As a preadolescent, I developed a strong interest in basketball. It was nutured by the fact that my family moved to Los Angeles in the late ’50s. The Minneapolis Lakers moved there about the same time and a few years later UCLA began it’s unequaled dominance of college basketball. Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich, Keith Erikson, and their teammates on the Lakes and Bruins carried me away to adolescent fantasies of basketball excellence. I never was a good enough player to realize my fantasies, but I was savvy enough to admire their play.
As I noted in an earlier post, I found a book that captured the NBA side of those years in John Taylor’s marvelous The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball. I was so impressed with Mr. Taylor’s analysis and writing that I bought a second book of his. It’s called The Count and the Confession and it, too, is splendid.
Mr. Taylor’s The Count and the Confession did not disappointment me. Perhaps because I have another personal connection to it, I found it compelling. In the book, Mr. Taylor recounts the apparently wrongful conviction of Beverly Monroe for murder. Because Ms. Monroe lived in Richmond, not far from me, and the events related to the death of her paramour and news about the trial had a vague familiarity for me, I found myself thinking about the road names, neighborhoods, and country clubs mentioned in it.
Beyond the local connection, there is another issue that made this book resonate with me. One of the central issues is that a police investigator essentially convinced Ms. Monroe that she had committed murder. The interrogations sound so much like “recovered memory” events that I cursed after reading the chapter in which the investigator solicited a confession from an apparently innocent person. But the most compelling aspect of the book is the portrait of a person done wrong that Mr. Taylor paints of Ms. Monroe, and the devotion that daughter Katie Monroe shows in seeking justice for her mother.
Mr. Taylor’s reporting is extraordinarily detailed. He tells a true story in a way that I imagine fiction writers would like to recount one. I am about to place an order for a third title by Mr. Taylor. What will it be?