Saturday, September 27, 2008

Eyes of a Monster

Eyes of a Monster
by Jacqueline S. Homan

(Elf Books / 0-981-56792-4 / 978-0-981-56792-1 / 2007 / 642 pages / $35.95 / Kindle $5.00)

The single best word to describe this true story of a hate crime surrounded by deceit is riveting. Eyes of a Monster is a morality play that has been personalized by the naivete of its author, taking the reader deeply into the psyche of women who love men on death row. It is a treatise on the death penalty, human frailty, and inhuman cruelty, as told from the perspective of someone who was there.

Just before Christmas in 1987, two drunken young men who were clearly up to no good, kidnapped, beat, tortured, and murdered a third young man whom the first two perceived as homosexual. Anthony Milano naively strolled into a bar to have a late-night sandwich, when he was spotted by a giant bear of a man named Richard Laird and his smaller, younger buddy, Frank Chester. Rick, as he was commonly known, immediately proceeded to look for trouble, and his less enthusiastic associate went along for the ride. The two of them employed an eerily not-so-benign encouragement to Tony Milano to take them for a ride into the night. The three of them got into Tony’s car and headed out on their devilish mission into Buck’s County, PA. After a supposed stop at a convenience store for beer, at which time a panicked Tony almost escaped, the boys wound up on the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere. After torching Tony’s car simply to dispose of all the evidence that might have been found attached to it, two of the boys went to a nearby friend’s apartment to wash the blood out of their clothes. Anthony Milano was left lying in the bushes with his head bashed in and his throat cut. Both of these satanic clowns received the death penalty in a trial transcript meticulously displayed by the author.

Long after Laird and Chester had been sent to prison, Jacqueline Homan was working as a member of a maintenance crew of a large hotel when a coworker asked her if she might look into his brother’s criminal case. Ms. Homan was not a lawyer, but she had considerably more educational and research experience than Rick Laird’s brother ever thought about acquiring. Unfortunately, Jacqueline was more than a little innocent and both the Laird brothers were more than a little guilty. The bulk of the book’s text follows the transcript of the trial of Rick Laird and Frank Chester, and then the author describes in great detail her attempt to secure a hearing for Rick Laird to remove him from death row. Eyes of a Monster exemplifies the age-old concept that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and in this case, it becomes a morbid fascination shared by both the author and the reader. Eyes of a Monster is hellaciously good at impersonating a morality play.

Unfortunately, there are a few downsides to this outstanding book. It is too expensive as an undiscounted hardback only. As with Ms. Homan’s first book, Classism for Dimwits, there is a bit too much whining about the author’s personal state of poverty. There are far too many stupid proofreading errors that could easily have been avoided with more diligence. The author could have tightened up the editing a little more by deleting some of the extraneous details, such as some of the many descriptions of similar criminal cases and the inclusion of numerous, complete letters written to Jacqueline by Rick Laird. With a little tightening of the plotline, a smaller font, and narrower margins, this six-hundred-page bicep-builder could be turned into a 350-page paperback that fans of the genre would not be able to resist. The next step would be to develop a script to submit to the Lifetime channel. If women didn’t love this stuff to death, Nancy Grace wouldn’t be a millionaire! In spite of its flaws, three words still creep to the surface of Eyes of a Monster: outstanding, gripping, and riveting.

See Also: The B&N Review
The BNN Review

Jacqueline's website
Divine Right PODBRAM Review

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