Date of this Version
Great Plains Research Vol. 21, No. 2, 2011
"If, as has often been contended, truth is the first casualty of traditional warfare, then logic, it appears, is the first casualty of sexual warfare." And with that thematic statement in hand, author Bill Neal is off to the proverbial races with an often delightful, sometimes troubling, and generally entertaining legal discourse on the so-called "unwritten law": that a cuckolded husband or a woman wronged has the God-given right to avenge or be avenged, even to redress by murder. With a curiously dispassionate, or at least overly serious, foreword by Cal State-Fullerton professor Gordon Morris Bakken, Neal's tales of adultery, murder, and boundlessly ridiculous "not guilty" verdicts cross several decades from the 1880s over a North Texas path of tornadic sex-and- revenge events.
Looking back through centuries of legal cases and precedents from which this unwritten law evolved, Neal considers six cases that more or less represent that evolution as it stood along the Red River at the turn into the 20th century and beyond. In each, the tragic event itself is played out against the trial that followed, replete with the actual testimony and strategies that eventually produced a stunning but somehow not surprising verdict exonerating the victim of the adulterous conduct from the charge of murder. In the epilogues for each tale, the author follows the primary figures into their respective futures, offering an occasional perspective on the impact of the judgment rendered.