Desperadoes of the Ozarks, by Larry Wood, Pelican Publishing, Gretna, La., 2011, $15.95
Americans might not think of the Ozarks as a hot spot for gunfights, crimes and other action-packed misadventures. But Larry Wood is here to set you straight. His earlier book, Ozarks Gunfights and Other Notorious Incidents, related 25 such events from the region, and he has followed that up with 22 more events in Desperadoes of the Ozarks. Note that not all are frontier events (ranging from 1865 to 1950), but all are captivating to various degrees. “Let me just say,” Wood says, “that I have picked only the most infamous—the ones that have a sensational or at least an unusual element to them.”
Wood opens this second book with the story of two fiendish murders in Shell Knob, Mo., on December 4, 1869, followed four days later by swift action by a lynch mob that might have numbered as many as 200 outraged citizens. Among the disreputable characters you’ll meet on the pages that follow are Allen “Bud” Blount, who drank his way to big trouble; George Hudson, whom one newspaperman suggested sat on a “criminal throne”; Pink Fagg, a notorious gambler and desperate character; John “Bud” Meadows, who killed a man and his two sons in the “most fatal culmination of a neighborhood feud in the history of Christian County”; the Missouri Kid, who murdered a Pinkerton man out to arrest him; and Jodie Hamilton, who killed a family of five north of Houston, Mo., in the “most brutal and dastardly murder ever committed [in Texas County].” For you Bonnie and Clyde fans, the notorious outlaw couple makes another appearance in a Wood book. Yes, these Ozark volumes are full of damnable acts, but they make for some darn interesting reading.