Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hands Through Stone

Book: Hands Through Stone
Author: Ardaiz, James A.
Edition:  Hardback, 1st
Read: Sept 2013
340 pages
Rated: 3 1/2 out of 5

This is the story of how Clarence Ray Allen was convicted and eventually executed for the murders of at least four people. It is told through the eyes of James Ardaiz, who was the prosecutor on these cases.

These murders were particularly cold-blooded and was perpetrated remotely, through underlings. Allen owned a security patrol company. As such he had access to a lot of businesses. He personally lived close to Fran's Market, just to the east of Fresno. His gang instituted a burglary where they obtained several money orders. They had a young girl, about nineteen pass the orders in San Diego. She got a guilty conscience and talked. Allen had her strangled.  When Allen was involved another robbery, a boys mother got angry and ratted on him. The investigation led through several of his underlings and to Allen's conviction.

This by itself would have made the headlines on the local mornings newspaper. But about a year after I moved to Fresno, there was a gruesome triple murder at Fran's Market. Was this coincidence? As the evidence was collected, it became evident that Allen had this hit instigated from behind bars. Ardaiz recounts how Allen was convicted of these murders.

The story ends with the execution of Allen and Ardiaz's thoughts on the devastation decked by Allen.

How could one local man be that bad? What caused Allen to be this way? What attractions did Allan have for his followers? What diligence our investigators have in pursuing such thin leads.

 This story has local interest, while being sensational enough to be read nationally. The question is how  well does Ardiaz tell the story? As the prosecutor, and a future judge, he is able to trace how the case was developed and what was the thoughts, feelings, and concerns of the investigators. There are several places which I got new understanding on how the authorities develop a case, and what is involved.

But does the writing hold interest? I do not think so-it is the story which compelling, not the storytelling. Ardiaz does not get in the way of the story. Many authors will drag down a story by sidetracking on some tangent or with too many personal, non-related recollections. Ardiaz's strength is he sticks to the facts. Which this is also a weakness since the writing is not noteworthy.

Would I say to read it? Yes. Particularly if you want to read about one of Fresno's more notorious crimes.

Nov 2014 - My book group is reading this and we have the opportunity to talk with the author. As I am re-reading the book, it seems to flow better than it did last year. There are places which when I read it last year, I thought there was some clumsiness in his expression of his own thoughts, but on this years reading, I do not see it so. i see a man who struggles in putting himself into the place of a big story. So i am raising the rating to 3 1/2. It will be interesting talking with him.

Good Quotes:

  • First Line:It was almost closing time at the small country store.
  • Last Line:  Now it was finally over.


Notes from my book group: