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The salacious and scandalous murders of a series of couples on Texarkana's "lovers lanes" in seemingly idyllic post-WWII America created a media maelstrom and cast a pall of fear over an entire region. What is even more surprising is that the case has remained cold for decades. Combining archival research and investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize nominated historian Jam The salacious and scandalous murders of a series of couples on Texarkana's "lovers lanes" in seemingly idyllic post-WWII America created a media maelstrom and cast a pall of fear over an entire region. What is even more surprising is that the case has remained cold for decades. Combining archival research and investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize nominated historian James Presley reveals evidence that provides crucial keys to unlocking this decades-old puzzle. Dubbed "the Phantom murders" by the press, these grisly crimes took place in an America before dial telephones, DNA science, and criminal profiling. Even pre-television, print and radio media stirred emotions to a fever pitch. The Phantom Killer, exhaustively researched, is the only definitive nonfiction book on the case, and includes details from an unpublished account by a survivor, and rare, never-before-published photographs. Although the case lives on today on television, the Internet, a revived fictional movie and even an off-Broadway play, with so much of the investigation shrouded in mystery since 1946, rumors and fractured facts have distorted the reality. Now, for the first time, a careful examination of the archival record, personal interviews, and stubborn fact checking come together to produce new insights and revelations on the old slayings.


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The salacious and scandalous murders of a series of couples on Texarkana's "lovers lanes" in seemingly idyllic post-WWII America created a media maelstrom and cast a pall of fear over an entire region. What is even more surprising is that the case has remained cold for decades. Combining archival research and investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize nominated historian Jam The salacious and scandalous murders of a series of couples on Texarkana's "lovers lanes" in seemingly idyllic post-WWII America created a media maelstrom and cast a pall of fear over an entire region. What is even more surprising is that the case has remained cold for decades. Combining archival research and investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize nominated historian James Presley reveals evidence that provides crucial keys to unlocking this decades-old puzzle. Dubbed "the Phantom murders" by the press, these grisly crimes took place in an America before dial telephones, DNA science, and criminal profiling. Even pre-television, print and radio media stirred emotions to a fever pitch. The Phantom Killer, exhaustively researched, is the only definitive nonfiction book on the case, and includes details from an unpublished account by a survivor, and rare, never-before-published photographs. Although the case lives on today on television, the Internet, a revived fictional movie and even an off-Broadway play, with so much of the investigation shrouded in mystery since 1946, rumors and fractured facts have distorted the reality. Now, for the first time, a careful examination of the archival record, personal interviews, and stubborn fact checking come together to produce new insights and revelations on the old slayings.

30 review for The Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders: The Story of a Town in Terror

  1. 4 out of 5

    Caidyn (he/him/his)

    2.5 Meh. That's how I feel about this book. Just.. meh. For a book that says the Texarkana murders are some of the most famous unsolved serial murders -- just behind Jack the Ripper -- I wasn't convinced. I'd never really heard of them before. It took me a good half the book to realize that I did know the murders, because of a documentary I watched. (Killer Legends. It's on Netflix and Hulu. Highly recommend it, if you want to hear about where legends come from.) It just didn't register with me. Th 2.5 Meh. That's how I feel about this book. Just.. meh. For a book that says the Texarkana murders are some of the most famous unsolved serial murders -- just behind Jack the Ripper -- I wasn't convinced. I'd never really heard of them before. It took me a good half the book to realize that I did know the murders, because of a documentary I watched. (Killer Legends. It's on Netflix and Hulu. Highly recommend it, if you want to hear about where legends come from.) It just didn't register with me. The part about the actual murders and police search was the most interesting for me. It had the most information and real evidence for it. When I got to the part about Yule Sweeney (is that how you spell his name?) I got really bored. It just... didn't fit. At all. I heard the stuff the author said and talked about, but I wasn't convinced at all. To me, Yule Sweeney didn't do it. I wasn't convinced by the argument, and that's the whole reason this book exists: To convince me that the real killer was Yule Sweeney... with mainly hearsay evidence of testimonies and psychological analysis. So, meh. Well written, but I wasn't convinced.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mitchell Kaufman

