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Murder by the River

2023-05-03 23:55:32.728689+02 by Dan Lyke 1 comments

Just read Murder by the River: A True Story of Homicide, Infidelity, Power and Revenge in a small Southern City by Jerry Burden. My family moved to Chattanooga at the end of 1985, I spent a week or so in the school and said "oh hell no", moved back in with a friend to finish high school in Connecticut, and then... was gonna take a "gap year" in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and ended up staying 'til mid 1995.

But in the time there, it was a place of legend. Some long-standing settlement, perhaps it was out near Suck Creek, had just gotten electricity. The Signal Mountain murders were on everybody's mind. The Lookout Mountain Adult Motel was swinging along. The Treat Mountain DC-4 had been landed a decade earlier, but tales of smuggling aircraft landed on back roads, or dumping loads at prearranged points, were widespread.

There was all sorts of gossip about money flowing back and forth between good ol' boys, a car dealership the owner whose name I forget who skipped out on his debt and later turned up in Florida under an assumed name, a South Pittsburgh fireworks stand that exploded in the middle of the night (with the subsequent discovery of a burnt-out truck in the wreckage), and, of course, all of the TVA eminent domain corruption (Bet you thought the Snail Darter was about endangered species, which it was, but it was also about people trying to hold on to their land...).

I started river guiding on the Ocoee in, I think, 1989, shortly after the era David Brown recounts in The Whitewater Wars: The Rafters and the River Trip that Saved the Ocoee & The Gauley River Battle, which was in the area of the Benton fireworks disaster (I think that's where the Sunburst outpost was). The local general store near the outpost had a bulletin board that offered moonshine for sale or trade, and local "law" enforcement was legendarily corrupt.

(And this was decades before the Hamilton County sheriff's department had a "hard drive failure" that destroyed evidence in the case of an employee facing 44 criminal charges and 10 lawsuits.)

Anyway, the book took me right back to that, seeing the end of the bootlegging fortunes play out, the trendy nightclubs along Brainerd Road, the separations between the Chattanooga neighborhoods.

If you were in that area at that time, it's a fun quick read.

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#Comment Re: Murder by the River made: 2023-05-04 20:41:05.115288+02 by: hunterhancock

Dan- Quite an evocative review, especially to a former Southern boy with similar memories.

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