When this book “The Long And Faraway Gone” by Lou Berney arrived on my doorstep, I did not remember ordering it. When I opened it and looked at the back cover, chills went down my spine.

The Plot:

This book is, from what I can tell, loosely based on the kidnapping at the Oklahoma State Fair in 1981. It was never solved, and the two 13 year old girls were never found. 

However this book’s fictional victim is a 17 year old girl. 

Also, the writer brings in a story about a mass shooting of young employees at a movie theater. I believe this may be based upon, or has a correlation to, the Sirloin Stockade murders in the summer of 1978. 

 A Grisly Crime Spree:

Part of this crime spree began in Purcell, Oklahoma, where a couple and their son were on their way to the husband’s mother’s funeral. They stopped to help a woman who seemed to be having car trouble. 

It was a set up. They were all murdered by a man, his wife (the woman in the car) and his brother. The Sirloin Stockade murders would come a little later. 

This book takes a circuitous route weaving the stories together, but not relating them to one another. I found it very compelling. But there is another reason why. 

The reason it hit me hard is because I investigated and wrote about the abduction of the two girls from the Oklahoma state fair. 

A Wyoming truck driver, Royal Russell Long, was charged and brought to trial in Oklahoma City in 1985. He was then serving time in prison for the kidnapping of two girls there.

One managed to get away and testified against him. The other girl has never been found.

Long had a history of sexual violence toward young girls. 

He was not convicted of the OKC fair kidnapping case, even though there was fairly strong evidence. 

Corresponding With A Killer:

Several years later, after I had written my feature about the girls, I wrote Long in prison. Thus began a correspondence that lasted for some time. I of course wanted information; closure for the family. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.

He promised to give me information if I’d meet with him in person. I was set to do that. But at the last minute, authorities shut it down. I was told the FBI was following the correspondence and I suppose wanted it to continue.

Sadly, the cases have never been solved. 

But I will never forget seeing the pain of uncertainty up close and personal. What it looks and sounds like for a family when they have a loved one who never came home. And never find out why.

And I will never forget corresponding with a killer. He has since died. So the answers, if there are any, died with him.

Nor will I ever forget a phone call I received on a Saturday night in 1987 during the time of that correspondence, purportedly from a man in NY. He warned me to leave it all alone and step away.

I was alone that evening when that very strange conversation came about. I never found out who he was or how he fit into the picture, if at all. 

Yes, I have woven my own story into that of my review of Lou Berney’s book. I don’t know how I could not have, given the circumstances. 

My Thoughts:

I will say that this is a book that you read rapidly because you want to know the answers. But at the same time, you don’t want the book to end. Because the writing is tight and very good.

Berney was very clever in his plotting of these two stories and how he constructed the endings. I will definitely be reading more of his books. 

He is a television and screen writer, who now resides in Oklahoma, where he teaches writing at the University of Oklahoma (where I received my journalism degree) and at Oklahoma City University. 

I can only assume the accounts of the two cases prompted him to write this book. Though it is different from the two real cases altogether, you feel that that was his starting point somehow.

Funny how things come back from long ago and strike a chord within you. Bringing back times in your life you’ve let settle down with dust. And then prompting you to wipe the dust away and look at them again. 

 

Similar Posts

32 Comments

  1. Now I am wondering if you will contact the author. Sounds as if you would have a great conversation. Hope that your leg begins feeling much better soon. I hate it when I don't feel well enough to clean as I'd like.

  2. I find it incredibly fascinating that you didn't order this book, but that it parallels your experiences so perfectly. How eerie! And what a shame you never met Long. It's somewhat ironic the FBi wanted your correspondence to continue, yet if you had met him they too may have gotten answers.

  3. Oh Brenda, What an incredible experience you've had. Reading that book must make you wonder why know after all this time are you reliving that time. You are so interesting and there are many layers to your life. Thank you for sharing and I will want to read this book. Great review

  4. Do you think the author, or whoever was doing research for him, ran across your name because of your work on the case? I hope you find out where the book came from.

    1. He's written two other books that I know of. I looked them up. Not sure I'd order them. But this one, of course, gripped me and I had to read it. Just to satisfy my curiosity.

    1. It must have been Harper Collins publishing. Maybe it was a mistake, because they send you a Google Doc once a month to choose three books from. And I know it was not one of my choices. I'd never even heard of it. Perhaps serendipity?

  5. Brenda, how can you not turn off the memories as a journalist writing about the lost ones and the families. A voice for them. I've been reading your blog since last year. You're a survivor and a lot of women can relate to you, including me. Kathleen in Az

    1. Well, I don't think you can turn it off. Victims become last week or last year's news fast. Then they become a case number when there is no tombstone because there is no body. I always wanted to go in after some time had passed and see if they wanted me to write about their child/loved one in a different fashion. Focusing on them and not the crime.

  6. Wow Brenda! First of all the book sounds really good and your story of covering that case is so interesting also. You have had such an interesting life. I will put this book on my list for sure.

    Linda

  7. Brenda your freaking me out. I don't live too far from Purcell and the Goldsby exit now has a sex trafficking billboard. I remember the stories of Sirloin Stockade and was born that year and I remember the storied of the girls from the fair. My mom never let us run around alone there. The girl falling off the double ferris wheel at the fair and the Hardee's shooting stick with me too. Guess I'm going to have to get the book. Until the Natalie Holloway case I had no idea sex trafficking was so big and it happened in Oklahoma.

    1. I think it's likely due to the highways, I-40 and I-35, that run two ways and go on forever, that can get someone back out of there fast. Also truck stops, eerie places where who knows what goes on with all those semis parked.

  8. I got chills reading this, Brenda. How odd that life comes full circle, time and time again….and the book showing up that you don't remember ordering…..and the closeness of the cases in your background from the book. It must have been almost eerie reading for you. xo Diana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *