Dennis Littrell's Reviews > Open Secrets

Open Secrets by Carlton Stowers
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May 11, 10

bookshelves: true-crime

Stowers, Carlton. Open Secrets: a True Story of Love, Jealousy and Murder (1994)****
Murder, Texas style, well rendered

This is a superior true crime book. It is so complex and so full of characters that it is like several stories. I am struck again at how stupid people are and at how they seem so desperate for any sort of excitement. Adultery seems to be the biggest thrill here. Additionally, I see that so many of the people doing harm to others have sociopathic personalities: they are cold and without the normal human conscience. But perhaps this is just an impression. I won't detail any of the story here because it is too complex and I would only be giving a part of it. Like some other juicy true crime tales (see A.W. Gray's Poisoned Dreams (1993), for example) this takes place in and around Dallas, Texas. The characters are not quite as stupid as the ones in Gray's book, and the writing is better.

It interesting how these "true stories" all seem to run together in my mind. The characters are shallow sociopaths, doing drugs, committing adultery willy-nilly, hustling money, flashing status and spending conspicuously. That's it. That's their lives. It's kind of like a burlesque of normal human behavior. That's all, just more extreme. It's really a crack-up at how the authors always say the women are beautiful, and all the losers had everything life could offer and a bright future in front of them before they went down hill. The women, however, judging from their photos, which typically come in a ten page or so spread in the middle of the book, are not "beautiful." They often have dyed blond hair and expensive clothes, etc., but I sure as hell would not find them attractive. The central murderess of this one is Joy Ayler, said to be beautiful, but just one look at her photo and I can tell that she is someone desperately trying to appear attractive. I can tell she would be a nightmare as a mate. Her slutty-looking younger sister would be better. And the guys are all macho types flashing the usual big man, big deal personalities, trying to hustle as much of everything in this world as possible, sex, money, drugs, experiences, status, etc. And how they pretend such tender emotions; how much they love their children, etc. They think. They actually believe they love their children, but their behavior suggests otherwise as they destroy their lives, and the lives of those around them.

Stowers begins very well, keeping us in doubt about who is really guilty of the murder of nurse Rozanne Guiliunas: her workaholic estranged husband, a medical doctor; or her boyfriend, a building contractor. He writes the story from a police POV with Dallas police detective Morris McGowan as the hero. Stowers does such a good job of getting us to identify with McGowan that I saw for a moment just how difficult it must be to be a cop, and how easy it is to screw up an investigation, since they are so so difficult to pursue. And for that, Stowers is to be commended. The latter half of the book is less well-focused, scattered as it is among so many personalties, but still well done. By the way, this Joy Aylor is another female sociopath, a merciless killer without conscious.

What separates me and most people from these true crime story creatures? They live faster and they take more chances, yes. They are more superficial and their values are shallow, yes. But I think the main thing is their insatiable desire for the things of this world. Of course I am speaking now as a fifty-year-old man. When I was younger, perhaps I would have said they were just stupid. But in the final analysis (an analysis well beyond my ken) it may be just a question of a difference in brain chemistry or a hormonal imbalance. I actually believe this more than ever.

--a review by Dennis Littrell

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