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Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My Family

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From a renowned trial lawyer, a searing family memoir of a wild boyhood in Texas that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother by actor Woody Harrelson’s father. A searing family memoir of a tempestuous Texas boyhood that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother As William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” This observation seems es From a renowned trial lawyer, a searing family memoir of a wild boyhood in Texas that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother by actor Woody Harrelson’s father. A searing family memoir of a tempestuous Texas boyhood that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother As William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” This observation seems especially true in matters of family, when the fury between generations is often never resolved and instead secretly carried, a wound that cannot heal. For David Berg, this is truer than for most, and once you read the story of his family, you will understand why he held it privately for so long and why the betrayals between parent and child can be the most wrenching of all. In 1968 David Berg’s brother, Alan, was murdered by Charles Harrelson, a notorious hit man and father of actor Woody Harrelson. Alan was only thirty-one when he disappeared; six months later his remains were found in a ditch in Texas. Run, Brother, Run is Berg’s story of the murder. But it is also his account of the psychic destruction of the Berg family by the author’s father, who allowed a grievous blunder at the age of twenty-three to define his life. The event changed the fate of a clan and fell most heavily on Alan, the firstborn son, who tried to both redeem and escape his father yet could not. This achingly painful family history is also a portrait of an iconic American place, playing out in the shady bars of Houston, in small-town law offices and courtrooms, and in remote ranch lands where bad things happen—a true-crime murder drama, all perfectly calibrated. Writing with cold-eyed grief and a wild, lacerating humor, Berg tells us first about the striving Jewish family that created Alan Berg and set him on a course for self-destruction and then about the gross miscarriage of justice that followed. As with the best and most powerfully written memoirs, the author has kept this horrific story to himself for a long time. A scrappy and pugnacious narrator, Berg takes his account into the darkest human behaviors: the epic battles between father and son, marital destruction, reckless gambling, crooked legal practices, extortion, and, of course, cold-blooded murder. Run, Brother, Run is a raw, furious, bawdy, and scathing testimonial about love, hate, and pain— and utterly unforgettable.


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From a renowned trial lawyer, a searing family memoir of a wild boyhood in Texas that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother by actor Woody Harrelson’s father. A searing family memoir of a tempestuous Texas boyhood that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother As William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” This observation seems es From a renowned trial lawyer, a searing family memoir of a wild boyhood in Texas that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother by actor Woody Harrelson’s father. A searing family memoir of a tempestuous Texas boyhood that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother As William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” This observation seems especially true in matters of family, when the fury between generations is often never resolved and instead secretly carried, a wound that cannot heal. For David Berg, this is truer than for most, and once you read the story of his family, you will understand why he held it privately for so long and why the betrayals between parent and child can be the most wrenching of all. In 1968 David Berg’s brother, Alan, was murdered by Charles Harrelson, a notorious hit man and father of actor Woody Harrelson. Alan was only thirty-one when he disappeared; six months later his remains were found in a ditch in Texas. Run, Brother, Run is Berg’s story of the murder. But it is also his account of the psychic destruction of the Berg family by the author’s father, who allowed a grievous blunder at the age of twenty-three to define his life. The event changed the fate of a clan and fell most heavily on Alan, the firstborn son, who tried to both redeem and escape his father yet could not. This achingly painful family history is also a portrait of an iconic American place, playing out in the shady bars of Houston, in small-town law offices and courtrooms, and in remote ranch lands where bad things happen—a true-crime murder drama, all perfectly calibrated. Writing with cold-eyed grief and a wild, lacerating humor, Berg tells us first about the striving Jewish family that created Alan Berg and set him on a course for self-destruction and then about the gross miscarriage of justice that followed. As with the best and most powerfully written memoirs, the author has kept this horrific story to himself for a long time. A scrappy and pugnacious narrator, Berg takes his account into the darkest human behaviors: the epic battles between father and son, marital destruction, reckless gambling, crooked legal practices, extortion, and, of course, cold-blooded murder. Run, Brother, Run is a raw, furious, bawdy, and scathing testimonial about love, hate, and pain— and utterly unforgettable.

