Death in California

David Kulczyk

Death in California, by Sacramento-based writer (and former CN&R contributor) David Kulczyk, is a collection of chronologically laid-out essays about various deaths that took place in the state from 1852 to 2007. Once the reader gets into the somewhat voyeuristic rhythm of wondering who’s going to “get it” next and how, Kulczyk’s assemblage of well-researched stories becomes very addictive. Some chapters, such as “A Decade of War,” which follows the hostilities between white settlers and native peoples in Butte County from 1860 to 1870, could serve as sections of a regional history book. Others are pure tabloid titillation: “The Ape Boy” is about an axe-wielding pedophile in the 1920s who committed heinous murders of young boys after luring them to his Riverside County farm with the promise of work (or simply kidnapping them); and “Anissa Jones” looks at the untimely, drug-overdose death of the girl who played Buffy on the popular 1960s TV show Family Affair. One last tidbit: “Vernal Fall 14/Human 0” is an interesting account of 14 people who have died by dropping 317 feet over the edge of Yosemite National Park’s Vernal Fall.