David Berg, a veteran Texas attorney, mines the intersections of family, justice and mortality in his new book Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of Murder in my Family, released this month. Berg will talk about the book at Houston’s Brazos Books on Friday at 7 p.m.
The memoir recounts the story of Berg’s brother’s murder and the subsequent trial and acquittal of the alleged killer, Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody.
In 1968, Alan Berg was found dead in a ditch outside Houston with a gunshot wound to his head. Testimony from Charles Harrelson’s girlfriend at the time put him at the scene of the crime, though high-profile defense attorneys would later present witnesses saying Harrelson was elsewhere. Harrelson was acquitted in the Berg case; later the same year he would be convicted of another murder, for which he served five years in prison. In 1979, Harrelson received two life terms for the killing of a federal judge.
Though rife with courtroom drama and allegations of shady legal dealings, Berg’s book is more than a true crime tale. It’s also a memoir of Berg’s relationship with his older brother, and his own boyhood and early adulthood in Houston. Along the way, Berg also explores his relationship with the Texas justice system. “The first autopsy report I read was my brother’s,” he writes. Berg began practicing law the same year his brother died, going on to become a successful trial lawyer who represented politicians and won cases before the Supreme Court.
His brother’s murder cast a long shadow over his life—he wouldn’t see a movie with Woody Harrelson in it for years, for instance—and the intensely personal connection gives the book emotional heft and resonance well beyond the courtroom.
The book has already received plenty of positive attention, including favorable mentions from NPR and this New York Times review by Texas’ Christopher Kelly. You can read an excerpt of the book at The Daily Beast.