30 review for Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My Family

  1. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    I had high hopes for Run, Brother, Run - it has all the elements that would make a great story - but I just didn't find it terribly satisfying. Mr. Berg tackles a difficult thing - the murder of his brother at the hands of a killer that went free in a miscarriage of justice. It is not an easy tale, but I believe it deserves a better telling than this one. Run, Brother, Run is at its best when Mr. Berg focuses on his family, his brother, all the ways his family and the events of his brother's murd I had high hopes for Run, Brother, Run - it has all the elements that would make a great story - but I just didn't find it terribly satisfying. Mr. Berg tackles a difficult thing - the murder of his brother at the hands of a killer that went free in a miscarriage of justice. It is not an easy tale, but I believe it deserves a better telling than this one. Run, Brother, Run is at its best when Mr. Berg focuses on his family, his brother, all the ways his family and the events of his brother's murder affected his own life. It's a great and tangled story of divorce, dreams never realized, and family entanglement. Alan Berg is a likeable guy from his brother's description - a bit feckless, more reckless, but likeable - taking after and attempting to defy his father in a struggle that ends in his death. The failures of the book occur as the author smears everyone he has ever known or who touched the case. If you crossed his path he's got an axe to grind (unless you're "Racehorse" Haynes). Next, he retries the case against Charles Harrelson in minute detail with himself cast as the prosecutor. This chunk of the book must have been cathartic for Mr. Berg, but for this reader it was excruciating. The root of the missteps in this book appear to lie in the deep and undying rage that its author holds - rage against everything and everyone (including himself). At its most florid, his rage taints his writing making him supremely unsympathetic. When it is reigned in it provides color and form to the stories he tells. His rage is illustrative of the affects of murder and dysfunction on the people touched by it, but it just isn't all that interesting to watch its owner take it out for a drive.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Murder. Family secrets. Hired guns. The poor kid who wants to be a doctor. True-crime tale. Growing up Jewish in Houston in the 1950s and 60s. This was one of the fastest reads ever—-probably because I kept pulling it out and reading at times and places I normally would not. For me, it was kismet, or at least serendipity. I heard the author speak once while I was a law student at his alma mater, the University of Houston. I bought the book at the River Oaks Bookstore, a place I'd never seen but t Murder. Family secrets. Hired guns. The poor kid who wants to be a doctor. True-crime tale. Growing up Jewish in Houston in the 1950s and 60s. This was one of the fastest reads ever—-probably because I kept pulling it out and reading at times and places I normally would not. For me, it was kismet, or at least serendipity. I heard the author speak once while I was a law student at his alma mater, the University of Houston. I bought the book at the River Oaks Bookstore, a place I'd never seen but to which I walked on my lunch break. I was struck: River Oaks Bookstore is not five miles from most of the events in the book. I recognized half the places and people named in the book, not the least of whom being the father of Woody Harrelson, a man who grew up in an East Texas town where I recently worked for a year. I probably cannot judge the book objectively, but if I should ever read a mass-market publication more jam-packed with people I know and places I have been, my name will be on the cover. The day I finished this book I passed it to both my parents, who will read it within the week, I am sure. I can’t imagine a reader from Houston who would not be enthralled with this story. People everywhere will love this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chaplain2

    This book was a Goodreads First-reads giveaway. Thank you to Goodreads, the author, and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review Run, Brother, Run. The prologue was well composed and drew this reader into the book with the expectation of a well-told story. However, after enduring 140 pages, these are the impressions left on the reader: My brother was a crook who was killed. I idolized my brother. My father was a crook. My mother was crazy and abusive. Enough about all of them, let me tell This book was a Goodreads First-reads giveaway. Thank you to Goodreads, the author, and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review Run, Brother, Run. The prologue was well composed and drew this reader into the book with the expectation of a well-told story. However, after enduring 140 pages, these are the impressions left on the reader: My brother was a crook who was killed. I idolized my brother. My father was a crook. My mother was crazy and abusive. Enough about all of them, let me tell you about myself. My sister had no personality. I idolized Racehorse Haynes. My wife had no personality. Look at me! I can talk dirty! My children had no personality. Look at all the liberal heroes I’ve successfully defended! We found the body. George H. W. Bush is kind -- a Neanderthal conservative, but kind. This is an anomaly. The murderer was arrested. The murderer’s son became an actor. Have you heard about myself, the lawyer? At this point, this reader put down the book and will neither finish reading it nor recommend it to other readers, regardless of their political viewpoints. Despite the author’s various definitions of justice, his book leaves this reader uninterested about whether his brother’s murderer was brought to justice -- and that is a shame. The book was donated to the Kingsland Public Library, but without recommendation.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Angela Lynn

    I decided to read this book because it is described as a memoir of a murder in the author's family. I am a huge fan of the true crime genre. Unfortunately, this was not the suspenseful, murder mystery I expected. The author spends the first part the book describing his family, his terrible parents, sister, and other irrelevant family members. The father is the only relative that is relevant to the story, all of the other introductions are a waste of time. Finally, we get to the brother's murder. I decided to read this book because it is described as a memoir of a murder in the author's family. I am a huge fan of the true crime genre. Unfortunately, this was not the suspenseful, murder mystery I expected. The author spends the first part the book describing his family, his terrible parents, sister, and other irrelevant family members. The father is the only relative that is relevant to the story, all of the other introductions are a waste of time. Finally, we get to the brother's murder. Shortest and most interesting part of the book. Next, the reader is forced to read about the author's law career (yes, it's great that you argued a case in front of the Supreme Court, but it has nothing to do with the). We are introduced to a cast of characters who also have no role in the murder or the investigation. Lastly, we get an anecdotal, biased recollection of the trial. This is where I lost interest and stopped reading. Overall, this book was a narrative that was devoid of any emotion. There was a lack of imagery, little to no description of the setting, and no likable characters. In addition, characters were introduced by name, with only a one sentence explanation of why they were there, and then they were gone. After a while it just became confusing to keep track of everyone. Wish I could comment on the ending, but I never got that far.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I cannot begn to imagine how one processes the grief of losing a family member, espeically by murder, enough to write a coherent book about it. Indeed, it took David Berg decades to reach the point where he both wanted and was able to write this memoir. He did a great, rich job. The book starts with a beg for the reader's speculation: could you condone defense of a woman on trial for the brutal murder and chainsaw dismemberment of her husband, to which she fully admits? No? Berg was the defense I cannot begn to imagine how one processes the grief of losing a family member, espeically by murder, enough to write a coherent book about it. Indeed, it took David Berg decades to reach the point where he both wanted and was able to write this memoir. He did a great, rich job. The book starts with a beg for the reader's speculation: could you condone defense of a woman on trial for the brutal murder and chainsaw dismemberment of her husband, to which she fully admits? No? Berg was the defense attorney in such a case, and he stands by the innocence by self-defense case that he won for her. And through his lens of legal expertise, he also shows us how the defense for Charles Harrison (father of actor Woody) was able to persuade a (cherrypicked) jury to find the hitman innocent of Berg's brother, Alan's, murder, through a combination of illicit and legitimate appeals to the jury's reasonable doubt. In addition to deftly escorting us through the court system as it put Berg's family through the wringer, Berg also recreates a painful childhood in which he was raised by his mother, and Alan by their father, whom Berg directly blames for the myriad problems the Berg boys grow up with. It is painful without wallowing, intelligent and illuminating.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kw

