The Story Behind ‘In Broad Daylight’

In “The Story Behind ‘In Broad Daylight,'” Author Harry MacLean reveals the details of how he uncovered what actually happened in the vigilante killing of Ken Rex McElroy in Skidmore, Missouri, in 1981, as told in “In Broad Daylight.”

Standing a few feet from where the killers opened fire on Ken Rex McElroy more than three decade ago, Harry N. MacLean explains how he came to write his Edgar Award-winning book. MacLean had doors slammed in his face, guns pulled on him, and was bitten by a dog. Eventually, he won over the closed community of Skidmore, Mo. The inhabitants shared with him the reign of terror Ken Rex McElroy inflicted for twenty years in Northwest Missouri, and information about his murder on the main street of Skidmore in 1981. Despite 45 witnesses, the case remains unsolved. MacLean tells the story in his book “In Broad Daylight,” first published in 1988.

“The Story Behind ‘In Broad Daylight’” brings the book up to date and includes several previously unpublished pictures. It also answers many questions about the killing itself, such as who was involved, and what has become of them. The author discusses the nature of the moral consequences of the killing for the town and those involved in the killing. MacLean describes the breakthrough events when key characters agreed to speak with him, and he realized he would finally get the story.

“In Broad Daylight” was a New York Times bestseller for 12 weeks and was made into a movie starring Brian Denehey, Cloris Leachman and Chris Cooper. It was re-released as an e-book on Amazon on July 10, the 31st anniversary of the killing.

“The Story Behind ‘In Broad Daylight’” is available in Kindle format at



Harry N. MacLean - In Broad Daylight book
“A riveting behind the scenes look at an author in pursuit of the story about the bully who brought down a town and paid for his sins with his life.”
—Diane Fanning, author of “Mommy’s Little Girl”

“Honest and intriguing. The riveting backstory of MacLean’s true crime classic…a can’t miss read!””
— Kathryn Casey, bestselling author of “Deadly Little Secrets”

“The Edgar Award winner takes readers right where they want to go—inside the story.”
—Gregg Olsen, bestselling author of “”Fear Collector”

Click to Purchase Kindle Edition.

12 thoughts on “The Story Behind ‘In Broad Daylight’

  1. A very factual accounting of real life in small, Midwest farm towns and “rest of the story” behind the book. If you read the original book or saw the movie, you should follow up with this one. Its a quick read that I couldn’t put down.

  2. I’m from central Mo and remember when this happened. I started watching the new documentary last night and couldn’t help laughing. A cursed town? Yeah, if you consider the death of family farms and the infiltration of meth-making into what was left of small town America as a curse. What a crock. There are endless small towns around where I’m from (including the one my mom grew up in, my dad was from a nearby farm) that experienced the same thing, minus McElroy. No curse required. This small community came together to do what needed to be done to keep their families safe. Kudos to whoever got it done and for everyone keeping their mouths shut to pull it off. I did buy your book after getting disgusted with the documentary and look forward to reading it. Looks like you lived with the Goslee family? Kirby and the sheriff were the only credible sources as far as I could see in the “documentary”. Where the heck did they come up with the crazy mullet guy? Farmer my butt…

      • Please do!!! I am 35 years old and watched the movie In Broad Daylight with my grandmother when I was 6 or 7 at home sick. I have always been fascinated by the story since I learned of your book and the fact that its a true story as a young adult deployed in Iraq. I spent the entire rest of that deployment researching the story. I was extremely excited to hear of the new docuseries last year. To say I was disappointment is an understatement.
        Like stated above other than the crime the town is no different than most other small towns in the midwest Missouri especially. I have been there twice and as you stated in the book the town is on a road to nowhere. This I believe is why the town was on a decline in the 70s when all of these events were taking place. Its a sad tale indeed but a but not one of a “curse”, “conspiracy”, or anything else other than a shift the landscape of america mostly due to accessibility of travel.

        • Very insightful comments. The “curse” idea was why I decided to have nothing to do with the project. I need to get on with the project. The virus has thrown everything out of whack.

  3. Harry, I met you in Denver awhile back. IBD is one of my favorite books!!! I studied the highways as I read along, I love driving, so I was very interested about Ken’s escapes on the back roads!! Also, my grandad had the same truck (almost)–a 1982 GMC Sierra 1500 (kens was a 1980 I believe).
    Im elated there’s a follow up. Its definitley one of the top books Ive ever read, fiction or nonfiction. Going to amazon right now for “the story behind…..”!!!! When I think of the best books Ive ever read, this always comes to mind. Have a great summer.

    • Thank you so much for the comments. I have kind of a memory of meeting you. I was in Skidmore last weekend for a gathering on the 40th anniversary of McElroy’s death. Interesting times.

  4. I just watched the movie. The murder happened 40 years ago. I was 17 years old and watched the movie when I had moved to Maryland from Mississippi. I want to visit Skidmore, Missouri. I am not morbid but knowing there are people alive in the town who remember the day that Skidmore decided Len just needed killing and the town was no longer going to live under the brital oppression of a bully.

  5. My name is Dan Johnson. I started my first administrators’ job at Nodaway-Holt on July 1, 1981. But, knew MeElroy by reputation and had one run-in with him when I served as a Maryville Police Officer during the 1970’s. I am a native NW Missourian…from Fairfax. We moved to Skidmore…just a mile N of town (across from where Festival Family’ had their ‘compound’) on the east side of the highway in June 1981. I was accepted quickly into the community because my dad owned a service station and livestock feed store in Fairfax and he did a lot of business with Sumy Oil over the years. Knowing Marvin Sumy allowed me to be accepted into the community. Willie Ward, Pete Ward’s son, and I were friends. Did some partying with Wes Ward, the Clements (Del mostly..knew Greg and his family…I was never around Royce that much), Gary ‘Stuffy’ Dowling, K and many others. Knew most all of the characters in your books, including a relationship with ‘Lean and Mean’ Richard Stratton and troopers Dan Boyer, Sgt.Bill Hollingsworth, and Tom Trullinger. Spent some time at the Shady Lady and Monkey Tree in Maryville myself. I have read both your books two or three times each and found them enjoyable and depicted the events / situation.well. But I admit there were a few things I read in your books that made me go…’Hmmmm. I do have a couple of humorous stories not directly related to the killing but are related to Del, McElroy, Richard Stratton…if you would liike to hear them some time.

    • Dan
      Thanks for the email. It sounds like you were right in the middle of the action. I wish I had come across you when I was researching the book. I would like to hear your stories some day. Can you message me on Facebook?

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