Book Review: Vengeance Is Mine, by Bill Neal

Vengeance Is Mine: The Scandalous Love Triangle That Triggered the Boyce-Sneed Feud, by Bill Neal, University of North Texas Press, Denton, 2011, $24.95

Feuds fueled by sex scandals are neither new nor unique in the annals of Western history, but by their very nature the details sometimes take a while to surface, resulting in a still-rich gold mine of violent passions that erupted into plain violence. Texas-based criminal lawyer Bill Neal shares the latest in Vengeance Is Mine, revealing information that has eluded previous researchers, as the families involved would not open up about it until 1999—a full 14 years after Sneed family descendent Lillian Blanche Brent said to Amarillo High School classmate Albert Boyce: “Albert, this thing has been going on a long time and neither one of us had a thing to do with it. I think it’s time it ended.”

What emerges is a clash both of personalities and of changing mores, touched off on October 13, 1911, when Lena Snyder Snead publicly asked for a divorce from husband John Beal Snead in order to marry the younger, more handsome and less domineering Albert C. Boyce Jr. These three products of prominent members of the Texas business community had been friends since childhood, but at a time when more liberal ideas from the North were challenging traditional Southern Victorian values, Sneed’s old-fashioned concepts of masculine honor rendered him deaf to his father’s counsel that he just let Lena go. Instead, he hatched a plan to commit his wife to an asylum for “moral insanity” while ruining her lover—and then killing him.

It was a time of social transition from the traditional Wild West that Texans were not eager to make just yet. Whether dealing with the bloodshed on the streets of 1912 Amarillo or the dramatic doings in the courtroom, Neal serves up a hearty helping of the fixings for a classic Western feud: friends turned enemies, murder, mayhem and a decades-long-simmering residue of bad blood.

—Jon Guttman


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