Richie: A Father, His Son, and the Ultimate America Tragedy, originally published in 1973, tells the story of an event that occurred in Nassau County (Long Island, NY) in1972. I was not familiar with the case, and True Crime is my “guilty pleasure” genre, so I was please to read an advance copy in exchange for my honest review (thanks to Open Road Integrated Media and NetGalley!)
If you are familiar with this story, either from news accounts, the earlier edition of this book, or the TV Movie (spoiler alert!) The Death of Richie, your experience reading this will be different from mine. I was not familiar with the events, so for me it was both a true crime narrative and a thriller, because I had no idea what would happen in the end.
The story involves George Diener, who was a “salt of the earth” kind of guy: World War II veteran and traveling salesman, he is the epitome of the stereotypical member of the “older generation” who found themselves puzzled and appalled by the youth movement of the late 60s and early 70s (drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll). He and his wife, Carol, had old-fashioned values and found pleasure in the simple things, including watching their two sons growing up in a middle-class Long Island suburb.
If you have had a family member or close friend whose life has spiraled out of control due to drugs, the story will be familiar, and you may find yourself mentally shouting at the parents to take some action as their son Richie’s life goes downhill. Richie was a golden child, shy by most standards but close to his parents as a child. But at the age of fifteen, everything changes as he “got in with a bad crowd” and began having incidents related to a deep dive into drug addiction. He turned violent and repeatedly was in trouble for both drug-related and violent crimes, and his parents were increasingly at a loss as to how they could help him.
Sadly, in 1972, their dreams for their son were extinguished by a tragic event in their home.
Thomas Thompson, who also wrote another true crime classic, Blood & Money, is a master at writing true crime and this story captures the incredible gulf between the young and old was at its peak. A good read on several levels, and a must for true crime fans. Five stars.