Almost Midnight

An American Story of Murder and Redemption

By Michael W. Cuneo
(St. Martin's True Crime, Mass Market Paperback, 9780312936754, 336pp.)

Publication Date: August 30, 2005

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Darrell Mease grew up in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri, in a slice of rural America where religion flourished and tradition thrived. Everyone said he was a good kid: a bit of a clown, maybe not too serious about his studies, but sweet and kind and quick to make friends. When, as a clean-cut teenager, he signed up with the army, the people of Reeds Springs, Missouri, expected to hear nothing but good things about R.J. and Lexie Mease's eldest son.

It wouldn't work out that way. Darrell Mease would end up on the front lines of the Vietnam War and would come home a drug addict. Over the personally tumultuous, drifting decades that followed, he'd make a new name for himself in the Ozarks: as a tough drug dealer. Then, in 1987, he gunned down a 69-year-old meth kingpin, his wife, and their 20-year-old paraplegic grandson. After a desperate cross-country escape, he was captured, hauled back to Missouri, and sentenced to death for his crimes.

In jail, Mease experienced a religious conversion, and he made a shocking prediction: he would be saved by miraculous intervention.

No one believed it would happen. But it did.

On January 27, 1999, Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis and spoke to Missouri's then-governor, Mel Carnahan. It was the same date that authorities had set for Mease's execution. The pope asked that he be spared. Carnahan agreed.

About the Author

MICHAEL W. CUNEO teaches at Fordham University. His research has been featured in media coast to coast. Also author of the critically acclaimed American Exorcism, Cuneo divides his time between New York City and Toronto.

Praise For Almost Midnight

"Vivid. Gripping. Undeniably potent. Almost Midnight barrels along like a hot rod on a twisty Ozarks road . . . a fast, furious read that leaves one plagued by disturbing toughts every time one manages to pause before turning another page."
--The Kansas City Star

"Crisp, informative and evocative . . . Compelling, vibrant, rich with winning details about scuffling life."
--The Washington Post

"Engrossing . . . disturbing noirish undertones and undeniable spiritual flair."
--Kirkus Reviews
"Cuneo handles these saints and sinners with equal aplomb."

"A reichly detailed exploration . . . Cuneo's writing does not flinch."
--St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Cuneo's detailed descriptions of the virtues (loyalty, self-reliance, faith, family) and negatives (violence, chemical dependency, lawlessness) of the Ozarks' culture not only fleshes out Mease's personality but also vividly portrays this overlooked area of Americana. Cuneo's skillful writing allows him to convey the romantic notions of Mease's outlaw ways and travels on America's back roads, while never romanticizing the violence or the hand-to-mouth living . . . one cannot help but appreciate Cuneo's in-depth, interwoven stories of Mease and the Ozarks."
--Publishers Weekly

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