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Dial M

Dial M

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The Murder of Carol Thompson

Author William Swanson

Minnesota Historical Society Press (February 15, 2007)

A haunting re-creation of the brutal death of an American housewife, the conviction of her husband, and the family trial at which their children determined for themselves how their father should be charged.


At 9:00 on the morning of March 6, 1963, in the quiet St. Paul neighborhood of Highland Park, Mrs. Fritz Pearson glanced out her window and saw something almost unimaginable: slumped on the front steps of the home across the street was a woman, partially clothed in a blue bathrobe and bloodied beyond recognition. The woman, Mrs. Pearson would come to learn, was her beloved neighbor Carol Thompson, wife and mother of four.

Earlier that morning, T. Eugene Thompson, known to friends as “Cotton,” dropped his son off at school and headed to the office, where he worked as a criminal attorney. At 8:25 am, he phoned home, later telling police that he did so to confirm evening plans with Carol. Mr. Thompson lied.

Through police records, court transcripts, family papers, and extensive interviews, William Swanson has re-created Middle America’s “crime of the century,” the deadly plot by a husband that made headlines around the world. But Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson also tracks the lives of the Thompsons’ children. Their journey from disbelief to acceptance culminates in a private family trial where they decide whether their father truly was responsible for the violent act that crushed their childhood and forever altered their views of the world.

Author information

William Swanson, a senior editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, has written and edited for various publications in the Twin Cities and elsewhere for more than thirty years. He is also the author of Black White Blue: The Assassination of Patrolman Sackett and Stolen from the Garden: The Kidnapping of Virginia Piper.

Reviews and news

Featured on Investigation Discovery TV's "A Crime to Remember", Episode 3 "Devil's Advocate"

Historical Markers Media Podcast

Praise for Dial M:

“Engrossing, emotionally compelling. . . . An unlikely tale of resilience and redemption, told in sensitive, straightforward fashion.”
Entertainment Weekly (“A”)

“Four decades ago the Carol Thompson murder, a horrifying crime akin to the Marilyn Sheppard case in Cleveland, rocked the Midwest. In Dial M, the gripping replay of this American tragedy is only a bloody prelude to the remarkable lives Thompson’s children would live. How does a family right out of Leave It to Beaver survive a fatal implosion? Or do they survive at all? I have never read a book that dealt so expertly and dramatically with the private lives of those who survive incomprehensible tragedy. I highly recommend it!”
Ann Rule, author of Green River, Running Red and Worth More Dead

“This volume stands out . . . thanks to the sensitive and detailed attention given to the characters of Carol Thompson’s murderers and of her children and their attempts to come to terms with the horrific reality of their mother’s death.”
Publishers Weekly

“Part one [is] a meticulously researched, strong, swift read—as enjoyable as a well-done episode of ‘City Confidential’ on Court TV. But its not nearly as breathtaking as the second part of the book, which morphs straight into Chekhovian tragedy. . . . It will leave you wondering in your spare moments, discussing and mulling it over for weeks.”
Star Tribune

Related resources

Mnopedia article: The Murder of Carol Thompson

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 212 pages
  • 13 b&w illustrations
  • 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873515870

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