And the Sea Will Tell

I’ve read three books by author Vincent Bugliosi.

If the former crown attorney was still alive and writing today, I know I’d be reading more.

Bugliosi is best known as the U.S lawyer who succeeded in putting 1960’s hippie cult leader Charles Manson behind bars. His legal career included winning 105 of 106 felony jury trials (including 21 successful murder convictions).

AND THE SEA WILL TELL is the true story of two couples from opposite ends of the social spectrum who visit and briefly inhabit Palmyra Island, a remote 12 km2 atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Samoa.


At the end of three months of living together, only one of those couples was still alive.

In 1974, Malcolm Graham (aged 43) and his wife Eleanor (aged 40) – a wealthy couple from California – sailed their 38-foot ketch SEA WIND to Palmyra, hoping to find it deserted and to spend a year or more there. 

Convicted felon Buck Walker and his hippie girlfriend Stephanie Stearns (whose name was changed for legal reasons to “Jennifer Jenkins” in the book) coincidentally were also headed to the same island, arriving three days after the Grahams.

Walker had served time in San Quentin for armed robbery and at the time was fleeing the United States on drug possession charges. He had come up with the idea of growing cannabis on Palmyra to support himself. He and Stearns sailed there on a patched-together wooden sloop named the IOLA.

Buck Walker was convicted of the Graham’s murder more than ten years later, in 1985. He and Stephanie Stearns were tried separately.

The task given to defense lawyer Vincent Bugliosi, who represented Stearns, was to convince a jury that Walker had acted alone and without any knowledge or involvement from his girlfriend. On a tiny island in which only four people lived, this was no easy assignment.

To describe Vincent Bugliosi (1934 – 2015) as both an author and a lawyer as meticulous’ is too weak a word. The lazer-focused skill with which he is able to piece together complex chains of logic is truly breathtaking.

Bugliosi’s book was made into a two part made-for-tv mini series in 1991. Richard Crenna (one of my favourite actors) played the role of Bugliosi and Australian actress Rachael Ward portrayed Stephanie Stearns.

True crime writer Tom Bucy published a rebuttal of Bugliosi’s conclusions in 2015 in his book FINAL ARGUMENT.

He proposed that Stephanie Stearns was wrongly acquitted and was in fact fully complicit in the murder of the Grahams in collusion with boyfriend Buck Walker.

Buck Walker passed away in 2010 of a stroke, aged 72. Writing under the name Wesley Walker, he penned a book which was posthumously released in 2015.

In it he fancifully claimed to have been seduced by Eleanor Graham and, in the midst of lovemaking, been caught by Malcolm Graham, who shot his wife and then attempted to shoot him.

Did I mention that now makes it two reads of Bugliosi’s AND THE SEA WILL TELL – 20 years apart? You never know… there might be a third. It’s that good.


2 thoughts on “And the Sea Will Tell

  1. Very interesting. And very sad. You go off to get away from it all and end up dead. But the books sound very well done, especially Bugliosi’s version.
    It’s the worst when favorite artists pass away–especially if it’s early–and then the world is robbed of anything further from them.
    I’m gonna scratch: move to deserted island and/or woods to restart our life off the list!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is definitely one of the more fascinating true crime cases I’ve come across – over a great many years of being interested in this sort of thing.

    Believe it or not the ‘Palmyra Curse’ is a documented, ‘real’ thing. Since the first recorded sighting of Palmyra Island in 1798, there have been a number of strange events and many ship wrecks associated with the island, way before the murder detailed in AND THE SEA WILL TELL.

    It all kind of adds to the uniqueness of this case.

    Liked by 1 person

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