Book Review: The Long And Faraway Gone (& Why It Hit Close To Home)

I just finished reading "The Long And Faraway Gone" by Lou Berney to review for William Morrow/Harper Collins.


This was a book that, when I found it in a sealed box on my doorstep, I did not remember ordering. When I opened it and looked at the back cover, chills went down my spine.


This book is, from what I can tell, loosely based on the kidnapping at the Oklahoma State Fair in 1981. It was never solved, and the two 13 year old girls were never found. 

However this book's fictional victim is a 17 year old girl. 

Also, the writer brings in a story about a mass shooting at night of the young employees at a movie theater. I believe this may be based upon, or has a correlation to, the Sirloin Stockade murders in the summer of 1978. 

Part of this crime spree began in Purcell, Oklahoma, where a couple and their son were on their way to the husband's mother's funeral. They stopped to help a woman who seemed to be having car trouble. 

It was a set up. They were all murdered by a man, his wife (the woman in the car) and his brother. The Sirloin Stockade murders would come a little later. 

This book takes a circuitous route weaving the stories together, but not relating them to one another. I found it very compelling. But there is another reason why. 

When I stood on my porch, after returning from running errands, and found that box with the book on my porch several weeks ago, the reason it hit me hard is because I investigated and wrote about the abduction of the two girls from the Oklahoma state fair. 

A Wyoming truck driver, Royal Russell Long, was charged and brought to trial in Oklahoma City in 1985. He was then serving time in prison for the kidnapping of two girls there. One managed to get away and testified against him. The other girl has never been found.

Long had a history of sexual violence toward young girls. 

He was not convicted of the OKC fair kidnapping case, even though there was fairly strong evidence. 

There is a case from the seventies in which he also is a suspect in the disappearance of two girls. 

Several years later, and after I had written my long feature about the girls, I wrote Long in prison. Thus began a correspondence that lasted for some time. I of course wanted information; closure for the family I met. I just couldn't stop thinking about it.

He promised to give me information if I'd meet with him in person. I was set to do that. But at the last minute, authorities shut it down. I was told the FBI was following the correspondence, and I suppose wanted it to continue.

Sadly, the cases have never been solved. 

But I will never forget seeing the pain of uncertainty up close and personal. What a family looks like and sounds like that has a loved one that never came home. And never finds out why.

And I will never forget corresponding with a killer. He has since died. So the answers, if there are any, died with him.

Nor will I ever forget a phone call I received on a Saturday night in 1987 during the time of that correspondence, purportedly from a man in NY. He warned me to leave it all alone and step away. He insinuated that this was part of a much bigger crime ring of girls being kidnapped.

I was alone that evening when that very strange conversation came about. I never found out who he was or how he fit into the picture, if at all. 

Yes, I have woven my own story into that of my review of Lou Berney's book. I don't know how I could not have, given the circumstances. 

I will say that this is a book that you read rapidly because you want to know the answers. But at the same time, you don't want the book to end. Because the writing is tight and very good.

Berney was very clever in his plotting of these two stories, and how he constructed the endings. I will definitely be reading more of his books. 

Berney is a television and screen writer, who now resides in Oklahoma, where he teaches writing at the University of Oklahoma (where I got my journalism degree) and at Oklahoma City University. 

I can only assume the accounts of the two cases prompted him to write this book. Though it is different from the two real cases altogether, you feel that that was his starting point somehow.

Funny how things come back from long ago and strike a chord within you. Bringing back times in your life you've let settle down with dust. And then prompting you to wipe the dust away and look at them again. 

33 comments

  1. I got chills reading this, Brenda. How odd that life comes full circle, time and time again....and the book showing up that you don't remember ordering.....and the closeness of the cases in your background from the book. It must have been almost eerie reading for you. xo Diana

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    1. I know I didn't order that book. I don't know how it came to me. I would have remembered something like that.

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  2. It seems I remember you mentioning these young girls before...not sure, tho.

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    1. Yes, I have mentioned them. These cases are woven into my memories and I can't forget them.

