Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Reader's Diary #2141 - Derek McCulloch (writer), Shepherd Hendrix (artist): Stagger Lee

There are many different versions of songs detailing the violent exchange between "Stag" Lee Shelton and Billy Lyons, the latter of whom was shot dead. Lloyd Price's 1958 rock version of "Stagger Lee" is undoubtedly the most famous and successful. 

Knowing how widely these songs interpret the case, I was interested in finding a graphic novel that discussed these while also speculating and/or reporting what actually happened that night. Alberta writer Derek McCulloch has written a fictionalized account, but still seems to have researched enough to suggest that the truth was likely less exciting than any of the songs would imply. He also assumes (and given the time and Shelton's race I have no reason to believe it otherwise), that even if Shelton was guilty of murder (vs self-defense; that Billy Lyons wound up dead at Lee's hand isn't in dispute) he didn't exactly get a fair trial. 

Still, there's a lot of padding in the book. There are subplots with only remote connections to Lee and never does McCulloch suggest any real reason why the story of these two men captured the imaginations of songwriters through history (beginning even before Lee died in prison). 

Shepherd Hendrix's art is good though, especially with exclusive use of brown and white which added to the air of history.

No comments: