BOOK REVIEW: ‘Full Bone Moon’: Someone’s Killing Hitchhiking College Women in Morgantown, WV — Again!

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Full Bone Moon': Someone's Killing Hitchhiking College Women in Morgantown -- Again!
Growing up in Morgantown, West Virginia, G. Cameron Fuller couldn’t escape the publicity of the gruesome murders of two West Virginia University women students — the news media used the now Politically Incorrect word “coed” back then — whose headless bodies were discovered south of Morgantown on Jan. 18, 1970.

Fuller’s thriller novel “Full Bone Moon” (Woodland Press, Chapmanville, WV, 276 pages, trade paperback, $25.99) was inspired by the murders of Mared Malarik and Karen Ferrell in a town where violent crime then as now is rare.
In fact, West Virginia ranks way down the list on violent crime, according to the 2006 numbers from the Statistical Abstract of the U.S.: 39th, with 280 violent crimes per 100,000 population. By way of contrast, the District of Columbia, not a state, had a whopping 1,508 violent crimes per 100,000 people and would far outrank the most violent state, South Carolina, which had 766 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Tennessee was the second most violent state, with 760 per 100,000, followed by Nevada, Florida and Louisiana.

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.

Inspired by the actual murders of Mared Malarik and Karen Ferrell in Morgantown in 1970, Full Bone Moon employs the many rumors and speculation that swirled around the Morgantown area after the killings, and continue to this day. Rumors of cult activity, high society complicity, police corruption and coverup, and FBI treachery are woven together in Full Bone Moon to take you on a wild ride—a fast-paced fictional thriller—through the Coed Murders as they could have happened.

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!

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