Brothers Blood: A Heartland Cain and Abel by Scott Cawelti (September 2011)

Publication Date:
September 2011
Ice Cube Press

Reviewed by:
On October 10, 2011
Last modified:October 3, 2012


A fascinating story of which most non-Iowa residents aren't even aware.

Brothers Blood by Scott Cawelti
Buy It Not On Amazon

Jerry Mark grew up farming alongside his three brothers on their father’s Iowa farm. As the boys reached adulthood, the oldest would head north to Canada, another brother would suffer from schizophrenia, and Jerry would go to law school only to toss it aside for a hippie lifestyle; leaving the third son, Leslie “Les” Wayne Mark.

When family patriarch Wayne Mark was diagnosed with cancer and the outcome inevitable, he called his nomadic son home and there announced that Les was officially taking over the family business.

Filled with jealousy, greed, anger, and humiliation at being passed over for a younger sibling, Jerry fumed and sulked and then began planning.

Over a thousand miles Jerry would travel to cold-bloodedly slay his brother, his sister-in-law Jorjean Marks, 5-year-old niece Julie Julane Mark, and toddler nephew Jeffrey Wayne Mark in the wee morning hours of November 1, 1975.

When police arrived at the Leslie Mark Farm to find the brutally murdered family, a shiver went through them; the Clutter Family murders of only 16 years before still fresh in their minds. Vowing to get justice for this well-liked family, investigators went to work and it didn’t take long to figure out that Les’s big brother Jerry was the culprit.

Jerry used his skills as a defense attorney to create the perfect crime, but he didn’t count on the determination of police. And that, simply put, was his fatal error.

Scott Cawelti grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with the Mark kids; Jerry being just one year his senior. He too felt the shock that flowed like water through the town when Les and family was murdered and Jerry, Les’s own flesh and blood, stood charged with the crime.

Now he tells the story of the Cain and Abel Murders, as they came to be dubbed by local media, in his 2011 true crime book appropriate named Brother’s Blood.

Just as the crime gives a feeling of déjà vu, so does the writing as Cawelti uses creative licensing to develop dialogue between characters. However, since the banter is created from interviews it stays pretty much parallel to the facts.

I was absolutely fascinated from the get-go, and not a single section so boring or redundant that I wanted to skim; not even the trial.  And I love it when a book is so well-written that I enjoy reading all of it.  So Brother’s Blood by Scott Cawelti gets a big thumbs up from me. Most definitely put it on your reading list!

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7 Responses to "Brothers Blood: A Heartland Cain and Abel by Scott Cawelti (September 2011)"

  1. My wishlist just keeps growing.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This sounds really good. 

  3. Smalltowngirl says:

    As a teen this rocked our community where Jorjean’s parents are from.
    Only knowing brief details that adults would share, this is truly an eye
    opening, and greatly detailed written book. That now, I only begin to
    understand the magnitude of this horrible tragedy.

  4. Cheri says:

    at the time of these murders, i was married to a very close cousin of leslie’s.  leslie was a type of “big brother” to my then husband.  les and jorjean went to many sporting events my (then, boy friend played in) and jorjean hosted a wedding shower for me, we would hang out with them frequently and even go to their home to show them party outfits and we also went to show them my engagement ring.    i was only 19 years old when the murders happened and almost immediately after that time, my marriage got worse and we seperated and divorced.  i was with dorothy, wayne and all of the family during that time.  i remember hearing him (jerry) change his story and wondering if anyone else was getting the type of reaction i felt.  it was the worst time and my life changed after that so i never knew how the mark family felt as time went by.   i remember always feeling that he had killed them but feeling that he wasn’t alone….  i am very interested in reading this book.  i have had no contact with the family for more then 35 years.

  5. Mark Gruben says:

    I remember this event very clearly, especially since my grandmother lived on a farm about 3 miles away. We used to pass the Mark farm when we’d drive down there, and it was pretty shocking to know what had happened there. So sad for everyone concerned.


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