A Dark And Bloody Ground by Darcy O’Brien (1994)

Publication Date:
HarperCollins Publishers
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Reviewed by:
On December 2, 2013
Last modified:December 1, 2013


Darcy O'Brien is typically a 5 star author to me. And while the writing and story is definitely 5 stars, I found this one just a bit dependent on a criminal's tale.

A Dark and Bloody Ground by Darcy O'Brien
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Benny Lee Hodge had only been a petty criminal, serving relatively short stints in the county jail from time to time. And it was while he was there he fell for a female corrections officer and his life changed drastically.

Sherry Sheets was married with a preschool daughter when she got a job at the county jail to pay some of the family debt that had gotten out of hand thanks to her frivolous spending. When she laid eyes on one of her charges, she decided she would have him one way or another.

Sherry, of course, accomplished her goal to the sacrifice of her family and job and once Benny was released, the duo planned to live happily ever after. There was just one problem, neither one cared for building wealth slowly. They wanted stuff and they wanted it right now.

Enter Roger Dale Eppson. Known through the Appalachian areas of eastern Kentucky as a man who made a living off the backs of others by stealing their hard earn possessions and peddling drugs to the oppressed mountain people. When Sherry learned of Eppson’s reputation, she thought having her man buddy up with him would be a profitable adventure.

And it was. But just as animals are prone to more aggressiveness when in a group, so is the criminal and before long Roger and Dale, along with Donald Terry Bartley, were up to more than just drug sales and theft; this group upped the ante to murder.

In A Dark and Bloody Ground, author Darcy O’Brien takes readers deep into Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains where the law of the land isn’t necessarily the law of the people.

Readers are introduced to legendary lawyer Lester H Burns, who was once considered to be the best lawyer in some parts of Kentucky, as well as Sherry Sheets, a strong-willed, keen-minded Tennessee gal whose desires to live better than her raising set murder in motion.

As usual, O’Brien intricately weaves together a tale of love, crime, a rogue country lawyer, and justice in the backwoods of Lechter County, Kentucky. It’s a story that keeps one glued to the book, page after page.

But unlike Darcy O’Brien’s other books where I had nary a complaint, this time I did. O’Brien wrote A Dark and Bloody Ground based on a great deal of input from Sherry Sheets. Now, I’ll admit, she provided a lot of insider information that wouldn’t otherwise be known but I was left with the impression she skewed the story and the author to her favor just a little too much. While it appeared O’Brien had a bit of sympathy for Sherry, I had none.

Meh, maybe I’m just mean.

Other than that one tiny issue, A Dark and Bloody Ground is a fast, excellent read and I, of course, recommend adding it to your reading list.

NOTE: Kindle version has photos at the end.

Where Are They Now?

As recently as August 2010, Lester H Burns, Jr. tried to have his license to practice law reinstated and was denied. It’s rumored he’s now living in Florida.

Benny Lee Hodge, now in his sixties, is currently housed at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville.

Roger Dale Epperson still lingers on Kentucky’s Death Row. There is not set date as of this writing for his execution.

Donald Terry Bartley is still serving his sentence and is housed at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in West Liberty.

Carol Ann Ellis is believed to be living in Louisville, Kentucky.

After divorcing Benny, Sherry Sheets remarried to a Rick Hamilton in Florida. However, I am going to assume (hopefully not wrongfully so), the marriage didn’t last as Sherry resurfaced in her old stomping grounds, Harriman and Rockwood, Tennessee around 2006 using her maiden name. Unfortunately, that’s the most updated information available.

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4 Responses to “A Dark And Bloody Ground by Darcy O’Brien (1994)”

  1. Dana says:

    I just started reading this book. I’m not impressed just yet. And it’s another one of those “looks more recent than it really is” books. I mean is it about a crooked lawyer or is it about a murder or is it about a killer or is it about a lost, dishonest woman trying to find love in Brushy Mountain Prison? I feel like she can’t figure out which person is the real subject of the book.

    Sometimes I start reading a book and I stick with it for awhile and then get almost to the end and then just give up – it’s over. “Body Parts” was like that for me.

    I’ll stick with this one awhile longer. I like the updates though. Because I was already pissed thinking about how when I get to the end of this book, I’m still going to be 20 years behind where anyone in the book now is.

  2. Marlene says:

    Ha I also started reading this book but like Dana I am not impressed at all. I will give it more time when trying for the second time.. it started so weird, about a lawyer apparently one who made mistakes and 2 women. It felt like I was thrown into the mix with having no background story. Dana you are still in front of me. ;)

  3. Hi I read the book twice . True Crime books are my favorite to read . How about Sherry , Carol and Rebecca do they still keep in with Benny or Roger, or how about Donny ?

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