    A rather tedious read when compared with others of this genre. The Texarkana serial killings are somewhat forgotten today, and this book presents the facts clearly enough, but the writing is not at all compelling.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Addison

    [library] This is another excellent book like The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America's First Serial Killer, equally local history & true crime. This time, the location is Texarkana (TX/AR) and the true crime is the so-called Phantom Killer of 1946. I first learned about the Phantom Killer through an indie documentary called Killer Legends , which is about four urban legends & the real life crimes that might have inspired them. (Zeman and Mills investigate the Phantom Ki [library] This is another excellent book like The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America's First Serial Killer, equally local history & true crime. This time, the location is Texarkana (TX/AR) and the true crime is the so-called Phantom Killer of 1946. I first learned about the Phantom Killer through an indie documentary called Killer Legends , which is about four urban legends & the real life crimes that might have inspired them. (Zeman and Mills investigate the Phantom Killer and The Town That Dreaded Sundown , which really was, for some benighted reason, remade in 2014; the babysitter as target of psychopath ( Halloween , Scream , etc.) & a serial killer in Missouri who actually did target babysitters (otherwise, they find, babysitting is a remarkably safe occupation); poisoned Halloween candy and the vile Ronald Clark O'Bryan; and the epidemic of clown sightings in Chicago (which apparently hit again in 2016, after Killer Legends) and John Wayne Gacy.) This documentary is a follow-up to Cropsey (2009), which Zeman and a different research partner filmed about the same idea on their native Staten Island: the link between the urban legends they grew up on and the crimes of Andre Rand.) Presley is interviewed in Killer Legends. Presley patiently untangles a snarl of personal histories: the victims, the investigators, the panicked people of Texarkana, and Presley's choice for the killer, Youell Swinney. Swinney was never tried for the murders (nor was anyone else), which is why they're still considered unsolved, but Presley's research (including interviews with cops who survived long enough to talk to Presley as very old men but were dead before he wrote the book) presents a compelling case for why Youell Swinney wasn't tried for murder; they chose to try him for something they knew they could make stick instead of relying on a witness who they knew equally was telling the truth and not telling the whole truth, which is just asking for disaster in cross-examination, reasoning that the important thing was to stop him. Presley goes back and forth between theory (FBI profiling developed in the years since Swinney's murders) and practice (what Swinney did) to try to tease out his motives. While I'm becoming increasingly dubious of the FBI's organized/disorganized schema, their theories about what sorts of things you see in the early childhood of signature killers does seem to hold up pretty well across the cases I've read about. In this case, Presley does a good job of lining up the reasons why Swinney would go after couples and what was at the root of his overpowering rage. This was charming as a history of Texarkana and fascinating as criminology.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Meticulously researched, this book details the true story behind the string of murders committed in the spring of 1946 in Texarkana AR and TX. Officially the case remains unsolved, but the man responsible for the murders was captured and spent 27 years in prison on car theft and habitual criminal convictions. This book clears away the rumors, exaggerations, and misinformation that has circulated through the years. Examination of primary source material and interviews with those involved make thi Meticulously researched, this book details the true story behind the string of murders committed in the spring of 1946 in Texarkana AR and TX. Officially the case remains unsolved, but the man responsible for the murders was captured and spent 27 years in prison on car theft and habitual criminal convictions. This book clears away the rumors, exaggerations, and misinformation that has circulated through the years. Examination of primary source material and interviews with those involved make this the definitive history for the case that put Texarkana on the map, and became the stuff of legend (literally.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    True crime is really not my genre, but I thought this one was fairly readable, and it kept me turning the pages. The serial killer operated around Texarkana in 1946 and was never convicted of murder, although he spent most of his life in prison for a variety of other crimes, from assault and car theft to counterfeiting. The case is now considered closed by those who care about it; most of the people who were directly involved have died by now. The book is full of inconsequential detail, often re True crime is really not my genre, but I thought this one was fairly readable, and it kept me turning the pages. The serial killer operated around Texarkana in 1946 and was never convicted of murder, although he spent most of his life in prison for a variety of other crimes, from assault and car theft to counterfeiting. The case is now considered closed by those who care about it; most of the people who were directly involved have died by now. The book is full of inconsequential detail, often repeated. It would be a far better book if it were half as long.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    A lot of evidence I never knew about this case is brought out in this book. If you've only seen the movie "The Town That Dreaded Sundown", you only have a vague idea about these cases. More "creative liberties" are taken with the movie, as it only partly resembles the true events. As gripping as he parts of the book regarding the attacks are, equally interesting is the author's detailing of the investigation and pursuit of the prime suspect in later chapters. I recommend this book for the "true A lot of evidence I never knew about this case is brought out in this book. If you've only seen the movie "The Town That Dreaded Sundown", you only have a vague idea about these cases. More "creative liberties" are taken with the movie, as it only partly resembles the true events. As gripping as he parts of the book regarding the attacks are, equally interesting is the author's detailing of the investigation and pursuit of the prime suspect in later chapters. I recommend this book for the "true crime" fan.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    A decent, but somewhat bland, account.

