A Grudge and a Gun

How a small New Hampshire town survived that lethal mix



Many people, at least in New Hampshire, know the broad outlines of what happened that August day in Colebrook. Carl Drega — angry and armed with an assault rifle — terrorized the small North Country community, leaving four people dead and others wounded. By day’s end, Drega would be dead too.

It’s been nearly 20 years since then, and for most of us, the details of what happened have faded. But Richard Adams Carey, in his book “In the Evil Day” [University Press of New England] tells us that those details are still sharply etched for the people who survived the terror, still shaping how they live their lives.

 Carey spent many days with the survivors, listening and taking notes, then compiling their harrowing tales into an account of the day that is stunning in its scope.

The tales are meticulously woven together, adding layer upon layer to, as one Colebrook resident put it, the “nightmare from which there is no waking up.”

The minute-by-minute narrative is compelling, but even more so is the context — the “live free or die” character of the isolated town and the lure of living there; how a passion for individual liberty can sometimes go over the edge into lawlessness; but, most importantly, how a small community of people creates a web of support for one another. Yes, there was some finger-pointing after the incident, but  all in all, the community held together.

Because the murder and mayhem in Colebrook happened in a time not yet enured by violence, it got international attention, with reporters streaming into the town to get the story.

In writing his book, Carey endeavors to counter the media’s one-dimensional coverage: “The truths of who people are — the breadth of their identities, the ways their lives fold into the lives of others — become shrunken and compressed.”

No longer. Thanks to fine writing, great story-telling and incredible research, the  lives and spirits of the victims — Vickie Bunnell, Dennis Joos, Leslie Lord and Scott Phillips, and all those wounded and traumatized — are fully rendered. It’s a book well worth your time.  

 

More book reviews you might be interested in

Causes for Cheer

Ruth Doan MacDougall's "The Cheerleader" series, set in the Granite State, has aged as gracefully as its characters and fans.

Three New Books for Your New Hampshire Shelf

Check out the latest local books to add to your collection.

An Unsung Heroine Has Her Day

"Never Caught" tells the story of a presidential slave who found freedom in New Hampshire.

Gift Guide: New Hampshire's Best New Books

This holiday season, try the books on this list for local gifts created by gifted locals.

Where Beauty and Darkness Intersect

A high school counselor by day and photographer by night explores dark portraiture in "Michael Winters: Friends and Muses."
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Popular Articles

  1. 10 Reasons Why YOU Should Visit the NH Motor Speedway
    Need a good reason to go to a NASCAR race in Loudon? Here are 10 of them. If you still refuse,...
  2. Trish Regan's Granite State Story
    The Fox Business anchor recalls her New Hampshire roots.
  3. New Hampshire Craft Beer: Big Ideas in Small Batches
    In pre-Prohibition days, nearly every town had its very own brewery. Though we’re not quite...
  4. Forever Autumn in the Town of Warner
    A front porch gathering with family and friends for a fall harvest luncheon during Warner Fall...
  5. Arts Alert: News from the NH Visual Art World
    An event, a book release, and a new gallery to check out this fall
  6. 11 Fabulous Fall Foliage Drives
    Try these byways for peak leaf-peeping.
  7. Exploring Sandwich and its History
    Pay a visit to the home of NH's own Great Wall
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags