The haunting true story of a triple murder in the Ozarks, two lovers on the lam, and a death-row inmate saved by the pope. On a spring day more than ten years ago, sixty-nine-year-old Lloyd Lawrence was gunned down in rural Missouri. The shooter also turned his twelve-gauge shotgun on Lawrence’s wife and their paraplegic grandson. The crime took place in a region known mostly for Pentecostal fervor, country music, and family-friendly tourism. But soon the murders would expose a dark underbelly in the Ozarks: Lloyd Lawrence was a notoriously violent crystal-meth kingpin, killed by an aspiring drug dealer named Darrell Mease.Capturing the raw circumstances that took Mease from his clean-cut youth to the front lines of Vietnam and an aftermath of drug use, Almost Midnight unites an unforgettable range of characters in some of America’s most peculiar locales. When Mease and his girlfriend fled to the Southwest on a hair-raising road trip, this only brought Mease closer to death row. After his conviction, he claimed to receive a religious revelation guaranteeing that his life would be saved by miraculous intervention, a long-shot prediction that came true. A bizarre twist of fate brought Pope John Paul II to Saint Louis, where he pleaded with Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan to commute the sentence just months before Carnahan’s fatal plane crash. In a triumph of investigative journalism, Michael Cuneo gained unprecedented access to Mease and immersed himself in the culture of the Ozarks, exploring its bucolic farms and seedy strip joints, and the lives of its preachers, cockfighters, and outlaws. By turns chilling and riveting, Almost Midnight brilliantly evokes the life of controversial renegade Mease, and the stranger-than-fiction world he still inhabits.
Michael W. Cuneo
About Michael W. Cuneo
Michael Cuneo teaches sociology and anthropology at Fordham University in New York City. His previous books include the highly praised The Smoke of Satan, and his research has been featured in such publications as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. He divides his time between New York and Toronto and is currently at work on a true-crime book about a triple homicide in Missouri’s Ozarks.
Praise for American Exorcism by Michael W. Cuneo “A wild exploration of the spookier and more fantastical side of Middle America.” —Salon “Armed with a wry wit and girded in the armor of an inquiring but ‘open-mindedly skeptical’ intellect . . . Cuneo argues convincingly that . . . pop exorcism’s quick-fix approach to spiritual maladies is uncomfortably close to the plastic-surgery mentality of secular culture.” —Washington Post Book World “Highly entertaining. An insightful look into another form of millennial madness.” —Jane “With skill and wit and sympathy, [Michael Cuneo’s] study of exorcism in the United States is a pioneering work of extraordinary depth and insight.” —Father Andrew M. Greeley, Professor of Social Science, University of Chicago “Provocative and frightening.” —Book magazine “Damned good reporting.” —Maxim “Astute social criticism . . . Cuneo is both a skeptical and sensitive observer.” —The Nation “As if we need any more reasons to be freaked out about religious zealots . . . along comes Michael Cuneo to jolt the green vomit out of us right here in our own backyard.” —Hartford Advocate “Michael Cuneo has done an amazing thing. He’s written a book on demonic possession that is compulsively readable without being lurid or sensational. If it doesn’t cause you to consider your own demons and how you deal with them, you need to read it again.” —Haven Kimmel, author of The Solace of Leaving Early and A Girl Named Zippy “Mesmerizing . . . Lucidly written and riveting as any horror novel.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) “Cuneo brings to his subject a delightful combination of respect, curiosity, irony, and a humor that manages to be wry without being derisive. [American Exorcism’s] findings are delivered with wit, wisdom, and lucidity.” —Trenton Times "Cuneo [is] a very able tour guide on this trip through a part of American religion that has rarely been objectively described.” —Library Journal (starred review)