Run, Brother, Run
A Memoir of a Murder in My Family
By David Berg
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781476715636, 272pp.)
Publication Date: June 11, 2013
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A searing family memoir of a tempestuous Texas boyhood that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother As William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” This observation seems especially true in matters of family, when the fury between generations is often never resolved and instead secretly carried, a wound that cannot heal. For David Berg, this is truer than for most, and once you read the story of his family, you will understand why he held it privately for so long and why the betrayals between parent and child can be the most wrenching of all.
In 1968 David Berg’s brother, Alan, was murdered by Charles Harrelson, a notorious hit man and father of actor Woody Harrelson. Alan was only thirty-one when he disappeared; six months later his remains were found in a ditch in Texas. Run, Brother, Run is Berg’s story of the murder. But it is also his account of the psychic destruction of the Berg family by the author’s father, who allowed a grievous blunder at the age of twenty-three to define his life. The event changed the fate of a clan and fell most heavily on Alan, the firstborn son, who tried to both redeem and escape his father yet could not.
This achingly painful family history is also a portrait of an iconic American place, playing out in the shady bars of Houston, in small-town law offices and courtrooms, and in remote ranch lands where bad things happen—a true-crime murder drama, all perfectly calibrated. Writing with cold-eyed grief and a wild, lacerating humor, Berg tells us first about the striving Jewish family that created Alan Berg and set him on a course for self-destruction and then about the gross miscarriage of justice that followed.
As with the best and most powerfully written memoirs, the author has kept this horrific story to himself for a long time. A scrappy and pugnacious narrator, Berg takes his account into the darkest human behaviors: the epic battles between father and son, marital destruction, reckless gambling, crooked legal practices, extortion, and, of course, cold-blooded murder. Run, Brother, Run is a raw, furious, bawdy, and scathing testimonial about love, hate, and pain— and utterly unforgettable.
David Berg has tried virtually every kind of civil and criminal case to a verdict, from murder to patent infringement, and he has won hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements. He has been recognized as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” in nine practice areas. His 2003 book, The Trial Lawyer: What It Takes to Win, is one of the American Bar Association’s bestselling books. In addition, David has published articles and essays in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Litigation Magazine and The Houston Chronicle. He lives in Houston and New York with his wife.
Laywer David Berg's new memoir reveals the story of his most dramatic case. Run, Brother, Run is about the 1968 murder of Berg's brother, Alan, allegedly by Charles Harrelson â?? the father of actor Woody Harrelson â?? who was ultimately acquitted. More at NPR.org
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"David Berg has written a funny and haunting memoir of a very particular family in a very particular place and time. It is also a universally American story of hope in the face of defeat.? Suffused with a tragic sense of humor and deep pathos, one can't help but think of Willy Loman with a Texas twang when reading Run, Brother, Run."
"David Berg has written a book that makes me think I?e(TM)d like to be friends with him. No book that I?e(TM)ve encountered so far this year has a voice that is as assured and entertaining as Berg?e(TM)s in this uncanny, addictive memoir."
-Claiborne Smith, features editor
?eoeBerg is a very fine writer ?e" thorough, lucid and logical, but never dry. The emotional resonance and sheer vital force of this story extend far beyond its pages. It is the story of a bond so strong that his older brother's absence still wakes Berg up in the middle of the night.?e
"Berg writes with brio, vividly sketching the roughhouse atmosphere of oil-boom Houston in the 1960s, and the obstacles that faced a pair of liberal, Jewish brothers in the segregated South. While he is often funny, and rarely politically correct, Berg also delivers a complex take on family dynamics and the ways in which intelligent people can be deceived."
?eoeHaving interviewed surviving witnesses, lawyers, and family, he reconstructs the short life of his reckless brother and tells about his own coming-of-age in a brutally frank family memoir that will attract readers of true crime?e
"Run, Brother, Run is a fascinating look at a Texas family's history, written in darkly humorous, direct and powerful prose. Trial lawyers are known for being smooth talkers, but Berg proves himself a graceful writer as well."
?eoeRun, Brother, Run is a home run for David Berg andhis readers. Part memoir, part mystery, it's all of a piece?e"a true story ofHouston that's impossible to put down.?e
?eoeWe are in Mary Karr memoir territory here, in Texas noless, with parents behaving badly and children behaving even worse. DavidBerg's superb tale of his brother's shocking murder is true crime at its mostintimate, and most personal.?e
-S. C. Gwynne
"Berg's story is compelling?e"and leaves you convinced that the truth did not prevail."
?eoeThis book has everything?e?The story is filled with the dusty small town criminal wheeling and dealings of a Grisham novel, and there?e(TM)s plenty of courtroom drama. The book inhabits the worlds of Texas, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Hollywood. Berg knows how to keep an audience engrossed.?e
"Searing, funny, heartbreaking?e"and true. Berg?e(TM)s tale of a brother?e(TM)s murder, miscarried justice, and savage Texas suburban family life kept me riveted from the first page.?e
"An engrossing family history and an appealingly salacious tale, related in a bemused tone that does not hide the social ugliness and personal heartbreak underneath."
"What is remarkable about the book, though, is Mr. Berg?e(TM)s writing. He elegantly brings to life the rough-and-tumble boomtown that was 1960s-era Houston, and conveys with unflinching force the emotional damage his brother?e(TM)s death did to his family."