A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
This true-crime book holds a particular interest for me because I attended college with the two principals, Betty Pomeroy Gore and Allan Gore. I stood next to Allan in the a cappella choir, and Betty was born and raised in the small Kansas town where my grandparents lived. Betty and Allan married five months before my fiancée and I did, so I have some affinity for their story. On June 13, 1980, when we are all in our early thirties, Betty Gore is murdered apparently with a three-foot ax. The last person to see her alive, other than her infant daughter, is her friend Candy Montgomery. Only they aren’t exactly friends any longer. According to trial records, when Candy drops by to see about the Gore’s older daughter spending the night at the Montgomery house and picking up the child’s swimsuit, Betty asks Candy if she is having an affair with her husband, Allan. Candy says no, but when Betty asks her if she had an affair with him, Candy confirms it.
The word “yes” begins their long and bizarre story. The two women talk quietly about it, Candy proclaiming that the affair has been over for eight months. This does not satisfy Betty. She leaves the room and comes back from the utility room with a big ax. Somehow the following fracas winds up in that little room. Candy claims that Betty says, “I have to kill you,” and raises the ax. Candy’s head and foot both receive “minor” injuries, but worse, something in Candy’s subconsciousness is unleashed, a rage, and, instead of getting out of that place with her life, she finds herself in a life-and-death struggle for the ax. And when she wrangles it away, she (in echoes of Lizzie Borden) gives her friend over forty whacks—most of them while the victim’s heart is still beating.
The story is fascinating, not just because I knew the Gores on a degree of separation of, say, a faded one, but it is universal to many fallen church people. All these people are good Christians, active in their local communities, and still something heinous like this can happen. After evading the police for weeks, Candy is finally confronted and charged with the murder. Her trial, in North Texas’s Collin County adjacent to Dallas, is a circus of media hounds, theatrical lawyers, and one recalcitrant and tyrannical judge.
By the way, I read this book the first time it came out. Made not a mark in it. Just read it straight through to get the facts, ma’am, just the facts. This reading, I believe I felt a much stronger empathy for young parents who are dissatisfied with their apparently happy marriages, a better understanding that life is not always black and white. Though the story is over forty years old, it remains a cautionary tale for bored suburban housewives who think that a brief affair might bring them a bit of excitement to their dull lives. And perhaps it is a lesson already learned, for more women than ever are a part of the workforce, lead mostly satisfying lives of work and family—as much as any man. In any case, it is a story I shall not soon forget.
TUES: A Writer's Wit | David Ebershoff
WEDS: A Writer's Wit | Binyavanga Wainaina
THURS: A Writer's Wit | Patricia Highsmith
FRI: My Book World | Erika Krouse's Tell Me Everything