Fourteen years, 100 drafts, 180,000 words, and many nightmares later, Richard E. Turley Jr. and Barbara Jones Brown finally have a Memorial Day weekend to themselves. The book they’ve been researching and writing, and re-researching and rewriting, is out of their hands, set in print. They couldn’t fiddle with the manuscript—and heaven knows there’s been plenty of fiddling—anymore if they tried.
The Mountain Meadows Massacre is off their shoulders.
This weekend is the official release date for “Vengeance is Mine; The Mountain Meadows Massacre and its Aftermath,” published by the venerable Oxford University Press and available at a bookstore or an Amazon link near you.
In the wake of the many previous accounts of the massacre itself—prominent among them Juanita Brooks’ seminal “Mountain Meadows Massacre” in 1950, Will Bagley’s “Blood of the Prophets” in 2004, and the treatise Brown edited and Turley wrote with coauthors Ronald W. Walker and Glen M. Leonard, “Massacre at Mountain Meadows,” in 2008—this book tells the rest of the story. If the MMM wasn’t already the most documented murder in western U.S. history, it might be now.
Brown and Turley are fine writers, but they are historians first. They didn’t spend the last 14 years gazing out the window, stuck in writer’s block. They spent it pouring over mountains of journals, newspaper articles, trial transcripts, and other historical records, personally traveling to virtually every place mentioned in the book for authenticity’s sake and over-writing like they were getting paid by the word (they weren’t).
The first draft they submitted exceeded their 170,000-word limit by 90,000 words (that’s an entire Grisham novel). They trimmed 80,000 of them, but it took years to do it; it was like asking them to choose between their children.
The writer-historians had unfettered access to the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the religion of all the massacre perpetrators, as well as the focal point for their behavior. Turley and Brown are both Latter-day Saints, but lest you think “apologists,” read the book.
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