(Book Review Edition)
By Jim Hasser
Diamond in the Dark:
Leaving the Shadow of Abuse
by Phyllis Hain
In the early 80’s a huge story emerged out of Mobile that made national press. Headlines went something like this: “Prominent Mobilian puts hit on wife to marry mistress!”
Those weren’t the actual headlines, but they’re pretty close. It was labeled the “Leverett murder” and the author of this book, Phyllis Hain, was the mistress right in the middle of it. The whole thing played out in the press just like a murder mystery novel.
Paul Leverett’s wife was found shot with her throat slit in their home, the victim of an apparent burglary gone bad. Six months later, Leverett married Phyllis and the rumors started flying. Right behind came the law.
First, the D.A. tried to convict Phyllis of perjury in lying to the Grand Jury, but the judge threw the case out! Next, the Grand Jury indicted Leverett in a murder for hire scheme and he was tried and convicted and sent to prison on the testimony of convicted felons.
Years later, Leverett, along with another trusty and the warden and his wife, were murdered by a crazed inmate. The story was that Leverett died heroically defending the warden and his wife.
As far as the murder of his wife, Leverett maintained his innocence to the end. In retrospect, the author is not so sure.
Diamond in the Dark is about the long lasting and deep rooted effects of child abuse on a person’s life, and how these issues influence a person’s choices in life, causing them to become who they are.
The book explains how the author got caught up in the tragedy, and she explains it well.
This story begins in the 1950’s with a young innocent beautiful blonde haired, green-eyed Phyllis growing up in what should have been wholesome rural farm country outside Pensacola, Fla. Instead, it was filled with family violence and circling sexual predators.
Her father was a veteran who in later life was diagnosed with brain damage and a post-traumatic stress syndrome from WWII. For most of his post war life, his condition was largely ignored by the Veteran’s Administration and the medical community. This left him and his family to fend for themselves. Her father’s ways of dealing with his condition led to binge drinking and violent fits of rage, which made for an unfortunate upbringing for young Phyllis. The acquiescence of the family in his behavior formed the basis for her judgment of future relationships with men and would haunt her for a large part of her adult life.
This is the story of a woman determined to get it right, which she eventually did, after attending the School of Hard Knocks for a long time. She is lucky she was smart and brave enough to figure it out. A lot of women never make it. I learned as a young lawyer that the law and our society do not protect the abused spouse until after the fact, and only then, if they survive. And what makes matters worse is that most of those women wind up going back to their husbands for financial and emotional reasons. Thank God nowadays there are such places as Penelope House where battered women and children can find refuge and a way out.
The book in its diary style reminded me of an old tell-all book by Nan Britton, who was the mistress and allegedly the mother of the only child of President Warren Harding. She was the daughter of Warren Harding’s doctor. On the doctor’s deathbed, Warren promised he would take care of his daughter …. and he did, until he died unexpectedly.
Nan was left penniless and after Harding’s family refused to recognize her bastard child, Nan was left with no alternative than to go public with a tell-all book. It was a smash hit for the times and wound up changing the inheritance laws to allow bastard children to inherit. I can’t say Phyllis’ book will do the same, but I’m willing to bet it will get the conversation going.
All in all, it’s a good book, a good story and a good read. I wish the best of luck to Phyllis. Everyone deserves to have a little happiness in their lives. Hopefully, this book will affect others and this country the way Nan Britton’s book did and motivate folks to help. Phyllis lists numerous ways at the end.
A hard copy can be purchased on Amazon for $20.31. Bancroft published it.
(Editor's note: Jim Hasser's Dinner & a Movie is a regular feature in Mobile Bay Times. Jim is an attorney in Mobile.