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  3. Brenda your freaking me out. I don't live too far from Purcell and the Goldsby exit now has a sex trafficking billboard. I remember the stories of Sirloin Stockade and was born that year and I remember the storied of the girls from the fair. My mom never let us run around alone there. The girl falling off the double ferris wheel at the fair and the Hardee's shooting stick with me too. Guess I'm going to have to get the book. Until the Natalie Holloway case I had no idea sex trafficking was so big and it happened in Oklahoma.

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    1. I think it's likely due to the highways, I-40 and I-35, that run two ways and go on forever, that can get someone back out of there fast. Also truck stops, eerie places where who knows what goes on with all those semis parked.

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    2. I had my youngest daughter, K.C., that year also. 1978

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  4. Being a fellow Okie and familiar with the stories you suspect it's based on, this sounds like a very intriguing read that I'd really like. Thanks for the review!

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    1. It is not at all similar to the other crimes, but you know it has to be based on the others. How could it not be?

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  5. Isn't it interesting how things like that happen. I just picked up his other book at the library and after I read that one I will read this. xo Laura

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    1. I'd never heard of him before. Now I won't forget him.

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  6. Wow Brenda! First of all the book sounds really good and your story of covering that case is so interesting also. You have had such an interesting life. I will put this book on my list for sure.

    Linda

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    1. I have had a strange life. From day one. But it is all I know. So to me it is normal.

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  7. Brenda, how can you not turn off the memories as a journalist writing about the lost ones and the families. A voice for them. I've been reading your blog since last year. You're a survivor and a lot of women can relate to you, including me. Kathleen in Az

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    1. Well, I don't think you can turn it off. Victims become last week or last year's news fast. Then they become a case number when there is no tombstone because there is no body. I always wanted to go in after some time had passed and see if they wanted me to write about their child/loved one in a different fashion. Focusing on them and not the crime.

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  8. Brenda,
    You grabbed me with your introduction of a book sealed in a box on your doorstep...what I am wondering is will you ever know who sent the box with the book to you?
    Jemma

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    1. It must have been Harper Collins publishing. Maybe it was a mistake, because they send you a Google Doc once a month to choose three books from. And I know it was not one of my choices. I'd never even heard of it. Perhaps serendipity?

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  9. Your post was as gripping as the book must have been!

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    1. He's written two other books that I know of. I looked them up. Not sure I'd order them. But this one, of course, gripped me and I had to read it. Just to satisfy my curiosity.

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  10. Whoa, this was captivating. You need to put on your detective hat and investigate who sent the book.

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    1. I guess I threw the box away. But I would think it had to be the publishing company.

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  11. Thank you for the review, Brenda. I am seeing this book everywhere and it sounds like a great read. Will certainly add it to my wishlist.

    Happy Wednesday!

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    1. It was different than I thought it would be. But it was sure a good read.

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  12. Do you think the author, or whoever was doing research for him, ran across your name because of your work on the case? I hope you find out where the book came from.

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    1. I should have kept the box it came in. But I'm pretty sure it was a Harper Collins box.

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  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  14. Thanks for featuring my Butter pecan Angel Pie!! On vacation, but wanted to stop by and thank you! Have a good day!
    Phyllis@grandparentsplus.com

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  15. Oh Brenda, What an incredible experience you've had. Reading that book must make you wonder why know after all this time are you reliving that time. You are so interesting and there are many layers to your life. Thank you for sharing and I will want to read this book. Great review

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    1. I guess everyone has layers to their life. Dig a bit and you find out all kinds of things about people.

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  16. I find it incredibly fascinating that you didn't order this book, but that it parallels your experiences so perfectly. How eerie! And what a shame you never met Long. It's somewhat ironic the FBi wanted your correspondence to continue, yet if you had met him they too may have gotten answers.

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    1. I think they were looking at the big picture possibly. And having him continue with the correspondence might have been worth more to them.

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  17. Now I am wondering if you will contact the author. Sounds as if you would have a great conversation. Hope that your leg begins feeling much better soon. I hate it when I don't feel well enough to clean as I'd like.

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  18. I've considered contacting him. Still pondering it. I just might do that.

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