three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
28-May-June-2007
user_rating: 
0

The Rape and Murder of Innocence in a Small Town

A-FallIn 1973, Casper, Wyoming, was rocked by a crime so vicious that, more than three decades later, the event remains lodged in the consciousness of the area’s inhabitants. Abducted, raped, and left for dead, 18-year-old Becky Thomson survived a 110-foot fall from the Fremont Canyon Bridge; her younger half-sister, Amy Burridge, wasn’t as fortunate. Unable to escape the memory of her ordeal, Thomson returned to the bridge in 1992 and jumped—this time, to her death. Ron Franscell, the girls’ childhood neighbor who was 16 years old at the time, draws on interviews with more than 100 friends and family of the girls, as well as with one of the murderers, to examine the lasting effects of violence on both the victims and the survivors.
New Horizon. 272 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0882822799

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"A true-crime tale that grabs readers on the first page and doesn’t let go until long after the final word. … Thanks to Franscell’s daily journalism experience, his polished, yet conversational writing style appeals to the Everyman." Karen Algeo Krizman

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle 4 of 5 Stars
"Fall may not provide healing for those hurt by these crimes, for Casper, for Wyoming. But it certainly won’t be because one of the victims, author Ron Franscell, didn’t try." D. Reed Eckhardt

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Franscell’s stated goal in writing this book was to discover if he could heal some of his own wounds by returning to the scene of a long-remembered crime. … The story in Fall is, in the end, too horrifying to try to explain." Janna Fischer

San Antonio Exp-News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Ron Franscell, managing editor of the Beaumont Enterprise, has written a chilling account of one of this country’s more brutal crimes. … Though he devotes a bit too much time to [murderer Jerry] Jenkins’ self-serving autobiography, Franscell scrupulously covers the facts of the police interviews, the trial, as well as the sense of malaise the crime cast over the town." John Hammond

Chicago Sun-Times 3 of 5 Stars
"The girls’ last terrifying moments are delivered with such vivid texture that they are almost too painful to read. … The link Franscell promises to make between the crime and his own life never pans out, and readers may wish that he had either dropped the first-person voice altogether or dug deeper into his own connection." Stephen J. Lyons

Critical Summary

Longtime journalist, mystery writer, and Wyoming native Ron Franscell has penned a true-crime book reminiscent of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood or, more recently, Terri Jentz’s Strange Piece of Paradise ( 4 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2006) and Sebastian Junger’s A Death in Belmont ( 3 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2006). Fall serves as a grim reminder of ubiquitous violence, and the author’s journalistic style—clear, cogent, and compelling—makes for a readable, sometimes gripping, narrative. While some critics find that Franscell only haltingly succeeds in connecting the crime to his own childhood in Casper, Karen Algeo Krizman points out that, as a testament to the depth of evil and an elegy for a simpler time, Fall "delivers a crackling story of lives and innocence lost."

Cited by the Critics

Strange Piece of Paradise | Terri Jentz (2006): In the summer of 1977, Jentz and a fellow Yale student were attacked while camping in northern Oregon. The author spent 15 years coming to grips with her physical and emotional scars, and she details her futile, but cathartic, search for her attacker.