Washed in the Blood is an excellent and heartfelt tribute to the author's cousin, Betty Williams, who was tragically killed at the age of 17 by her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Mack Herring. The book is a memoir of the cousins growing up together in the West Texas oil patch of Odessa during the 1950s and early 60s, where football was KING and anything else not worthy of notice. It was on the cusp of the hippie counterculture and before women's lib. It is a tale of a young man and woman coming-of-age, a shattering of innocent belief in our justice system, and a ghost story. I was utterly enthralled by Shelton L. Williams' unfolding tale of the events of that time, now 60 years in the past.
The newspapers, radio, and television of the time focused on the young man that ended Betty's life. Here, the author tells the victim's side of the story, at least what he knows of it, including his personal memories and involvement in the events surrounding his cousin's death; he was there after all. Her death continues to resonate with young women even today.
After Betty's death, Williams continued to pursue the answers to questions that remained after the investigation and the trial about what and why things had gone as they did. He talked to an astonishing number of people that may have held a piece to this enduring puzzle. His method of relating this story made it feel like these events had happened only yesterday. I appreciated how he identified the different individuals involved at the time, their roles, and his thoughts at the time and now, years later, after a lot of thought and life experience has made their impact. Many were just kids from school and friends he or Betty hung out with or dated. Her death affected so many more people than you'd suppose until you stopped to think. And the impact is still felt today.
Washed in the Blood presents the reader with a sharply focused picture of life at that time and in that place, but it is a near-perfect reflection of the concurrent and broader society. He delineates the double standards of conduct acceptable and expected of women, girls, men, and boys. His research into Betty's life also reveals some of the impacts that those differences had on her, himself, his family, and so many other lives.
At just under 200 pages with accompanying photos and illustrations, this book could be read in just one enthralling sitting. I recommend WASHED IN THE BLOOD to readers who enjoy gritty, honest memoirs, coming-of-age tales, true crime stories, and those set in West Texas in the early 1960s.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Literary Life/Lone Star Book Blog Tours.