    This sad, sometimes sordid story took place right here in my town. I barely remember it, but this book certainly filled In any blanks. This family lost so much, for no good reason. Not only was there murder, but their finances were stolen and/or extorted from them on several occasions. They were also mistreated because of prejudice and arrogance, and I'm glad this author has risen above his beginnings. An interesting look at the infamous Percy Foreman and his "lawyerly manipulations," at '60s Hou This sad, sometimes sordid story took place right here in my town. I barely remember it, but this book certainly filled In any blanks. This family lost so much, for no good reason. Not only was there murder, but their finances were stolen and/or extorted from them on several occasions. They were also mistreated because of prejudice and arrogance, and I'm glad this author has risen above his beginnings. An interesting look at the infamous Percy Foreman and his "lawyerly manipulations," at '60s Houston, at the Murder for Hire business, and at high-pressure salesmanship, among other things. A great read, really hard to put down.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sheryl Sorrentino

    A murder in any family is “tell-worthy,” so you would think the story of someone’s brother being murdered would be especially so. Alan Berg’s disappearance and murder were indeed gut-wrenching to read about. However, while Run Brother, Run starts off tender and funny and engaging—full of quirky characters and ethnic “heart,” as it were, what promises at the outset to be an intimate “tell” of one family’s tragedy quickly devolves into something tedious and lackluster, spiraling into an Enquirer-e A murder in any family is “tell-worthy,” so you would think the story of someone’s brother being murdered would be especially so. Alan Berg’s disappearance and murder were indeed gut-wrenching to read about. However, while Run Brother, Run starts off tender and funny and engaging—full of quirky characters and ethnic “heart,” as it were, what promises at the outset to be an intimate “tell” of one family’s tragedy quickly devolves into something tedious and lackluster, spiraling into an Enquirer-esque replay of he said/she saids and “who’s zoomin’ who?” Clearly, this book is more about the author than the murder. As The Buffalo News points out (in a review by Lee Coppola), “Run reads more like a memoir of David Berg than a memoir about a death in his family.” I couldn’t agree more. (See http://www.buffalonews.com/life-arts-....) We spend a lot of time with David Berg over the course of these 354 pages, and to say he thinks highly of himself would be an understatement. Page after page is devoted to the author regaling us with his legal acumen. When not recounting his sometimes winding (but momentous, according to him) career trajectory as a trial lawyer, the author informs us about all sorts of shady secondary players in his family’s carpet business, most of them irrelevant to Alan Berg’s murder but seemingly included either to confuse the reader or prove that Alan Berg really was a good guy by comparison. And yet, none of the three main characters (David Berg, his brother Alan, or their father) is especially deserving of our sympathies. The whole “we got into medical school but couldn’t/didn’t go” angle seems intended to prove that these guys really are smart and respectable, even as the whole lot of them cheat their customers (mostly poor Black folks) and rub elbows with shady types (gamblers, scammers and so forth). I hate to say it, but I found it hard to feel too sorry for the victim, a supposedly happily married father of two who, on the strength of a phone call by a woman proffering a blow job, had no qualms about running off to meet her, thereby walking straight into his murderer’s trap. Of course, Alan Berg did not deserve to be killed, and the Berg family has my utmost sympathy for their loss. But as my father always said, “When you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.” That worn adage seems fitting here. David Berg also spends a good deal of time justifying his grudge against his father. He blames the elder Mr. Berg for causing Alan’s murder by bad-mouthing one of their former salesmen (an aggressive hothead) after he had been warned by his sons to stop. Frankly, I find that a rather tenuous basis for condemning one’s father in a family’s time of shared grief. Certainly no one would ordinarily foresee that a petty dispute would lead to a son’s murder. Though I understand that in families we harbor all sorts of resentments—both logical and illogical, David Berg presents his myopic version of people and events as Holy Truth. The straw that broke this weary reader’s back came toward the end of the book, when David Berg recounts how, in preparation for writing this story, he interviewed the bungling (according to him) prosecutor at his brother’s murder trial. At that get-together, Berg graciously and reassuringly accepts the man’s apology, but then proceeds to slam the prosecutor play-by-play for his mishandling of the trial. This very public professional assault struck me as dishonorable, especially when, as the The Buffalo News aptly notes, “Berg . . . was too busy getting his law practice off the ground to attend the trial he recounts in detail.” I suspect the main reason this book got published was the fact that the murderer was Woody Harrelson’s father, affording the whole grubby affair the potential to sell books. Indeed, the thing that sticks with me most about this story is Woody Harrelson’s sketchy family history, of which I was previously unaware. In “A Conversation with David Berg” on the author’s website, Berg faults Woody Harrelson for “capitalizing on his father’s past [by playing] a murderous character in Natural Born Killers, a movie about a killer heroized by the press.” I daresay David Berg uses Run Brother, Run as his platform to do essentially the same thing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “Run, Brother, Run” by David Berg, published by Scribner. Category – Memoir Publication Date - June 11, 2013 If you want to read a book where just about everyone in the book is a liar, cheater, murderer, or conman (this includes judges, lawyers and police), this is your read, and to top it off it is a true story. The book is made even more intriguing when you know that the accused murderer is Charles Harrelson, the father of Woody Harrelson who starred in the TV series “Cheers” and several movies “Run, Brother, Run” by David Berg, published by Scribner. Category – Memoir Publication Date - June 11, 2013 If you want to read a book where just about everyone in the book is a liar, cheater, murderer, or conman (this includes judges, lawyers and police), this is your read, and to top it off it is a true story. The book is made even more intriguing when you know that the accused murderer is Charles Harrelson, the father of Woody Harrelson who starred in the TV series “Cheers” and several movies including “Natural Born Killers”. David Berg begins the story of his brother from when they were children. He tells of how they came from a very disruptive and dysfunctional family. Their father went from being dismissed from Medical School for cheating to running a carpet business. He always had someone else to blame for his failures and many of his dealing were just this side of the law. David Berg seemed to be always at odds with his father, even thought they were in business together. They had many fights and Alan would often quit only to return to the business. Alan had a history of gambling and not being able to pay his gambling debts. Alan was a terrific salesman, again playing it just this side of the law, and a devoted husband and father. The crux of the story is found in his murder, why he was murdered, and who was the murderer. Although there seemed little doubt as to who the murderer was, the court battle will leave you amazed at how bad the judicial system was at that time and that place. A book that can be enjoyed by anyone interested in crime, celebrity crime, and memoirs. A read that lawyers might take to heart.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Darian Burns

