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Author will return to Duncan

Work of fiction centers around 1948 murder of Helen Beavers

When Duane Monkres was a kid growing up in Duncan in the 1950s, most everybody wondered about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder of Helen Beavers.

It was a sensational case. United Press International called the killing, discovered on Feb. 9, 1948, one of the top 10 stories of that year. A Duncan police officer was tried, convicted of murder and sentenced to life in the state penitentiary, but his appeal, championed by the likes of Erle Stanley Gardner, the lawyer and author who created the infamous Perry Mason detective stories, eventually succeeded. The former officer, E.L. "Lefty" Fowler, was released from prison after a scathing indictment of local police and prosecutors by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

So, the mystery only deepened, and local suspicions about the murder swirled for years.

Not surprisingly, when Monkres, a 1955 Duncan High School graduate who made a career of law enforcement, fire protection and claims investigation, decided to try his hand at writing a book, his mind turned back to his early days in Duncan and to the sensational homicide. His first book, "Swift Injustice," is what followed.

"I had no other reason for (writing) it other than it fascinated me. I love to write and it's a great story," Monkres said, "and I knew information would be available."

Though he spent half a year or so in 2007-08 doing research, including poring over many articles that appeared in the local Duncan Banner newspaper about the slaying, what the author ultimately decided was to turn out a work of fiction only loosely based on the discovery of the young woman's body and the investigation and prosecution that followed.

"It was simply a springboard to what I thought would be a good piece of readable fiction," he said.

Monkres, who is now 81 and living in Edmond, has accepted an invitation to visit with Duncan's Friends of the Library at their annual meeting on Tuesday. He's slated to be at the library at 6:30 p.m. and said he'll likely talk about the nature of the book business these days and, if asked, about "Swift Injustice" and about his latest work, also fiction but based on a true crime story in Duncan.

He said he likes to use the town where he grew up as a backdrop because it's familiar and has a colorful history. 

"I like the history of the town," he said. "It's got some great stories and it also speaks about the nature of small town America."

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