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Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Sandy Knoll Murder: Legacy of the Sheepshooters by Melany Tupper

Could have been so much more

Perry Mason had Paul Drake. Ben Matlock had Tyler Hudson, Conrad McMasters and Cliff Lewis. What did they have? Tremendous investigators - researchers that covered the whole thing and then turned it over to someone else to make it sound nice for the judge and the jury.

Melany Tupper has thoroughly investigated (and thoroughly documented) the murder of John Creed Conn in 1904. Conn was a frontier businessman who disappeared, presumed to have committed suicide or accidentally drowned but than his body suddenly appeared on Sandy Knoll 7 weeks later.

At the same time, sheep were being slaughtered dozens and sometimes even hundreds at a time in yet another confrontation between cattle ranchers and sheepherders and there was a possible serial killer was living in and around the area.

All of this sounds like a great recipe for an exciting bit of history. This is where my reference to Perry Mason and Ben Matlock comes in. Tupper is like his investigators.  Note that Paul Drake does the investigating for Perry Mason but Perry Mason tells the story. Matlock did not do the difficult leg work - he had others do that while he weaved it together into an interesting and convincing tale. Tupper has dug and scraped at a history that was presumed to be "settled" and came up with a completely different conclusion. This is a very good bit of investigative work.

Central Oregon Sheepherders
But, it is hard to read, especially the first few chapters. There is an assumption that the reader knows all about the Conn incident and the sheepshooters (I only know about this book and this particular incident because it was brought to my attention on an internet board). This is a critical mistake and makes the beginning of the book difficult at best. The commentary about Ray Jackson at the end of the book are quite good and quite convincing but too many times it was a hard slog to get to that point.

Working with another author to make the presentation more palatable and would have done this thorough and impressive piece of research a favor.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Sandy Knoll Murder: Legacy of the Sheepshooters

I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on January 2, 2011.

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