  8. 5 out of 5

    George

    This review contains spoilers. I learned about the Phantom serial killings after watching Killer Legends, a horror-documentary that examines the origins of various urban legends. The director, Joshua Zeman, also directed Cropsey, a documentary well-worth seeing. The book came to my attention when James Presley, the author of The Phantom Killer, was interviewed in the documentary about the murders. Here are the basic facts: a person or persons unknown attacked eight young people in the Texarkana ar This review contains spoilers. I learned about the Phantom serial killings after watching Killer Legends, a horror-documentary that examines the origins of various urban legends. The director, Joshua Zeman, also directed Cropsey, a documentary well-worth seeing. The book came to my attention when James Presley, the author of The Phantom Killer, was interviewed in the documentary about the murders. Here are the basic facts: a person or persons unknown attacked eight young people in the Texarkana area, targeting couples necking in cars in lover’s lanes. He killed five people; three escaped. This was in 1946, decades before Robert Ressler coined the term serial killer. The author does a fine job detailing the investigation, which by today’s standards was shoddy. The lawmakers in question had never dealt with serial killings and focused on motives like robbery or revenge, trying to locate enemies of the couples. This was the wrong approach, as most serial killers do not know their victims. A man named Youell Swinney was picked up by the police and immediately became the Number One Suspect, for reasons I still don’t quite understand. It seems that one of the investigators came up with the theory that the killer might be using stolen cars, and Swinney was a known car thief who operated in the area. Investigators placed Swinney near the crime scenes on the nights of the murders. However, they had nothing more than circumstantial evidence on him. Peggy, Swinney’s wife, gave a statement to the effect that her husband was the Phantom, claiming that she witnessed two of the murders, but as his wife Texas law forbade her from testifying against him. From the author’s account, it’s doubtful she would have made a good witness. Eventually, Swinney was convicted as a habitual offender – he had a long list of crimes, ranging from petty theft, burglary and counterfeiting and escalating to assault and car theft – and given a life sentence (Texas had a three strikes and you’re out law). He was released in 1973 and spent the rest of his life in and out of jail. The first half of The Phantom Killer is by far more interesting. Mr. Presley paints a vivid picture of Texarkana in 1946 and gives us a detailed description of the crime and subsequent investigation, conducted by a number of colorful lawmen. The second half of the book lagged, focusing on Swinney and how investigators attempted and ultimately failed to build a case against him. The obvious question is whether Swinney was indeed the Phantom. The author is convinced he was. Please note that Mr. Presley’s uncle was a sheriff deeply involved in the Phantom case, so he can hardly be called unbiased. After reading this book, I wasn’t convinced. Lawmakers never had anything more than circumstantial evidence against Swinney, and it seems doubtful a jury would have sent him to the electric chair on that basis. The other question that comes up is whether Swinney had adequate legal representation, which is perhaps of greater interest to legal scholars. I drew three conclusions from reading The Phantom Killer: 1. Swinney could have been the Phantom; 2. Lawmakers couldn’t prove Swinney was the Phantom; 3. Swinney was sent to prison – fairly or unfairly – for a number of lesser crimes using laws then on the books. I’m still unsure why Swinney suddenly became the main suspect. To me, it looks like lawmen decided that the killer was also a car thief, which automatically made Swinney – a known car thief – their number one suspect. Strangely, they never had two of the survivors try to pick Swinney out of a lineup, even though one of them said her assailant had a voice she’d never forget. And then there’s Peggy Swinney’s statement. Actually, statements would be more accurate. Her first account of the night of the double murder is full of inconsistencies. Her revised statement, made months later, is much more coherent, mentioning a number of crucial details she’d omitted in her first account. Amazingly, Ms. Swinney’s memory of the events of that night seemed to become clearer with the passage of time; either that, or she was coached, picking up salient details over the course of multiple interrogations. The Phantom Killer contains a fair bit of psychobabble about why Swinney was such an unpleasant character. It is undeniable that Swinney was a sociopath, displaying violent and antisocial tendencies. He could have been The Phantom, and the murders ceased after his imprisonment. It is also undeniable that lots of people in Texarkana –by the author’s own admission, a hotbed of crime – had similar psychological profiles and could have been the Phantom also. So did the Phantom Killer escape justice? It’s hard for me to believe that he just stopped killing, although apparently sometimes serial killers do. My feeling is that he either killed himself or was jailed for another crime. Was the Phantom Killer Youell Swinney? He fits the profile, but we’ll never know.