Ken Rex McElroy terrorized the town of Skidmore and several counties in Northwest Missouri for decades. He robbed, raped, burned, shot and maimed the citizens of the area. No matter how many times he was arrested he was never convicted of any crime. He and his large family basically terrorized the entire population. He was finally convicted of the shooting of Bo Bowencamp in 1981, however, he was not put in jail. The people of Skidmore were fed up with the inability of the law to do anything to help them. So on July 10, 1981 McElroy was shot while sitting in his truck on the main street of Skidmore. There were dozens of witnesses, but no one will say who did the shooting. To this day none of the townspeople have identified the shooters or been prosecuted for the crime.
I went to college in Maryville, Missouri which is only about 20 minutes from Skidmore. My criminal justice professor talked about this case during class and knew the people involved. I have always been fascinated by the Skidmore story. This was a community that law enforcement had failed. They were finally at the end of their rope and took the law into their own hands. Were they vigilantes? Maybe. Were they people without any hope? Definitely.
Harry Maclean tells the story of Ken Rex McElroy from childhood until his death. I think he does a good job of being impartial to the story. If anything he does take a few jabs at the ineffectual law enforcement of the area. It is a fascinating story and Maclean does a good job of telling it. My only complaint of the book is the extra filler information. Maclean seems to be fascinated with describing the weather or the crops or what happens at that time of year. Every dozen pages or so there is a passage on farming and the weather. It wasn’t really necessary and didn’t add anything to the story. I ended up skipping those parts for the majority of the book. However, that doesn’t take away from the story. McElroy is a very interesting character and this book is definitely a page turner.