    This book had all the components fro a great read. Drama, murder, mystery, even celebrity in that Woody Haralson’s father was the murderer and David Berg is a nationally known lawyer and democrat political supporter. I hate to say I didn’t like the book because it wasn’t a terrible book. It just could have been so much better. As I have thought about it, the main problem with the book is that there are not any likable characters. No one you get invested. The author is by far the only character th This book had all the components fro a great read. Drama, murder, mystery, even celebrity in that Woody Haralson’s father was the murderer and David Berg is a nationally known lawyer and democrat political supporter. I hate to say I didn’t like the book because it wasn’t a terrible book. It just could have been so much better. As I have thought about it, the main problem with the book is that there are not any likable characters. No one you get invested. The author is by far the only character that even comes close to being likable, but because he writes with a strange emotional detachment, you never really feel as if he is there. It is more like he is hovering above and telling the story from the outside looking in. The father deserts the family and goes to Texas to live the high life. The big brother becomes a small time petty crook and drug user and runs away eventually ending up in Dallas near his deserter dad. The Dad and big brother end up becoming small time crooks doing business with a type of Texas mafia. Back in Kansas, David finds what readers have always known, his mom is nuts. But she is not just nuts be mean, cruel, emotionally manipulative nuts. Soon, David is kicked out and sent to live with deserter dad and his new up-grade wife. Eventually, Woody Harelson’s scum bag dad kills David’s big brother in a deal that went bad. If you want to know the rest you will need to read the book. “Run Brother, Run” is more a real life crime drama than memoir, and if you like Ann Rule, you probably will like this as well. I was left unsatisfied.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sean Owen

    "Run, Brother, Run" is somewhat unique in the true crime genre. The author was the brother of the victim, but also is an accomplished criminal defense attorney. This endows him with a uniquely informed perspective of the goings on in the trial of the man who murdered his brother. This insider perspective does not temper his anger at what he views as a miscarriage of justice and in many ways seems to increase it because he is aware of things that could have been done differently. There's a lot of "Run, Brother, Run" is somewhat unique in the true crime genre. The author was the brother of the victim, but also is an accomplished criminal defense attorney. This endows him with a uniquely informed perspective of the goings on in the trial of the man who murdered his brother. This insider perspective does not temper his anger at what he views as a miscarriage of justice and in many ways seems to increase it because he is aware of things that could have been done differently. There's a lot of potentially tedious ground early in the book when the author is telling the story of his family and the relationship between his brother and father. All of this is essential to get a full picture of the people involved and to remedy the picture of the victim that was painted at the trial. David Berg wants us to view his brother as flawed, but essentially decent. David Berg's angry and partial presentation of the story is part of what helps this rise above other true crime books.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karen Conner

    Interesting- a lot of lawyerly talk. In some ways it made me mad to see how lawyers break the law just to win, but it was also interesting to see it through a lawyer's eyes. Interesting- a lot of lawyerly talk. In some ways it made me mad to see how lawyers break the law just to win, but it was also interesting to see it through a lawyer's eyes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Cosenza

    Beginning and trial were good, but it bogged down after the verdict. I did slog thhrough until the end which was good. I didn't expect his brother to be such a savior to him, so it was a sad story. Beginning and trial were good, but it bogged down after the verdict. I did slog thhrough until the end which was good. I didn't expect his brother to be such a savior to him, so it was a sad story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mary Blye Kramer

