Keith Walker

Grain of Truth

Keith Walker
A Trail of Corn: A True Mystery
Santa Rosa: Golden Door Press, 1995; $24.95

Reviewed by David Templeton

Newspaperman Keith Walker’s A Trail of Corn: A True Mystery is a surprisingly fast read for a book over 750 pages long. Presented as a fact-filled non-fictional exploration of the details surrounding the celebrated 1955 murder trial of convicted murderer Burton Abbott, Corn is as compelling, as exciting, as captivating as any of the best-selling law operas of Scott Turow or John Grisham.

Beginning with a sensational cliffhanger, as lawyers work desperately for a literal last-minute stay of execution, the book weaves hundreds of meticulous facts with fascinating dialogues re-created from the notes and descriptions of all the parties involved.

The controversial murder case involved a 14-year-old Berkeley girl whose body was discovered buried near the Trinity County cabin of Alameda resident Burton Abbott–who, during a high-profile trial and a media frenzy foreshadowing the juice eventually squeezed from Simpson–was accused, convicted, and sentenced to die. The term “trail of corn” was used by the district attorney to describe the evidence that lead the police to Abbott.

The crime, the trial, and its aftermath are investigated here in minute detail, evidence of Walker’s 35-year journalistic quest to unearth the truth about the murder, exposing hundreds of errors and mistakes on both sides of the case. Walker, a Santa Rosa resident, makes his own case with style and passion, pointing out the inherent unfairnesses that often arise within the American criminal-justice system. A Trail of Corn is a spellbinding piece of work.

From the Feb. 15-21, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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