A Retired Officer’s Honest Memoirs Tell of Family Poverty and Crime | book reviews

By Harry Levins Special for post-shipment

Betty Frizzell has had successful careers as a law enforcement officer and educator. Now she’s getting into writing with “If You Can’t Stop Cryin’, You Can’t Come Here No More”.

In law, she became chief of police in Winfield, Missouri, where she was named Lincoln County Police Officer of the Year in 2001.

As an educator, she has taught criminology around St. Louis and now in the Seattle area. But her heart remains in Missouri, despite the subtitle of her first book: “A Family’s Legacy of Poverty, Crime, and Mental Illness in Rural America.”

She grew up near Poplar Bluff, Missouri’s Bootheel, one of eight children fathered by a parade of her mother’s lovers. She recalls: “I was in second grade when I learned that I was white trash”, so not invited to a classmate’s birthday party. At home, her mother regularly punched and kicked her children.

“I’m a country girl from Missouri,” she wrote. “The way I was raised, when your mom told you to jump, you didn’t respond, you jumped.” She adds, “Often I wish I was raised somewhere else, somewhere where the burden of my raisin didn’t have a hold on me.”

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She was closest to an older sister, Vicky. But Vicky’s path to adulthood proved more thorny than Frizzell’s. Vicky married a rough guy named Chris. As the author says, “In early 2013, Vicky and Chris were going doctor to doctor getting prescriptions. They would invent ailments or injuries to get more medicine from conniving suppliers. They both used and sold opiates to generate extra money and help other addicts.

To make matters even more complicated, the two were joined in their trailer in the countryside of Puxico by Vicky’s son from a previous marriage – Kenneth, an adult and a schizophrenic. On the night of May 12, 2013, disaster struck. Sleeping Chris died of gunshot wounds to the head. Vicky said she did; she remains in prison to this day.

Author Frizzell rushed to the scene and quickly suspected his sister was innocent – that she was protecting the real culprit, her schizophrenic son.

Much of Frizzell’s book details his efforts to find Kenneth, who has managed to slip away to Germany.

But most importantly, the book details Frizzell’s determination to rise above — and stay above — a family history of low moral standards. His readers can’t help wishing him good luck.

Manchester’s Harry Levins retired in 2007 as the Post-Dispatch’s senior editor.

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