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Farrah half or more of this book is a gripping family story. The writing sparkled. In the epilogue the author wrote that had it not been for an editor, the book might have gone on for many pages about Jews in Arkansas and I do hope the author writes his next book on that subject! The book slowed during the explanation of the trial. I’m fact, the author entirely lost his voice, and while I understand his anger, he should have written this section to make it more interesting to the reader. I d The Farrah half or more of this book is a gripping family story. The writing sparkled. In the epilogue the author wrote that had it not been for an editor, the book might have gone on for many pages about Jews in Arkansas and I do hope the author writes his next book on that subject! The book slowed during the explanation of the trial. I’m fact, the author entirely lost his voice, and while I understand his anger, he should have written this section to make it more interesting to the reader. I doubt his brother’s trial was the most botched in the author’s 40 year experience. After that section, the rest of the book is interesting, but the author still had lost the very personal connection with his reader. And his own trials - the ones he presided over as an attorney - also stopped the flow. Still, I liked the book a lot and with some tweaks, the author is a really good writer. Hope to read something else by him in the future. Oh, and I had NO idea until the very end that the man who murdered his father was Woody Harrelson’s father. It’s on the jacket blurb but I never read those. So holy crap.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    More of a bait and switch. The promotions say this book is about “the vicious murder of the author’s brother.” “In 1958 David Berg’s brother, Alan, was murdered by Charles Harrelson, a notorious hit man and father of Woody Harrelson.” Instead this book is filled with the author’s own anger, self-promotion, and disassociation. Lots of extra “details” of how the author did good professionally, and those details were not directly associated with his brother’s murder. This is a missed opportunity to More of a bait and switch. The promotions say this book is about “the vicious murder of the author’s brother.” “In 1958 David Berg’s brother, Alan, was murdered by Charles Harrelson, a notorious hit man and father of Woody Harrelson.” Instead this book is filled with the author’s own anger, self-promotion, and disassociation. Lots of extra “details” of how the author did good professionally, and those details were not directly associated with his brother’s murder. This is a missed opportunity to explore the notorious murder from an insider. Instead it felt like it was an outsider looking in from a very long distance, and only as a foundation to boost his own selfish interests. It didn’t even give a feel of what Houston was like at that time - only superficially. Huge disappointment.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    One of the best memoirs I've read, Run, Brother Run, takes its place among a canon of heartbreaking, gorgeously written memoirs of family in all its brokenness and imperfect love. In 1968, author David Berg's older brother, Alan, went out to a bar and never came back. For six tortured weeks his family tried to find him. Eventually his body was discovered and the investigation into his murder began, ending with the arrest and trial of a man who coldly performed the the killing for $1,500, which he One of the best memoirs I've read, Run, Brother Run, takes its place among a canon of heartbreaking, gorgeously written memoirs of family in all its brokenness and imperfect love. In 1968, author David Berg's older brother, Alan, went out to a bar and never came back. For six tortured weeks his family tried to find him. Eventually his body was discovered and the investigation into his murder began, ending with the arrest and trial of a man who coldly performed the the killing for $1,500, which he drank and gambled away within weeks. Before the author takes us to the night of the killing and the aftermath of a painful trial, he gives us the entire backstory of his dysfunctional family--an emotionally handicapped father who made a mistake early in his life and let it ruin the remainder--who then pushed his own failed dreams on his sons, forever changing their lives--a violent mother who never let go of her anger at being left by her husband for a waitress and whose propensity to "just tell the truth" is a destructive and lifelong excuse to inflict emotional harm, and an older brother whose humor, protection and love were perhaps the most important familial influence on his younger brother's life.(A younger sister also plays her role in the family, but she is not the focus of the memoir and it's obvious that the key relationship in David Berg's life was the influence of his funny, kind older brother whose past might have been checkered but whose love for his family was the most important thing in his life.)Due in part to Alan's sacrifice, David was able to attend law school and start to make himself a successful life. Throughout the book he mentions his great desire (and fear) that he does not want to be "just another Berg." Winning a case before the Supreme Court, working to protect civil liberties, and becoming a winning defense attorney--David makes it to success. But he is a Berg too, and after several decades, this book is the tribute to the family he loved, honest in its anger and its sadness. So many things could have been different if only. If only. Many memoirs tell a tale of dysfunction in the family, so what distinguishes this one? The author's talent at storytelling, his love for words, his ability to see his family for who and what they were and then to explain--beautifully--to the reader how all of the family players interacted; the dark world he conveys in language that pulls the reader into the seedy life that intersected with Alan Berg's and ended it, out of equal parts spite and greed; the sheer talent the author has in writing about the pain and love and failed dreams that haunt and touch and change so many different lives. For years, the author says, he could not properly mourn his brother, and part of that was his inability to speak about the murder and the shocking trial that followed. It is to the reader's great good fortune that David Berg eventually sat down to write what he could not face head-on for so many years.Run, Brother, Run, is exceptional in every way.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Russell J. Sanders

