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UK Law Professor Publishes New Book, Gives Inside Look at True Crimes Behind American Ballads

August 26, 2016

Richard H. Underwood, the William L. Matthews, Jr. Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law, has published a new book, CrimeSong: True Crime Stories From Southern Murder Ballads. The 328-page book plunges readers into the riveting true crimes behind 24 Southern murder ballads.

Professor Underwood began teaching at the University of Kentucky in 1980. He has taught a variety of courses, including Evidence, Scientific and Forensic Evidence, Litigation Skills (Trial Advocacy), Civil Procedure, Federal Courts, Insurance Law, Remedies, Law and Medicine, Bioethics, and Professional Responsibility (Legal Ethics). He is the co-author of several books on evidence, trial technique, and legal ethics, and he has published numerous articles on the law, legal history, perjury, famous trials, and true crime. He has lectured or presented papers on diverse subjects at conferences across the United States, in London and in Amsterdam. Professor Underwood is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association, he served on the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility (2011–2014), and he is currently a member of the Kentucky Supreme Court Evidence Rules Review Commission. He served in the Army from 1969 to 1973, and he is a Vietnam War Veteran.

CrimeSong brings to life a series of stories filled with jump-off-the-page real and memorable characters, shadowy history, courtroom dramas, murders, mayhem and music. Professor Underwood presents his case studies, documented through contemporary news accounts and court records, which show universal themes of love, betrayal, jealousy, and madness through true-life tales that are both terrifying and familiar.

“I am excited about the book,” said Professor Underwood. “It is different. It’s not a law book, strictly speaking, but there is a lot of evidence and trial law in it. It is about murder ballads, but from a lawyer’s perspective!”

The idea for CrimeSong came from an article Professor Underwood wrote years ago with research help from the late Carol Paris, a former UK Law Librarian. He dedicates this book to her.

“I had written some of the material for CrimeSong in article form before, and the research was in one of my many stacks on the floor of my office – and at home. I felt like it was finally time to turn the stacks into books,” he said.

What’s next? Professor Underwood currently has two additional books in the production process – one about lawyers and criminal trials in the Guilded Age in New York City, the other about an old murder in Connecticut. He is in the middle of finishing a fourth book, about perjury, that he has been working on for years.

CrimeSong: True Crime Stories From Southern Murder Ballads is available for purchase through Shadelandhouse Modern Press, LLC at http://smpbooks.com/.

Congratulations Professor Underwood!

Cover story photo: Photography by Kelsey Rae