Monday, May 15, 2006

The Killing of Strangers

First, I need to say that I went to Kent State University from 1975-1978, and the Kent State shootings were still an important part of campus life and history at that time. There were still candlelight vigils in the parking lot. I lived in Prentice Hall, and there were still bullet holes in the building. We studied books on the shootings in English class. Alan Canfora and some of the other students spoke in our dorm. By the time I was a senior, there were protests again on the hill, and our professors were camping out to protest the building of a gym on the site. At least while I was there, the May 4, 1970 shootings haunted Kent State.

So, I was very interested when I read about Jerry Holt's novel, The Killing of Strangers. The story revolves around two people who were involved in the shootings, what Holt refers to as, "one of the unsolved mysteries of the century." In 1970, Lucifer Jones and his wife, Crystal, were hippies brought in to take part in the events at Kent. Lucifer Jones disappeared that day, and Crystal, since she was pregnant, was hustled off to Yellow Springs, OH. Twenty-five years later, when a drunken Crystal swears she saw Lucifer in her backyard, their daughter hires ex-cop and fired security guard Sam Haggard to investigate. Haggard was in Vietnam on May 4, but he knows the story of Lucifer Jones. As Sam is drawn to the story, he finds himself attracted to Crystal's daughter, Corrie, and intrigued by the possibilities of the past.

The Killing of Strangers is a novel that suggests what might have happened at Kent State, and that repercussions are still felt a quarter of a century later. Holt's novel, like Sam's life, is "alive with possibilities." It's a haunting story for any Kent State grad.

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