    A screenwriter would look at David Berg’s Run, Brother, Run and immediately cut out the first seventy pages or so, relegating the information contained in them to brief flashbacks and memories. And that would be wise. Berg’s memoir of his brother’s murder is a very cinematic tale. I would relish seeing a film made of the book. But, alas, this is a book, not a movie, and it is a memoir, so I suppose the early days of Berg’s and his brother’s life are relevant and need to be told, no matter how mu A screenwriter would look at David Berg’s Run, Brother, Run and immediately cut out the first seventy pages or so, relegating the information contained in them to brief flashbacks and memories. And that would be wise. Berg’s memoir of his brother’s murder is a very cinematic tale. I would relish seeing a film made of the book. But, alas, this is a book, not a movie, and it is a memoir, so I suppose the early days of Berg’s and his brother’s life are relevant and need to be told, no matter how much they slow down the action until we get to the murder and its aftermath. Run, Brother, Run is the story of Alan Berg, who was murdered—for hire—by film-star Woody Harrelson’s father Charles in 1968 in the Houston, Texas, area. And that is why I wanted to read the book: true crime set in my town (or actually, near it) is fascinating to me. I know the landmarks; I know the notorious people involved. In this case, that notorious person, above all the others, is famed criminal defense attorney Percy Foreman, who was a piece of work. Foreman is long since dead, so Berg is free to tell and analyze his dirty deeds. This was a man who would do anything, including suborning perjury and making things up, to get his clients acquitted. Foreman is the most colorful of the characters here, but there is plenty to chew on with the others, which include floozies, lying ranchers, incompetent district attorneys, a mother who is brutally honest, and a father with a selective memory. David Berg has written a well-researched, heartfelt tribute to his brother, who was no saint but was loved by his brother and was well-liked by those who had dealings with him. Know that wading through those first seventy pages is worthwhile. Or perhaps you will be engrossed in this family’s story from the beginning. I found the first part slow-going, but that’s just my opinion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Licha

    I gave this book three stars based mostly on the first part of the book, which dealt with introducing Alan Berg, the author's brother, who was murdered by Charles Harrelson, who was a hitman and father of actor Woody Harrelson. The author did a good job of portraying his brother, a likable person, even if sometimes he was on the shady side of the law, mostly for gambling. Once it got to the second part dealing with the legal stuff, the story just lost me, both in interest and in trying to keep so I gave this book three stars based mostly on the first part of the book, which dealt with introducing Alan Berg, the author's brother, who was murdered by Charles Harrelson, who was a hitman and father of actor Woody Harrelson. The author did a good job of portraying his brother, a likable person, even if sometimes he was on the shady side of the law, mostly for gambling. Once it got to the second part dealing with the legal stuff, the story just lost me, both in interest and in trying to keep some of the names straight. The author gives an unflinching look into his family, sometimes being very frank about the family's relationship. What I didn't like was how the author seemed to blame his father for having an indirect part in getting Alan killed. Either he didn't present all the background behind the son/father relationship or he has not grown to let go of pent-up resentments. What I got from reading this was that both Alan and his father had a sometimes volatile relationship, but they also had more love for each other than to let any disagreements separate them. They seeked each other out. I felt the author was being extremely unfair toward his father for blaming him for Alan's murder. The lure of this book for me was Harrelson, I'll admit, but in the end, Alan got justice. Alan came across the pages as a genuine person, brother and son.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joanie

    David Berg is an attorney, and his older brother was murdered almost 50 years ago. Berg wrote this memoir as a way to reveal to the world (including his own kids) the brother he had largely kept hidden for decades. This book attempts to look at how their father's life and mistakes set the course for the brothers' lives with one brother learning lessons from the father's transgressions and the other seeming to follow in his footsteps. At times, both brothers seemed doomed to live lives as flawed David Berg is an attorney, and his older brother was murdered almost 50 years ago. Berg wrote this memoir as a way to reveal to the world (including his own kids) the brother he had largely kept hidden for decades. This book attempts to look at how their father's life and mistakes set the course for the brothers' lives with one brother learning lessons from the father's transgressions and the other seeming to follow in his footsteps. At times, both brothers seemed doomed to live lives as flawed as the life their father lived. In fact, there were countless times during this story that I wanted to punch their dad in the face. I was halfway through the book, however, before I realized that the probable murderer was Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson. I say "probable" because Harrelson was never convicted of this particular murder. His defense attorney in his case was notorious in Texas for using anything, including perjury, to win his cases, and the evidence in this case was pretty clear that he paid witnesses to commit perjury to ensure that Harrelson had an alibi, thereby contradicting eyewitness testimony that he did commit the murder. That said, I found the book immensely readable, not just from the legal end, but from the business end as well just watching the story of the family dynamics unfold. I wish they would make a movie about this story.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Hagen

