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Books we're reading at the station and recommend to you.When we're not on-the-air or at our desks, we like to pick up good books. Most of us here at the station are, in fact, avid readers. In the style of NPR's "What We're Reading" (an excellent weekly guide) we, too, decided to share what we've been reading. Here's a list of books recently read by WKMS staff members, student workers and volunteers.Interested in a book on our list? Follow the Amazon link beneath the picture. A small percentage of your purchase of anything on Amazon through this link goes right to WKMS at no additional cost to you!

Author 'Unlocks' the Mystery of Texarkana's Phantom Killer

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In the spring of 1946, "The Phantom Killer" attacked eight people around Texarkana, Texas, killing five. Three of the dead were 17 years old or younger. To this day, these serial murders remain officially unsolved. The murders were dramatized in the 1976 movie The Town That Dreaded Sundown, directed by Charles Pierce, (who happens to be buried in Dover, Tennessee.) On Sounds Good, Todd Hatton speaks with Presley about this dark chapter in his hometown's history.

In 1946, Texarkana was two cities divided by a street along the state line. In reading newspapers from the 1940s, Presley learned that it was a wild town rife with robbers, safecracking, killings and automobile accidents. Increasing local industry also led to an influx of people. By the mid 1940s, the population was around 50,000 - primarily made up of people from different parts of the country. It was not a calm and peaceful town, says Presley. Max Tackett, a state trooper and the lead investigator of the Texarkana Moonlight Murders once remarked that the city was callous to murder. But the ages of the victims set the public into a frenzy. People suspected their neighbors, the local newspaper came out with the headline citing a "sex maniac" and law enforcement patrolled disguised as young couples in love hoping to lure out the killer.

Presley says he was curious about the case because of its unknown factors and the misinformation circulating after the popular film The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which was loosely based on the facts of the case, distorted many of the facts. In his book, The Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of The Texarkana Serial Murders, the Story of a Town in Terror, Presley makes a case for who he believes the actual culprit is. In the summer of 1946, the suspected culprit was arrested but was never charged due to lack of evidence.

Today, there's a mixed reaction regarding the story's legacy. This is a result of the movie and notoriety over the years, Presley says. He says there's a form of denial and a feeling that trauma and stigma was killing business in Texarkana. Over time, The Phantom Killer has been disregarded as a stranger passing through town. Maybe that's the hope of the people, he says. Also, the movie struck a strange sense of Texarkana pride as it was largely a local production, further distorting the unsolved case.

James Presley is the author of The Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of The Texarkana Serial Murders, the Story of a Town in Terror, available on (your purchase through this link supports WKMS).

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
Todd Hatton hails from Paducah, Kentucky, where he got into radio under the auspices of the late, great John Stewart of WKYX while a student at Paducah Community College. He also worked at WKMS in the reel-to-reel tape days of the early 1990s before running off first to San Francisco, then Orlando in search of something to do when he grew up. He received his MFA in Creative Writing at Murray State University. He vigorously resists adulthood and watches his wife, Angela Hatton, save the world one plastic bottle at a time.
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