September 09, 1985 12:00 PM

“It was a classic tragedy,” says Alan Richman, who reported and wrote this week’s story on a bizarre double murder that ended a long feud between two grandfathers who lived in the steamy glades of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. “I think pride was the fatal flaw. The men [Hayward Bryant and Mac Booth] seemed to be decent people around their families but vindictive and destructive around each other. It’s almost a case of Jekyll and Hyde.”

Richman, 41, PEOPLE’s writer at large, at first encountered resistance from Bryant’s family. In the end he gained access to almost everyone involved by giving them enough time to size him up. “Much of the reluctance stemmed from the fact that relatives of Hayward Bryant felt his side had not been fairly told in the local papers. I think I convinced them I was trying to tell the story as honestly as I knew how.”

Alan decided to become a journalist when he was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating in 1965 he did a tour as an Army officer. Second Lieutenant Richman was dispatched to the Dominican Republic during the American intervention in the Caribbean island nation. “I lived in a tent for five months,” he recalls. “It was a toss-up what was going to get me first, the tarantulas or the termites. I would wake up to the sound of termites chewing the bamboo poles.” On completing his stint Richman became news editor of the Portland (Ind.) Commercial Review, only to be recalled by the Army. In 1969 he landed in Vietnam and became an executive officer of a harbor craft unit. “It was dangerous work in the sense that our tugboats moved most of the ammunition going into the southern part of Vietnam,” he says. “I was very lucky. Although I was in the war for 11 months, no one I knew was killed.”

His tour completed, Richman, a bachelor, resumed his news career as reporter, sportswriter, restaurant reviewer and columnist with the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, the Montreal Star, the Boston Globe and the New York Times. In 1980 he returned to the Globe as an assistant managing editor. He missed the direct involvement of on-the-scene reporting, however, and that’s why he accepted the invitation to join our staff this year. “Editors always told me I’m a natural feature writer,” says Alan, “and PEOPLE is where that kind of story has the most impact.”

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