Crime and Outlaws
Kansas, like a lot of Western states, has a love-hate relationship with outlaws and criminals. Kansans never tire of talking about Quantrill and his 1863 raid on Lawrence, nor pointing out that riding with the Confederate guerilla were the likes of the James brothers, and the Youngers.
The Dalton Gang (1963), by Harold Preece (b. 1906), is a popular history of these outlaws who are memorialized by museums in two Kansas towns: Meade, where they had their hideout and Coffeyville, where their crimes were finally stopped. The Daltons are also the subject of Sixth Rider (1991), by Southeast Kansas writer Max McCoy (b. 1958).
Between 1871 and 1873, the Bender family ran a wayside inn where they robbed and murdered as many as eleven people. Besides a small museum in Cherryvale, their legacy is sensationalized in The Bloody Benders (1970), by Robert Adleman (1919-1995), and chronicled in a well-researched history, The Benders: Keepers of the Devil’s Inn (1992), by Fern Morrow Wood (b. 1922)
The best-known Kansas crime book, of course, is In Cold Blood (1965). When persons unknown killed Herb Cluttter and his family in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959, Truman Capote (1924-1984) set out for Kansas determined to write what he would call the "nonfiction novel." The result is a classic work in American letters that captures both our fascination with Middle America as a safe and innocent place, and as a place where violence can erupt as quickly and as devastatingly as a cyclone.
True-crime writer Ann Rule wrote about the Debora Green case in her Bitter Harvest (1997).
Vincent S. Green was born (1953) in Wichita and raised in Hutchinson. He is a 1978 graduate of Washburn University Law School. He is the author of two novels. The Price of Victory (New American Library/Signet, 1993) is mystery and detection. Extreme Justice (Pocket, 1995) is true crime, taking place in Oklahoma and Fort Leavenworth and telling the story of German POWs who kill a fellow POW (who is a traitor), and chronicling their trial and finally their execution by hanging at Fort Leavenworth..