    Run Brother Run: a memoir of a murder in my Own Family, by David Berg, Narrated by Geoffrey Alan Berg, Produced by Brilliance Audio, Downloaded from audible.com. This is the memoir of David Berg, a famous defense lawyer in Texas, and the murder that shaped his entire family. His older brother Allan, who was supposed to become a doctor because his father failed to get out of medical school, is first praised and then totally reviled by his father and his mother. This led Allan on a life-long downwa Run Brother Run: a memoir of a murder in my Own Family, by David Berg, Narrated by Geoffrey Alan Berg, Produced by Brilliance Audio, Downloaded from audible.com. This is the memoir of David Berg, a famous defense lawyer in Texas, and the murder that shaped his entire family. His older brother Allan, who was supposed to become a doctor because his father failed to get out of medical school, is first praised and then totally reviled by his father and his mother. This led Allan on a life-long downward run of luck from bad and illegal business deals, to drugs, to gambling, to connections with the mob, and finally to a contract killing by a hitman-father to actor Woody Heraldson. The murder itself was tragic, and the body was not found for six months. But the trial shows how the parents of Allan were the most destructive part of the evidence collected and ultimately led to the acquittal of Heraldson for the murder. We see David’s attempt, and partial success, in making his own life separate from his family. The book itself is fascinating in showing us how a dysfunctional family can lead to total ruin for its members.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    Really a ***1/2 star book. Definately better than average. It's a memoir/true crime styled book. The author and his titular brother lived in a dysfunctional home so it's no surprise his brother was a little nutty. He's one of these guys that can talk there way into and out of anything, superhuman levels of charisma but also dangerously impulsive. He also had some terrible aquaintneces. I want to meet someone like that one day just to know what they are like to be around. The few people like this Really a ***1/2 star book. Definately better than average. It's a memoir/true crime styled book. The author and his titular brother lived in a dysfunctional home so it's no surprise his brother was a little nutty. He's one of these guys that can talk there way into and out of anything, superhuman levels of charisma but also dangerously impulsive. He also had some terrible aquaintneces. I want to meet someone like that one day just to know what they are like to be around. The few people like this I've been around are usually just annoying so I'm not sure if I have. The author is a lawyer so that is a lens where we view the a lot of the action and most of story comes from court cases. I am a fan of trials and their different arugments of what really happened. The trial is entertaining because there are not too many details to keep track of like some Mob trial. There are a few famous cameos in the book that add to the charm.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    I would probably give this a "2.5 stars" and I didn't it was that worthy of 3 stars. Interesting story of the author's family and their 'problems' within the family dynamics. Infidelity, divorce, betrayal, etc. I just don't know how this family wound up associating with so many losers in TX ? Sheer coincidence or just associating with the 'wrong people'. It would be the latter and not the former. I mean, when you have a bookie and gamble high stakes, one is apt to fall into the wrong side of the I would probably give this a "2.5 stars" and I didn't it was that worthy of 3 stars. Interesting story of the author's family and their 'problems' within the family dynamics. Infidelity, divorce, betrayal, etc. I just don't know how this family wound up associating with so many losers in TX ? Sheer coincidence or just associating with the 'wrong people'. It would be the latter and not the former. I mean, when you have a bookie and gamble high stakes, one is apt to fall into the wrong side of the fence. Too much adoration and love for the brother (Alan) that was caught up in this lifestyle of "get rich schemes" - typical for a Jew. He deservedly met his fate, I'm sorry to say. It gives me more than second thoughts about visiting TX, a sh*thole of a place with more hicks than mosquitoes ....

  22. 4 out of 5

    Syd Polk

    I enjoyed this book tremendously. This true life murder mystery is a picture of my hometown, Houston, that I never knew; the steamy, crime-ridden underbelly. The rampant racism, sexism and anti-semitism that pervades late-60's Texas is palpable. The only person who manages to make and honest living in this book is the author, but he is haunted by the demons of his murdered brother and his broken family. The entire experience of reading this book made me feel both very alive and very sullied. Ther I enjoyed this book tremendously. This true life murder mystery is a picture of my hometown, Houston, that I never knew; the steamy, crime-ridden underbelly. The rampant racism, sexism and anti-semitism that pervades late-60's Texas is palpable. The only person who manages to make and honest living in this book is the author, but he is haunted by the demons of his murdered brother and his broken family. The entire experience of reading this book made me feel both very alive and very sullied. There is very little good about human nature revealed, except that love does pervade everything, even in defeat. Fortunately for us, our family was never exposed to any of those awful elements of Houston when I was a kid. I am sure that many of them are still there! I hope that Mr. Berg has some closure after the monumental task of reliving this remarkable story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Ewald

    The fact that David Berg had a messed up childhood, the result of divorce and an abusive father is not in question. There was, however, love between David and his brother, Alan. In 1968, Alan, a carpet salesman in business with his father, and frequent gambler, was killed by Charles Harrellson, the father of Woody Harrellson (who was just a child at the time). This is a story of justice not done in Texas, where lies are spun to protect the guilty. David waited until 2013 to tell his story of a f The fact that David Berg had a messed up childhood, the result of divorce and an abusive father is not in question. There was, however, love between David and his brother, Alan. In 1968, Alan, a carpet salesman in business with his father, and frequent gambler, was killed by Charles Harrellson, the father of Woody Harrellson (who was just a child at the time). This is a story of justice not done in Texas, where lies are spun to protect the guilty. David waited until 2013 to tell his story of a family lost and found, and the injustice in Texas. Quoting from the book: "As William Faulkner said, 'The past is not dead, it's not even past.' " This is quite true. The past follows us forever...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sandy G

