Maybe this is why violent crimes like the Malarik and Ferrell murders and the June 25, 1980 murders of Vicky Durian and Nancy Santomero, women hitchhikers attending the Rainbow Gathering in a national forest in West Virginia, made such an impact on a relatively nonviolent state — and perhaps inspired the “Wrong Turn” movies. Joseph Paul Franklin, a native of Mobile, Alabama, confessed to the Durian-Santomero murders, among many others. He is on death row in a Missouri penitentiary, convicted of a murder in Missouri in 1997.
“Full Bone Moon” takes place in an “alternate universe” Morgantown, with many places, like Woodburn Circle and Wise Library familiar to those who know the town, but with reporter Michael Chase working for the Herald-Dispatch rather than the town’s actual newspaper, the Dominion-Post. For those not familiar with West Virginia media, the Herald-Dispatch is Huntington’s daily newspaper.
E.P. Clawson, 30 at the time, was convicted of the 1970 murders of Malarik and Ferrell, who were hitchhiking home after seeing the movie “Oliver,” but many believe he was not the murderer. He was sentenced to life in prison (West Virginia abolished the death penalty in 1965) and died in 2009 in the state’s Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County.
“Full Bone Moon” employs many of the rumors and speculations that engulfed the Morgantown area after the killings — and that continue to this day. Rumors of cult activity, high society complicity, police corruption and cover-up and FBI treachery are woven together to make this a thriller that — in the right directorial hands — would make a good movie.
In an e-mail, Fuller said he doesn’t know of any other novel that riffs on the Malarik-Ferrell murders of 1970.
The action takes place in 1976, six years after the Malarik-Ferrell murders. Reporter Michael Chase, is off the police/crime beat, perhaps because of his prior relationship with Police Chief Carol Braxton, but he can’t resist delving into the latest murders, also involving WVU coeds. Students at the university have been warned not to hitchhike, but students being students, some of them ignore the warnings. And they begin ending up dead in what appears to ritual, satanic circumstances.
Fuller has enough characters in “Full Bone Moon” to provide plenty of red herrings and suspects. It’s a page-turner that should appeal to anyone interested in crime and West Virginia — not necessarily in that order!