“The Alaskan Blonde”

A true-crime story with a thriller twist

 “The Alaskan Blonde: Sex, Secrets, and the Hollywood Story that Shocked America,” unfolds with all the nail-biting suspense and secretive plot of a thriller. All the elements are there —  the classic femme fatale with a secret past, the brutal murder of her husband, conflicting stories,  contradictory evidence,  report after report with ambiguous conclusions, and  fingers pointing every which way to distract. However, this is a true story that reflects how social roles in Alaska in 1950 defined the culture, the people, and the public’s reaction to crime.

Newspapers nicknamed Diane Wells, fifth wife of powerful, wealthy, and prominent Cecil Wells, “the most beautiful woman in Alaska,” but on Saturday October 17, 1953 she was a widow. Her husband was murdered, and her muddled story led to her becoming the prime suspect in what to this day is the most notorious and baffling murder in the history of Fairbanks.

Fairbanks, Alaska in the mid twentieth century was “rough and ready,” and many viewed it as the “Wild West” in a polar climate. Both its weather and lifestyle are intricately detailed; all are so very different, so very unique, so much an influence on citizens. Alaska was on the brink of statehood, and crime, specifically the murder of an influential man, might stand in the way. The pressure to bring Cecil Wells’ killer to justice was intense.

Bartlett unfolds the detailed chronicle of events in an organized story that flows easily from one scenario to the next without overwhelming the reader with unconnected discrete facts. The tone is matter-of-fact and informative; at the same time, the narrative is filled with the personalities and realities of these events. The story is peppered with special observations and distinctive details from Bartlett’s extensive research on this, FBI case number 95-51424. Of special interest are observations from descendants.

“The Alaskan Blonde: Sex, Secrets, and the Hollywood Story that Shocked America,” is now available in print  and as an e-book from independent bookstores, online booksellers, retail stores, public libraries, and anywhere books are sold.