATCS 1964/2004 I have read every one of Captain Brian Power-Waters books. This in my opnion is his second best effort. Safety Last ( his first book ) was ahead of it's time in discussing aviation mishaps. I had personal knowledge of one of the accidents described in that book. His latest book attempts to make a little more sense of a terrible loss of life that could have been prevented. The rush to attribute blame and cause by the NTSB and the FAA is nothing new. I was an Air Traffic Controller in New York at the time of this crash. One of my best friends was the last controller to talk/give instructions to the doomed pilots. Anyone who is interested in commercial airline safety should seriously consider this book. Brian all I can say is " well done "....
Very funny book set in the world of TV Evangelism and Professional Bass Fishing. Really.