    Poignant, heartfelt and honest, this is a book about love, family, grief, and shame. As an attorney, I seldom choose or enjoy "lawyer" books. But, this is not a "lawyer" book. It is a riveting memoir about love, loss, family, and tragedy. The author opens himself up and writes about very painful events without self pity. There are also elements of humor. The book is well-written and not overwrought. I applaud the author for opening himself to the public. It could not have been easy. The book was Poignant, heartfelt and honest, this is a book about love, family, grief, and shame. As an attorney, I seldom choose or enjoy "lawyer" books. But, this is not a "lawyer" book. It is a riveting memoir about love, loss, family, and tragedy. The author opens himself up and writes about very painful events without self pity. There are also elements of humor. The book is well-written and not overwrought. I applaud the author for opening himself to the public. It could not have been easy. The book was hard to put down. And like the author, I still believe in the integrity of our justice system. Bravo !!!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    the publisher describes the book as "raw, furious, bawdy and scathing." perfect, those words tell you if you'll like this. david berg's family is screwed up, his brother's murder just adds being screwed over to the mix. (this isn't about the denver radio jock that was murdered, this is about one of many murders done by woody harrelson's father.) it isn't a fun book to read, but berg is a wonderful storyteller. and he does something in a true-crime book i've always wanted to read, he shows what He the publisher describes the book as "raw, furious, bawdy and scathing." perfect, those words tell you if you'll like this. david berg's family is screwed up, his brother's murder just adds being screwed over to the mix. (this isn't about the denver radio jock that was murdered, this is about one of many murders done by woody harrelson's father.) it isn't a fun book to read, but berg is a wonderful storyteller. and he does something in a true-crime book i've always wanted to read, he shows what He would have done differently.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This was a pretty good memoir that gets a bit dragged down in "lawyerese". Berg is a good writer. He comes across as a very intelligent person so it is easy to believe he had such success as a lawyer. The first half of the book was very interesting to me. He mixes stories of his early caareer and his family in a way that captured my interest. The last half of the booklet me down a little, though I can't really put me finger on why exactly. All in all, this book really brings home the importance This was a pretty good memoir that gets a bit dragged down in "lawyerese". Berg is a good writer. He comes across as a very intelligent person so it is easy to believe he had such success as a lawyer. The first half of the book was very interesting to me. He mixes stories of his early caareer and his family in a way that captured my interest. The last half of the booklet me down a little, though I can't really put me finger on why exactly. All in all, this book really brings home the importance of family and throws in some bonus knowledge about the legal system for free.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    I read a lot of books. Some I get out of the library specifically because I like the subject matter, and some I see while browsing the shelves that pique my interest in some way. This is one of the latter; I had never heard of it before and didn't have a particular interest in this. But it was well-written and well-thought-out. It's not "writerly" and it isn't about anything else; it's just about what it's about. That's fine, sometimes. It didn't change my life, but I really enjoyed my time goin I read a lot of books. Some I get out of the library specifically because I like the subject matter, and some I see while browsing the shelves that pique my interest in some way. This is one of the latter; I had never heard of it before and didn't have a particular interest in this. But it was well-written and well-thought-out. It's not "writerly" and it isn't about anything else; it's just about what it's about. That's fine, sometimes. It didn't change my life, but I really enjoyed my time going through it. Highly recommended.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Richard Maddox

    If you're from Houston and interested in its past, I think you'll find this memoir hard to put down. David Berg's description of life in Houston - particularly its seedier side in the 1960s - is in itself reason enough to pick this book up. However, there is so much more to this impressive piece of writing. It amazes me the ground Berg covers in what is not a lengthy book. His talent is obvious, and the story he tells of his brother's short life and senseless death will leave you reflecting for If you're from Houston and interested in its past, I think you'll find this memoir hard to put down. David Berg's description of life in Houston - particularly its seedier side in the 1960s - is in itself reason enough to pick this book up. However, there is so much more to this impressive piece of writing. It amazes me the ground Berg covers in what is not a lengthy book. His talent is obvious, and the story he tells of his brother's short life and senseless death will leave you reflecting for quite some time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lissad

    I found this book on a "Best of 2013" list -- but, I have to disagree. The first half of the book is a fascinating story of two brothers and their tumultuous childhood. Loved it. The second half of the book is about the events leading up to one of the brother's murder and the courtroom drama. I admit, I did some heavy skimming during some of this. Yawn Yawn. Nonetheless, overall, the author does an excellent job of narrating his life and trying to find HIS truth. Conclusion: Dysfunctional Memoir I found this book on a "Best of 2013" list -- but, I have to disagree. The first half of the book is a fascinating story of two brothers and their tumultuous childhood. Loved it. The second half of the book is about the events leading up to one of the brother's murder and the courtroom drama. I admit, I did some heavy skimming during some of this. Yawn Yawn. Nonetheless, overall, the author does an excellent job of narrating his life and trying to find HIS truth. Conclusion: Dysfunctional Memoir = Glass Castle Better. Murder and Law = Presumed Innocent by John Grisham better.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This book has been on my "To Read" list for (literally) 3-4 years. I finally found a copy and picked it up not entirely remembering what it was about. It was a very interesting read. I love the voice that comes through the book. I am not familiar with David Berg but his voice really comes through. He did a wonderful job of getting his reader to experience his emotions and thoughts as he did when these events were occurring. I also know very little about Woody Harrelson but now feel compelled to This book has been on my "To Read" list for (literally) 3-4 years. I finally found a copy and picked it up not entirely remembering what it was about. It was a very interesting read. I love the voice that comes through the book. I am not familiar with David Berg but his voice really comes through. He did a wonderful job of getting his reader to experience his emotions and thoughts as he did when these events were occurring. I also know very little about Woody Harrelson but now feel compelled to do some research into his life.

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