Canton author to sign copies of book he wrote on gruesome childhood murder
Thursday, November 11, 2010 - 2:35 pm

CANTON – Author Bob Cowser Jr. will be at St. Lawrence University’s Brewer Bookstore Saturday, Nov. 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. to sign “Green Fields: Crime, Punishment, and A Boyhood Between,” a true crime memoir.

The St. Lawrence University Professor of English wrote the true-crime memoir about a gruesome child murder that occurred in his childhood in his hometown.

When he was nine years old, growing up in Martin, Tenn., his community was shaken by the disappearance of eight-year-old Cary Medlin, who had been his first-grade classmate. She was murdered, and the man convicted of the crime became the first person in 40 years to be executed in the state of Tennessee.

Those events, along with an examination of all that unfolded in the interim, form the basis of Green Fields: Crime, Punishment and a Boyhood Between, by Cowser, published by the University of New Orleans Press for release Nov. 16.

Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, said of the book, "Green Fields forces us to consider matters - crime, punishment, poverty and the relationship between them - our comfortable culture likes to pretend don't exist." The Nashville Scene called the book "eerily reminiscent of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood... [an] unflinching and thoughtful memoir [that] elevates the story beyond simple true crime to a social commentary worthy of James Agee."

On September 1, 1979, Medlin went for a bike ride with her little brother and never returned. The next day, her body was found in a field off Bean Switch Road in Greenfield. the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had Robert Glen Coe, a drifter with a long history of petty crimes, in custody three days later; he confessed to the rape and murder of Medlin. On April 10, 2000, Coe was executed by the State of Tennessee.

"Of course this story isn't news anymore," Cowser writes. "Something has drawn you here, reader - you want to know what it is the searchers seek among the soybean plants. The tiny body, yes, but something more. And now these paragraphs lie before you like stands of trees, a deep forest of wonder and darkness whose mystery beckons."

Editor of the recent volume Why We're Here: New York Essayists on Living Upstate, Cowser is the author of Dream Season, which was a New York Times Book Review "Editor's Choice" and was listed among The Chronicle of Higher Education's best-ever books about sports, and the memoir Scorekeeping.