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The Phantom Killer- Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders: The Story of a Town in Terror by James Presley is a 2015 Pegasus Books LLC publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This case has been the subject of much speculation over the years. Officially, it remains an unsolved mystery, but in this book, James Presley builds a case against the prime suspect which left me feeling, at least in my mind, as though the case was f The Phantom Killer- Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders: The Story of a Town in Terror by James Presley is a 2015 Pegasus Books LLC publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This case has been the subject of much speculation over the years. Officially, it remains an unsolved mystery, but in this book, James Presley builds a case against the prime suspect which left me feeling, at least in my mind, as though the case was finally solved. In 1946, the term “serial killer” wasn't on the tips of everyone's tongue like it is today. While there were multiple killings in this case, I'm wondering if “spree killer” might not be a more apt description. Nevertheless, this type of crime was practically unheard of, especially in the small boom town of Texarkana, a city with the unique notoriety of being placed between the borders of both Texas and Arkansas. Yes, there is an Arkansas side and a Texas side. Otherwise, there was nothing especially remarkable about Texarkana, but this case put it “on the map” so to speak. The first vicious attack on a dark, isolated lover's lane is the stuff horror movie legends are made of. Two young people parking are approached by a gunman wearing a hood or mask and brutally attacked. The couple miraculously survived, but law enforcement had a nearly blasé sort of attitude about the crime. However, when another attack occurs, and this time the victims are murdered, the case took on a whole new dimension and law enforcement sat up and took notice and then... another attack took place. The first part of the book which outlines details of the crime spree was riveting. It will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Random shootings and attacks like these, where there doesn't appear to be any kind of personal motive or pattern, is one the most difficult to process and understand and it's hard to pinpoint who is responsible. The atmosphere in the town of Texarkana was nearly one of mass hysteria and the media wasted no time hyping the story making the situation even more tense. But, once the book moves past the initial shock of the murders themselves and the author begins to make a case for one particular person who most likely had an accomplice, the pace of the book slows down to crawl. This part is pretty dry reading despite the fact I thought the author had the killer pegged. The book comes with a set of photographs which give faces to names and lets us know what happened to all the people involved, either as victims or officers in the case. The book also, of course, reminds us that the movie “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” was loosely based on this crime, and I do mean loosely. The crime, the publicity, the movie and TV true crime shows have all left Texarkana with a bit of notoriety it might not have otherwise and there are people there today who are still attempting to cash in on that fifteen minutes of fame, some of which I found to be in poor taste. Overall the author did a great job of laying out the crime, the era of time, the aftermath and the investigation. He went into great detail in making his case and had me convinced, without a doubt, that the man he fingered was in fact “The Phantom Killer”. The book is well researched and thought out, and even though the book was a little dull in places, it accomplishes it's goal. I am so glad someone has written a book about this crime and put to rest that awful image people have due to the Hollywood version of events. If you want to know what really happened, read this book. 3.5 rounded to 4

  10. 5 out of 5

    Robert Bennett

    For those of you who saw the 1970s B movie, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, this is the story of the real murders in Texarkana that inspired the movie. I've always been curious about what happened and was quite excited to see a book released on this topic. First, let me point out the positive. I thought the book was well done, flowed nicely, and was easy to read. In addition, the author had obviously done his research and answered a lot of questions that were unanswered prior to this book. However, For those of you who saw the 1970s B movie, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, this is the story of the real murders in Texarkana that inspired the movie. I've always been curious about what happened and was quite excited to see a book released on this topic. First, let me point out the positive. I thought the book was well done, flowed nicely, and was easy to read. In addition, the author had obviously done his research and answered a lot of questions that were unanswered prior to this book. However, in my opinion the author did what many people who have never been involved int he legal system do, he put too much faith in what the police did being correct in coming to his assumptions and he gave extra credence to their testimony simply by virtue of them being police officers. In several places he mentions how the statements of an "eyewitness" matched parts of the crime scene that they would have had no way of knowing unless they were there when the crime was committed. In doing so he ignored the idea that the police may have coached the witness in their statements, which is a not uncommon occurrence today much less back in the 1940s when confessions were still being beaten out of suspects (a fact he does acknowledge). In addition, many of the statements given weren't actually from the witness, they were narratives of the police writing up what they had been told by the witness, obviously causing credibility issues with these accounts. As you get further into the book more and more assumptions are made and resolved in favor of the identification of a killer. I think Mr. Presley was likely correct in his identification of the person who committed the murders but I would have liked to see more hard facts and less assumptions as to the veracity of the police officers. Overall I would definitely recommend the book and I enjoyed it immensely but would have liked to have seen it written from a more neutral viewpoint.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This is a very definitive book on a series of murders that took place in Texarkana in the late 1940s. I can remember the movie that was spawned from this, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, back when I was a youngster. I found from this book that, of course, the movie was really nothing like what happened in real life. Close but no cigar. The first part of this book that details the actual crime reads pretty quickly. However once a suspect is caught the book does bog down a bit. Of course real life This is a very definitive book on a series of murders that took place in Texarkana in the late 1940s. I can remember the movie that was spawned from this, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, back when I was a youngster. I found from this book that, of course, the movie was really nothing like what happened in real life. Close but no cigar. The first part of this book that details the actual crime reads pretty quickly. However once a suspect is caught the book does bog down a bit. Of course real life criminal investigation and courtroom is nothing like most people perceive it to be. Also interesting to note is that the Sheriff on the Texas side of town at the time of the murders was the authors uncle. A very interesting book that takes a step back in time.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sunsettowers

    As the title suggests, Presley tackles the unsolved murders in Texarkana. These murders have inspired countless speculation as well as two movies. Presley expertly lays out the history of Texarkana, the murders, the people involved, and the chief suspect. He also has gained access to previously unreleased information, which helps make his book what I suspect will the definitive tome on the subject. I definitely recommend this book for true crime readers.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Scribner

    Meticulously researched and I think he actually uncovered and put together some interesting and new material but it was presented in such a bland manner that I just couldn't get into it. Meticulously researched and I think he actually uncovered and put together some interesting and new material but it was presented in such a bland manner that I just couldn't get into it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This is a thoroughly researched account of the Texarkana murders, but it's bogged down by poor editorial choices and a lack of objectivity. The details of each attack are given in a straightforward, smoothly written style. Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn't keep that clarity of focus. Passages meant to contextualize the murders often lead to tedious asides or clumsy foreshadowing, and the author repeats things quite a bit. One of the final chapters is a twenty-page summary that takes us This is a thoroughly researched account of the Texarkana murders, but it's bogged down by poor editorial choices and a lack of objectivity. The details of each attack are given in a straightforward, smoothly written style. Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn't keep that clarity of focus. Passages meant to contextualize the murders often lead to tedious asides or clumsy foreshadowing, and the author repeats things quite a bit. One of the final chapters is a twenty-page summary that takes us back through facts and theories that we'd already been presented with, which reads like somebody bound a book report up with the actual book. Another of the book's weaknesses may be partly caused by the author's Texarkana roots, including the fact that his uncle was a sheriff who investigated these killings. While he does criticize the way that the early crime scenes and evidence were handled, he shows complete faith in law enforcement accounts once they settle on Youell Swinney as a suspect. When discussing the shifting statements of Swinney's wife, the author flat-out says, "Every time she spoke, she seemed to edge closer to the kind of eyewitness evidence the officers sought." But he never follows that thought through to the possibility that someone may have been coaching her. My biggest issue is probably with the book's armchair psychoanalysis. The author explores an unconvincing system of examining every little word in a witness statement for traces of dishonesty, and he also spends an awkward amount of time theorizing about Swinney's sexuality and motives. (That iffy subject also kept reminding me of the author's questionable word choice when referring to the assault of the first female victim.) The book does present some very good evidence that Youell Swinney was the Texarkana Phantom. But the author's case would have been far stronger if he'd stuck closer to the proven facts and had admitted that one key witness may have been influenced by investigators.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Caitie

