A searing family memoir, hailed as “remarkable” (The New York Times), “compelling” (People), and “engrossing” (Kirkus Reviews), of a trial lawyer’s tempestuous boyhood in Texas that led to the vicious murder of his brother by the father of actor Woody Harrelson.
In 1968, David Berg’s brother, Alan, was murdered by Charles Harrelson, a notorious hit man and father of Woody Harrelson. Alan was only thirty-one when he disappeared (David was twenty-six) and for more than six months his family did not know what had happened to him—until his remains were found in a ditch in Texas. There was an eyewitness to the murder: Charles Harrelson’s girlfriend, who agreed to testify. For his defense, Harrelson hired Percy Foreman, then the most famous criminal lawyer in America. Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Harrelson was acquitted.
After burying his brother all those years ago, David Berg rarely talked about him. Yet in 2008 he began to remember and research Alan’s life and death. The result is Run, Brother, Run: part memoir—about growing up Jewish in 1950s Texas and Arkansas—and part legal story, informed by Berg’s experience as a seasoned lawyer. 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 miscarriage of justice when Berg’s murderer was acquitted.
David Berg brings us a painful family history, a portrait of an iconic American place, and a true-crime courtroom murder drama that “elegantly brings to life the rough-and-tumble boomtown that was 1960s-era Houston, and conveys with unflinching force the emotional damage his brother’s death did to his family” (The New York Times).
In this dark, engaging memoir, renowned lawyer Berg examines his troubled family and the catastrophic shock of his older brother Alan's murder in 1968. After their parents' divorce, Berg and his brother bounced between their parents, finally settling in Houston with the father, an unscrupulous carpet salesman. Under intense pressure to become doctors, Berg found himself drawn to the law, while Alan became a conniving businessman, and then an unsuccessful gambler. Alan's underworld troubles led to his murder at the hands of Charles Harrelson, a contract killer (and the father of the actor Woody Harrelson). 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. A recreation of Harrelson's trial occupies the last quarter of the book, and Berg's legal expertise provides unusual insight into the strange pathways by which the truth is buried and then found. Intriguing characters from shady lawyers to midget mobsters ornament the narrative, and a young congressman by the name of George H.W. Bush makes a winning guest appearance.