An epic tale of true crime in the West: A review of Hard Twisted

 

In 1994, during a hiking trip in southeast Utah, a Pasadena trial lawyer named C. Joseph Greaves and his wife stumbled on two human skulls in a remote red-rock canyon. Each skull had what looked like a bullet hole through the back.

Greaves became obsessed with untangling the story behind those skulls, spending more than a decade poring over historical archives and old newspapers. He ultimately uncovered the long-forgotten 1935 Greenville, Texas, "skeleton murder" trial, a story he came to feel was one of the great untold tales of the West.

At 50, he left his job as a lawyer to write Hard Twisted, a masterful literary fiction debut based on the true story of Lucile Garrett, a 13-year-old who trades a hardscrabble life with her homeless, alcoholic father in Depression-era Oklahoma for a brutal, on-the-lam "marriage" to a drifter named Clint Palmer. The two embark on a rambling journey through the American West that ends in murder.

Greaves resurrects these long-gone, real-life figures in a way that feels both imaginative and respectful. In what can be a very dark story, he illuminates Lucile's ugly world with unexpected moments of beauty. He succeeds in capturing both the fear and occasional elation of a girl old enough to become pregnant but young enough to still want a doll of her own to play with. He writes heartbreakingly of Lucile "breathing softly, as though smelling somehow her unborn child, and remembering in the smell of it some other, former life."

Greaves' understated writing captures the dry, raw-boned beauty of the land and reproduces the distinctive dialect of that time and place with a pitch-perfect ear. "At the top of a low rise he stood akimbo, surveying the landscape of his childhood: the joys and sorrows etched upon the weathered barnwood and the hardened turnrows and the dying play of sunlight on the roof shakes," he writes of Palmer. Comparisons to Cormac McCarthy, another writer of unflinching Western stories, feel apt. In its historical weight and narrative power, Hard Twisted is as epic as the rugged mesa and range its characters inhabit.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Communications Associate Director Location: Flexible within the Western U.S., Durango, CO preferred Position reports to: Senior Communications Director The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF)...
  • HISTORIC HOTEL & CAFE
    For Sale, 600k, Centennial Wyoming, 6 suites plus 2 bed, 2 bath apartment. www.themountainviewhotel.com Make this your home or buy a turn key hotel [email protected]
  • MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Major Gifts Officer to join our...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    Basic Summary: The Vice President for Landscape Conservation is based in the Washington, D.C., headquarters and oversees Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing...
  • BRISTOL BAY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Seeking a program director responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the Alaska Chapter's priority strategy for conservation in the Bristol Bay region of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The National Bighorn Sheep Center is looking for an Executive Director to take us forward into the new decade with continued strong leadership and vision:...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, based in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a new Executive Director with a passion for rural communities, water, and working lands....
  • CLEAN ENERGY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Type: Permanent, fulltime Reports to: Executive Director Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state and out-of-state required Compensation (beginning): $44,000 to 46,500/yr., DOE plus excellent benefits...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.