    For a case that's so old, creepy, and slightly fascinating telling of post-war America, the author of this book really made this book....boring. The author felt the need to go in depth on certain areas that I didn't feel like needed in depth analysis. Also, the author didn't need to say "according to the Census of..." when describing the people involved in the case, please just tell us about the person. Yes, most people know that the Census is taken every ten years in essentially count the peopl For a case that's so old, creepy, and slightly fascinating telling of post-war America, the author of this book really made this book....boring. The author felt the need to go in depth on certain areas that I didn't feel like needed in depth analysis. Also, the author didn't need to say "according to the Census of..." when describing the people involved in the case, please just tell us about the person. Yes, most people know that the Census is taken every ten years in essentially count the people in the US (I think it's more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea), so the author could've just written something like "this person grew up in this place and then moved here in this year." I'm not a professional writer, all I know is that there are clearer ways to write things that don't make the writing sound clunky. Anyway, the city of Texarkana saddles two states, Texas and Arkansas, so it's more like a twin city. In 1946, a serial killer was running around town killing couple, or people he believed to be couples. The victims tended to be young, two of the victims were in high school at the time and two victims were shot at through the window of their house (the wife in that situation survived the attack). The newspapers at the time began calling the guy "The Phantom Killer." The author goes into a major suspect, who seems to be the only suspect in the case, a man named Swiney. But the police relied on the testimony of his wife, who didn't seem to be very reliable in my opinion.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

    The salacious and scandalous murders of a series of couples on Texarkana's "lovers lanes" in seemingly idyllic post-WWII America created a media maelstrom and cast a pall of fear over an entire region. What is even more surprising is that the case has remained cold for decades. Combining archival research and investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize nominated historian James Presley reveals evidence that provides crucial keys to unlocking this decades-old puzzle. Dubbed "the Phantom murders" by t The salacious and scandalous murders of a series of couples on Texarkana's "lovers lanes" in seemingly idyllic post-WWII America created a media maelstrom and cast a pall of fear over an entire region. What is even more surprising is that the case has remained cold for decades. Combining archival research and investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize nominated historian James Presley reveals evidence that provides crucial keys to unlocking this decades-old puzzle. Dubbed "the Phantom murders" by the press, these grisly crimes took place in an America before dial telephones, DNA science, and criminal profiling. Even pre-television, print and radio media stirred emotions to a fever pitch. The Phantom Killer, exhaustively researched, is the only definitive nonfiction book on the case, and includes details from an unpublished account by a survivor, and rare, never-before-published photographs. Although the case lives on today on television, the Internet, a revived fictional movie and even an off-Broadway play, with so much of the investigation shrouded in mystery since 1946, rumors and fractured facts have distorted the reality. Now, for the first time, a careful examination of the archival record, personal interviews, and stubborn fact checking come together to produce new insights and revelations on the old slayings.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura McChristian

