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Mystery & Drama

A Reasonable Doubt – Book Review – Murder


A Reasonable Doubt, by Edgar Smith was published in August 1970 by Coward-McCann. The reader cannot begin to read this book before understanding who the author is and the circumstances in which it was written. Edgar Smith was a convicted murderer of a fifteen year old girl in the New Jersey and sitting in solitary confinement when he wrote it, beside the room in Trenton State Prison in which the electric chair was installed. To think his motivation for writing the book resembles that of the typical author would be naive. Escaping death in the electric chair never left his mind throughout the years he spent in solitary, reading, educating himself, and filing appeal after appeal to the courts. The primary thrust of the book is to further Smith’s need to stay alive.

Having said this, the book is not a rant. He writes well. The characters and geography closely resemble people and places he knows. The two primary characters are Jerry Bender and Ron Kramer who instantly remind one of Smith himself and his friend on whom he shifted blame for the murder. The victim in the novel is also a female teen-ager. The local features include a gas station where the twenty something ne’er do wells of town hang out. The prosecutor’s name is Scalise. In real life, his name was Callisi. You get the point. It’s a twisting, rambling story about life in small town New Jersey, with a heavy dose of lurid sex.

Read it. It sags a bit pretty quickly,and is very long. But why not experience a killer sociopath’s literary efforts. It’s unusual if nothing else.


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