The Ax Murderer Cometh

On June 13, 1980, 30 year old Candy Montgomery stopped in at Betty Gore’s house in Wylie, Texas, to pick up a swim suit for Betty’s young daughter who was doing a sleepover that night with Candy’s daughter. While the two women weren’t best friends, they had gotten to know each other from all the church activities they were both involved in.

Evidence of LoveAn hour later Candy drove away, leaving the house with a crying infant and Betty savagely hacked to death with more than forty ax wounds.

The case drew national headlines and became the subject of a bestselling book (Evidence of Love), a TV movie (A Killing in a Small Town), and most recently two mini-series (Candy and Love & Death).

I have no memory of reading about it back in 1980, but memories fade, so perhaps I did and have forgotten about it. 

But I’ve watched the two recent mini-series, and curious to know how accurately they portrayed the events, I’ve begun to read the book. It’s a fascinating story, full of twists, and set in an environment that I think most people will find just a bit strange—suburban Texas, where religion plays a large role in people’s daily lives.

Both mini-series have their strengths and weaknesses, so I can’t really recommend one over the other; Candy is shorter (five episodes) and tends to compress characters and events, while Love & Death, a David E. Kelley production, clocks in at seven episodes and does greater justice to the trial, as one might expect from Kelley. On the other hand, Candy’s first episode is a lot stronger and brings the viewer into the story a lot more quickly, while Kelley’s first episode is something of a snooze fest.

One thing that both shows distort, is Candy and her husband Pat’s beliefs; both shows depict them as pretty devout Christians, but the book explains that they are basically agnostics who join the church out of a sense of community and to help raise their children.

In fact, Candy apparently was often at odds with her minister over theology, for example, calling Job the “awfullest book in the Bible.” (She got that right, though there is some strong competition, although I’d call it the worst in the Old Testament with Revelation taking the honors for worst overall.)

By the way it’s an established fact that the killing took place on June 13, 1980, and also that the Montgomery family went to see the movie The Empire Strikes Back later that day along with the young daughter of Betty Gore, and so it is depicted in the book and both mini-series. However, some doofus (perhaps the same one or possibly two different doofi) has posted on imdb on the two mini-series that this is an error because that movie wasn’t released until a week later. That is just one more example of how imdb is rife with misinformation. I’ve tried to correct both errors by pointing out that The Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21 so it was out for the Memorial Day holiday and that was definitely before June 13, but I haven’t checked to see if the doofi who run imdb have fixed the error yet.

I think both mini-series are well cast and well acted, and if you’re a bit impatient, you can’t go wrong with Candy, which also features Raúl Esparza’s wonderful performance as the lawyer Don Crowder. It’s other virtue is it never loses sight of the fact that whatever happened during that hour in Betty Gore’s house, we only have Candy Montgomery’s side of the story. For some reason it changes the names of the children, which seems odd 40 years after the fact; neither the book nor the other series did that.

On the other hand, if you like extended trial sequences, definitely go with David E. Kelley’s Love & Death. It also delves more deeply into motivations of several of the characters.

Both series give accounts of what happened to the principals in the years following the trial, but Love & Death’s are far more detailed and includes photos of the actual people.

And of course if you want the most detailed experience of all, get the book Evidence of Love; it will probably tell you more than you ever wanted to know about everyone involved.


What follows contains some spoilers for those who haven’t seen either series or read the book.

Each series is structured differently and dishes out the details of the case in its own way.

One of the central facts of the case involves the affair that Candy had with Betty’s husband Allan. In the book this isn’t revealed until halfway through, but in the two series it comes out somewhat earlier. What’s also interesting is that neither series portrays Allan Gore quite the way he was in real real life.

The book describes him thusly: “Allan had a receding hairline, the beginnings of a paunchy midsection, and dressed blandly, to say the least.” 

In Candy Allan Gore is portrayed by Pablo Schreiber:

Pablo Schreiber as Allan

But Kelley, apparently keying in on “the beginnings of a paunch” and running with it, has cast Jesse Plemons in his blimp mode. So Kelley’s Candy is something of a chubby chaser.

Jesse Plemons as Allan

What both series and the book do agree on, however, is that Allan Gore had “the most perfectly shaped penis” that Candy had ever seen. The viewers never get to view it, however, to judge for themselves.


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