    Very well done, but I'm not sure I agree with Presley's cut and dried solution. The evidence against Youell Swinney is compelling, and he may have been the Phantom. The other potential suspect, HB Tennison, barely got a mention. I would rather have seen some discussion on that possibility versus the chapters on Swinney's court cases. And what happened to Peggy Swinney after the divorce? Did she have any more to add once Swinney was put away? Alas, the "Moonlight Murders" continue to baffle. Just Very well done, but I'm not sure I agree with Presley's cut and dried solution. The evidence against Youell Swinney is compelling, and he may have been the Phantom. The other potential suspect, HB Tennison, barely got a mention. I would rather have seen some discussion on that possibility versus the chapters on Swinney's court cases. And what happened to Peggy Swinney after the divorce? Did she have any more to add once Swinney was put away? Alas, the "Moonlight Murders" continue to baffle. Just don't watch that awful second movie they made in 2014.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Al

    I really wanted to like this book. The facts should have made for an engrossing read, but the writing left so much to be desired. The author may be an accomplished journalist, but unfortunately that was not apparent by the tedious pace of this book. Maybe including minutia in a newspaper article adds something, but not in a 300+ page book. It was just filled with irrelevant facts and asides that made reading it a tiresome chore. I do not recommend anyone wasting money on this. Better to get the I really wanted to like this book. The facts should have made for an engrossing read, but the writing left so much to be desired. The author may be an accomplished journalist, but unfortunately that was not apparent by the tedious pace of this book. Maybe including minutia in a newspaper article adds something, but not in a 300+ page book. It was just filled with irrelevant facts and asides that made reading it a tiresome chore. I do not recommend anyone wasting money on this. Better to get the story on Wikipedia or Google

  19. 5 out of 5

    John Stevenson

    I thought it was well researched and written. Richard Griffin, one of the victims, was my Grandfather’s first cousin and grew up on the farm next to his. I knew very little about the case or it’s impact on my family. I never heard my cousin Welborn, Richard’s brother, speak of the case. Reading his interview gave very good insight into how it affected the family. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rory

    Mehhhhhhh. I went on a mini true-crime reading spree after picking up Bill James' excellent Popular Crime and this is the one that ended the spree. Poor writing, an author too personally invested, a sordid but mundane bunch of murders, and way too much Texas (and Arkansas) pride. Mehhhhhhh. I went on a mini true-crime reading spree after picking up Bill James' excellent Popular Crime and this is the one that ended the spree. Poor writing, an author too personally invested, a sordid but mundane bunch of murders, and way too much Texas (and Arkansas) pride.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erin Weigel

    The first part of the book was interesting. It had the history of Texarkana mixed in with the story of The Phantom Killer. The last half of the book became extremely repetitive as if the author were trying to drill home his theory. Could be 100 pages shorter.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jason Korbus

    A little long, maybe tedious at times...in part because of the author's propensity to repeat himself here and there. But this is a minor complaint for what was a thorough and fact-based account of the murders, as well as a firm indictment of their most common suspected perpetrator. A little long, maybe tedious at times...in part because of the author's propensity to repeat himself here and there. But this is a minor complaint for what was a thorough and fact-based account of the murders, as well as a firm indictment of their most common suspected perpetrator.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shauna

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I heard about this book first on the podcast “Notorious.” This book definitely fulfilled my expectations. Presley has conducted his research and leaves little doubt that the Texarkana lawmen got their man. It’s a long book and full of details but I was never bored.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Denice Smith

    The author includes far too many inconsequential tedious details. It seems like he repeats events just to inflate the length of the book. I live in Texas and had not heard of these serial murders.

  25. 5 out of 5

    emily

    Sort of mysteriously constructed: there's (understandably) a lot of speculation, but there's also a lot of hopping around between theories. It just feels disjointed and messy. Sort of mysteriously constructed: there's (understandably) a lot of speculation, but there's also a lot of hopping around between theories. It just feels disjointed and messy.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Todd P.

    It was an okay book. There is a LOT of repeated information throughout the book. That made the book somewhat difficult to thread, in my opinion.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bill Glass

    Very good read. Very good read. The subject was very well researched and the conclusions seem very credible. I highly recommend this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Interesting but very repetitive. I skipped over some of the last chapter and epilogue.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

    The ending is very very dull. Took me forever to force myself to finish. It started amazing but the ending just wasn't there. The ending is very very dull. Took me forever to force myself to finish. It started amazing but the ending just wasn't there.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    Interesting story, but sadly the book is incredibly boring. Not so much from the actual events, but each sentence aims to tell each detail in the most boring way.

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