A TARGET ON MY BACK
A Prosecutor’s Terrifying Tale of Life on a Hit List
Number of Pages: 176 with b&w photos
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Murders don’t happen in Kaufman County, Texas, a sleepy community where people raise their kids quietly and drive into Dallas for work and entertainment. In 2013, murder came to town when two professional prosecutors were slain in cold blood, simply for doing their jobs: one in broad daylight in plain view of the courthouse, and one in his home, along with his wife. Eric Williams is responsible for all the bloodshed—and he has a list of who to kill next.
A Target on My Back is the first-person true story of Erleigh Wiley, an accomplished lawyer who accepted the job as the new district attorney—after the death of her predecessors—which turned her into the next target on the killer’s hit list. This is her story of how she and her family endured the storm of the press, the array of Homeland Security agents assigned to protect them 24/7, and the weight of knowing she was someone’s prey. Though fearing for her life, she served as the prosecution’s final witness against the murderer, sealing his fate on death row. This chilling account of how she survived the hit list is a terrifying cat and mouse tale.
PRAISE FOR A TARGET ON MY BACK:
“A legal thriller with a twist: a crazed lawyer and his wife, believing they have been wronged, become a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde and go on a terrifying murder spree. Next on their kill list is the new DA, and her courage in confronting the killers makes this a fascinating read.”
―Dennis L. Breo, coauthor of The Crime of the Century: Richard Speck and the Murders That Shocked a Nation
“John Grisham and Scott Turow had better start looking over their shoulders. . . Wiley’s engaging, nimble style immediately draws you into the action and proves that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. It’s a good thing for us all that she lived to tell about it!”
―David Dean, Dallas attorney, former Texas secretary of state and chair of the North Texas Crime Commission
“When murder comes to her town, Erleigh Wiley steps into the shoes of the slain district attorney and finds herself on the killer’s hit list. In A Target on My Back, Wiley tells her personal story of overcoming fear in order to carry out her duty to hold Kaufman County, Texas, together while the killer is brought to justice. Don’t miss it!”
―Mike Farris, author of A Death in the Islands: The Unwritten Law and the Last Trial of Clarence Darrow
“A Target on my Back is a unique first-person look into the world of crime-fighting in which the tables have been turned. The author takes the reader on an all-too-real journey into what it means to stand for justice when your very life is in danger. A must-read.
―Robert Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association
Lately, I have had the good fortune to review books at the perfect moment in my life. As I have finally caught up on all the old episodes of my favorite true crime podcast, this first person account of a would-be victim was next on my review list. That designation alone makes this book special, but the fact that Wiley is a judge makes the proceedings all the more technical and her recollection feel more trustworthy than other true crime tell-alls.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like most true crime books are either written by a court reporter or someone very interested in the case. Immediately, there is a distance between what really happened and what is written on the page. Neither writer would have a solid picture of what happened since it didn’t happen to them. Or on the other hand, some of these books are penned by victims whose stories are understandably colored by their trauma and the emotional rollercoaster of the media circus and courtroom drama. Details could be misremembered or forgotten.
When Wiley stated over and over how she did not feel like she was to be the next victim, I got the feeling that I was reading the account of a very level-headed individual. I understood her logic for distancing her part in the downward spiral of a mad man, and that was precisely what could have caused her even more harm. Crazy people don’t always have a motive that makes sense. They don’t always have clear origin stories such as an abusive upbringing or head trauma knocking their good sense loose. I love that she addresses that because psychologists are always trying to find that angle.
To be honest, I was getting antsy to read the nitty gritty about the crime. But it was awe inspiring to hear the journey of how Wiley came to be the first elected African American female district attorney in Dallas County. And as a mother, I felt inspired knowing how hard she worked in her office, but that her harder and most fulfilling work was taking care of her family and giving back to her community.
I would have liked to have more information about the murders upfront, since that seems to be more of the template for true crime books. It felt weird to finally gain a broader picture of what each victim was like and what happened to them in a few pages right before the Epilogue. I wanted more than that.
I have always thought the photo placement in these books is strange (usually right in the middle of a chapter that has nothing to do with the pictures), and this one follows suit. I like that the photos are in color, but the captions could have used some copy editing. One of my pet peeves is identifying people in the photo out of order. If there’s two people, just name them left to right!
The pacing was good but some editing could have made this book more suspenseful. The lack of copy editing and proofreading resulted in redundancies and typos. For future reprints, I would recommend revamping the cover design as well. A story that took place in 2013 shouldn’t have a cover that looks like it was printed in the ’90s.
Overall, I think this book is a nice addition to the true crime genre and that readers will appreciate the unique point of view.
Erleigh Norville Wiley was born and raised in Kaufman County. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University, Rawls College of Business; where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree with a degree in Finance. She attended law school at Texas Law at The University of Texas in Austin receiving her Doctorate of Jurisprudence.
In 1990, Judge Wiley joined the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. Her goal was to prosecute the criminals and protect innocent children and victims who have no voice. She was promoted to supervising attorney-training other new attorneys and managing fourteen different courts.
Wiley takes an active role in her community by volunteering. Some of her board work includes Chairman of the Kaufman County Juvenile Board, Trustee of Texas Health Resources- Kaufman, Kaufman County Children’s Advocacy Center and Kaufman County Children’s Shelter Board member.
Wiley has been lauded by various organizations for her work in the legal community as a Judge and as the Criminal District Attorney in Kaufman County. Some of the most notable were in 2013, from the State Bar of Texas, Outstanding Leadership-Profiles of Courage Award and Texas District & County Attorney’s Association, Lone Star Prosecutor Award; as well as the Dallas Black Police Officer’s Association with the Paved the Way Award in 2015.
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