From Publishers Weekly
In September 1941 golf star Marion Miley and her mother were killed at the Lexington (Kentucky) Country Club during a botched burglary. Three men were convicted: Robert Anderson, Thomas Penney and Raymond Baxter. Penney, the mastermind, fingered Anderson, whom he hated, as his accomplice. While on death row Penney converted to Catholicism and recanted his testimony. Then he stood mute; if he wouldn't testify on Anderson's behalf there could not be a new trial. But the question of Anderson's innocence plagued Eddyville Penitentiary Warden Jess Buchanan. What unfolds is a tense reconstruction of the execution night. According to law, each man was to be executed in the order of conviction: Anderson, Penney and Baxter. Buchanan told Penney that the order would be changed, Penney going first. This was fine with Penney because he could go to his death a good Catholic and still railroad Anderson, according to the warden, who changed the order again. Anderson would go to the chair first, giving Penney a chance to test his newfound Christian conscience. In a riveting book that plays out like a mystery novel, the author, Warden Buchanan's son, takes us through that fateful night and confronts us with the reality of Anderson's guilt. Film rights to Multimedia.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
One of the strangest, most convoluted true-crime tales of the year, recounted with skill by Buchanan (Creative Writing/University of New Mexico), whose father figured prominently in the case. On February 23, 1943, three men counted down the hours to their electrocution in Kentucky State Penitentiary. Bob Anderson- -owner of a Louisville nightclub--was the first scheduled to be strapped into a wooden chair and jolted with 2300 volts of electricity; following him would be Bob Penney--Anderson's former employee--and Willie Baxter, the waiflike, painfully self-effacing groundskeeper of the Louisville Country Club. The three had been convicted of the murder of 27-year-old Marion Miley, a vivacious pro golfer who ranked #2 nationally and was killed during the robbery of a cash box at the country club, where she lived. But Penney, while awaiting execution, had converted to Catholicism with an ardor rarely encountered by priests--and, just prior to Christmas, he'd made the astounding announcement that Anderson was innocent. Then, reversing field, he'd declared he would say no more--and the Lexington court had announced that, because of his refusal to cooperate, it couldn't retry Anderson. The law at the time stated that in multiple executions, the order of execution should be in the order of conviction. But the shrewd warden of the prison, Patrick J. Buchanan, the author's father, convinced the governor to put Penney on the chair first: Face to face with God, the man might reveal the truth. At the 11th hour, however, the wily Buchanan told Penney that Anderson would be first to go: ``If Bob is innocent and [you don't try] to stop it,'' he proclaimed, ``his death will be on your soul.'' And so the white-faced Penney, who ended up being executed first, wrote a letter, entrusted to his priest, to be given to Buchanan only after his death.... Well done and satisfying. (Photographs--not seen). (First printing of 20,000; film rights sold to Multimedia Motion Pictures) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.