Picks and Pans Review: "doc"

updated 08/28/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/28/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Jack Olsen

Dr. John Huntington Story, the focus of this shocking true tale, was a big man in a small town. Story seemed a devoted Christian, father and husband, a warm family physician who treated the children, comforted the women and reassured the men of tiny (pop. 2,447) Lovell, Wyo.

In the quiet, two-bar, one-drugstore town, Doc Story was revered. Mothers brought him cinnamon rolls on his birthday, clergymen came to him for advice, and young couples sought his blessing before announcing their wedding plans. He had been their Doc since he came to Lovell in 1958. They had seen him handle life's tragedies (his infant daughter was hit by a car and killed) and valued his religious convictions. He was the ideal role model for a simple town like Lovell.

Doc Story was so admired, so loved, that the mostly Mormon townspeople ignored the rumors that swirled about his name. High school girls called him "Stud." Some women patients questioned the bizarre methods he used in pelvic examinations. A few complained privately that Doc Story's examining room was not a safe place for any woman. But, in an environment where sex is not open to discussion, those rumors went uninvestigated. All of which enabled Doc Story to go about the shocking business of raping the women of Lovell for more than 20 years.

Olsen says as many as 100—ranging in age from 10 to 68—may have been raped during Story's examinations. Some of the women may have had children by him; others left their virginity inside Story's white-walled clinic. None of these innocent women, trained to look up to men of position, spoke out against him.

Lovell's nightmare ended when one woman, Arden McArthur, brought charges. McArthur had been a patient of Story's for 24 years. Her two daughters had been raped repeatedly, as had many of her friends. The dead bolt of justice hit Story on June 18, 1985, when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for rape.

Olsen, an ex-SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writer turned crime author (his 24 books include Son), is at his best here. Telling how "the rape of Lovell" could happen, he says many women didn't know they were raped, the doctor performing the act behind a drape stretched across bent knees. Others feared for their lives if they spoke. All of them feared what the town and its religious leaders might say. When one of McArthur's daughters told John Abraham, a Mormon Church leader, that she had been raped, he said, "We can't take a stand against Dr. Story. It would cause too many problems. There's no proof. It's your word against his."

Doc is an indictment of a town and of a man who ruined more lives than he ever saved. Story, 62, still maintains his innocence. His self-effacing wife, Marilyn, remains loyal. Despite the evidence, half the town still seems to believe in Doc, the man they were raised to trust. (Atheneum, $19.95)

From Our Partners