Hard Twisted tells of Clint Palmer and his 13-year-old companion, Lottie Garrett, who, in 1934, made their way to San Juan County from the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma.
The couple stayed briefly in Monticello and Blanding before accepting a job to watch over the sheep belonging to Harry Goulding in Johns Canyon.
There, they ran into retired San Juan County Sheriff William Oliver and his grandson, Norris Shumway. When it was over, Oliver and Shumway had been brutally murdered.
The murders were announced in a front-page story in the San Juan Record on March 7, 1935. After a massive manhunt, Palmer and Garrett were arrested in Texas.
Despite the arrests, a trial was never held for the San Juan County murders. And, for the most part, many of the details of the story have been lost to history... until now.
In C. Joseph Greaves’ book, the story is told through the eyes of Garrett, a young woman who came of age in most remarkable and horrific circumstances.
The author writes in a compelling style that accurately depicts the beauty of the Desert Southwest and the grim realities of life during the Depression.
Hard Twisted is Greaves’ third novel. At the 2010 SouthWest Writers awards banquet, Hard Twisted was awarded Best Historical Novel and Greaves earned the Grand Prize Storyteller award.
Hard Twisted is the culmination of 18 years of work by the author. In 1994, Greaves found two human skulls while he was hiking in Johns Canyon.
Greaves became obsessed with tracking down the events that occurred in the canyon. His search for information led him to historical archives, legal records, and even old copies of the San Juan Record and other newspapers.
Greaves’ research leads him to posit that there may have been three additional murders in the canyon, including two Navajo sheepherders working for Goulding.
Greaves also suspects that the disappearance of Everett Reuss could be tied to Palmer’s activities in Johns Canyon. Reuss, a young artist who disappeared in southern Utah at the same time, may have been in the Johns Canyon area.
The book tackles a gritty subject matter and may not be suitable for young readers. Hard Twisted is published by Bloomsbury Publishing. It is available at the San Juan Record bookstore, at 49 South Main Street in Monticello.