Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: True Crime/Non-Fiction
Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words
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The author of several non-fiction books, Denele Campbell also writes fiction (“probably on the spicy side”) as G.D. Campbell.
“Folks in this sleepy Arkansas hill town had no idea what awaited them that hot June day in 1949. Women went shopping, professors lectured their college classes, and milkmen delivered their wares. They might have missed the report of this scandalous event. So charged were the words required to describe it, the news wouldn’t make the front page. Instead, hidden on Page 6 between random items of little interest, a tiny notice announced the beginning of a crime and a mystery: ‘Charges of sodomy were filed late this morning in Circuit Court against John Campbell and Mrs. Mary Henry.’
What was the ‘horrible crime not fit to be named among Christians’ which brought policemen to Mr. Campbell’s home? What led to this disturbing discovery? What would become of the young women involved?
This true account tracks indictments, court records, family history, and newspaper articles to tell an outrageous story of zealous lawmen and personal tragedy, and illuminates a tremendous social change which has occurred since 1950.”
Although technically a true crime book, I don’t see the reasons why A Crime Unfit to be Named appealed to me as fitting the norms for that genre. Much true crime focuses on the crime and the criminal with the psychology of the criminal, the steps required to identify, arrest, and convict the wrongdoer, and/or the horror of the crime(s) taking center stage. Here, the focus is (as the author says in her book description) illuminating the social change that has taken place over the last 60 years. It’s also interesting to compare and contrast the legal and political changes over the same period.
The unspeakable crime for which John William Campbell was arrested and convicted was oral sex. (When I post this review to Amazon and elsewhere we’ll see how far we’ve really progressed.) Seeing how far lawmen were willing to go to gather evidence and convict someone of this victimless crime was eye-opening. According to the author, putting the events chronicled here in a modern context, “at this time there seems little chance that the legal advances made to date will be reversed.” I hope (and think) that she’s right, but not due to lack of trying in some quarters. A Virginia law much like the one used to convict Campbell was recently overturned and the US Supreme Court declined a chance to reconsider that decision on appeal. But some of these archaic laws are still on the books and there are still those who would like to enforce them.
Although there is obviously some discussion of sexual issues, the content is relatively mild. If you’re concerned with salacious content, don’t be. (If you’re looking for it, this probably isn’t for you.)
No significant issues.
Rating: **** Four stars