Bikers, Bad Dudes, And A Bitch

While my insanely-unreliable computer is connected to the net (for once in a blue moon) I figured I'd leave it on for a couple of days so I could fit in another blog post.   So, when it rains it pours, I guess.   If you missed the horror fiction reviews, please read them here (just in case they get bumped off the page).  This post will cover a bunch of non-fiction books dealing with bad dudes (and a bad chick).   I don't always mean "bad" in terms of evil... just capable-of-kicking-your-ass.   Although in some cases, it does just mean evil, such as the Bundy and Gacy books.   I've been reading a lot of biker stuff lately, so, there's tons of that here.   If you'd like more, there are also some here, as well as another Buford Pusser book.

Now, onward into dangerous territory... so I can finally turn off this computer.


Vagos, Mongols, and Outlaws: My Infiltration Of America’s Deadliest Biker Gangs - Charles Falco, with Kerrie Droban   (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013)
Faced with a 22-year prison stretch for his involvement in a Bulgarian meth ring, Charles Falco agrees to go undercover and infiltrate the Vagos motorcycle club, collecting info to lead to prosecutions.   Not sure waht to do, and not even having a motorcycle, Charles starts hanging around biker bars and meeting Vagos.  Even though they always seem a little suspicious of him, they prospect him and he eventually becomes full-patch and even gets busted and spends jail time with them.   He -- and other infiltrating agents -- almost get caught several times.  Once that assignment -- Operation 22 Green -- is done, Charles (perhaps insanely) wants more, so he gets another assignment -- Operation Black Diamond -- and starts hanging around The Mongols, which leads to him getting patched into The Outlaws instead.   Once again, a lot of dangerous situations happen and he and other agents are almost caught, and Charles fears a few times that he may have to kill someone to stop something worse from happening.   Reading these books makes you wonder why anybody would really want to join one of these MC’s;   you do get strength-in-numbers so only a fool would mess with you, and there is a sense of family for people who often don’t have any other, but you also get made a fool of and put through hell to join (I’m not sure I’d want members who’d put up with the kind of shit these prospects do) and then you end up a slave to the club, having to maybe land in jail for doing things for the club, or get killed fighting it out with guys you have everything in common with except a patch.   And most of the “fun” doesn’t sound like much fun, just more constant proving yourself.  But I guess some people need to belong to something, and at least it’s better than church, I’ve got to give it that.   Well-written without a dull moment, and was later turned into the TV miniseries, Gangland Undercover.

Gods of Mischief: My Undercover Vendetta To Take Down The Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang
-- George Rowe   (Touchstone, 2013)
It’s interesting to read this book right after Charles Falco’s Vagos, Mongols, and Outlaws, because Charles appears in it, as do a few of the same Vagos as their paths cross.  George Rowe decided (in retrospect probably foolishly) to volunteer to infiltrate the Vagos MC after they beat his friend Dave half to death over a pool game (which seems to be the main thing Vagos fight about) and then “disappear” him once he gets out of the hospital.   The Vagos are terrorizing his hometown of Hemet, California, and George wants to do something about it, so the ATF sends him in to prospect.   George puts up with an astounding amount of abuse and causes a lot of trouble before managing to get patched in... and then still narrowly manages to keep the patch.   It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to go through but it’s fascinating to read about, and George is a really good writer, making this a good choice for taking on an airplane or a doctor’s waiting room or anywhere else you’ll be trapped and in need of soemthing engrossing -- Big George won’t bore you, guaranteed.   Charles Falco’s book is also great but I think this one is even more entertaining because George is a bit more of an asshole.   Not that he’s unlikeable -- he’s honest about his faults so you can forgive them -- but he’s kind of full of himself, which gets him in a lot of trouble and trouble is, of course, interesting stuff to read about.   George also likes to fight and is good at it, so there’s a fair amount of brawling involved.   Where Charles tried to avoid trouble, George seems to be eager to make his next mistake.   He gets engaged to a psycho junkie girl, he provokes fights with the Sons of Hell (a Hell’s Angels support club) in hopes of getting a gang war started so there’ll be juicer stuff to bust these guys for when the time comes.    George is a big conflicted knot of regrets, vices, bad decisions made in haste, and attitude, and that all makes for a read you can’t put down, so I recommend this book highly.   Now I have to read Terry The Tramp’s book and get his side of things, which should be interesting;  George paints Terry as a big round clown who shafted the club for money to live off of and support a big gambling habit.  Should make for a neat intersecting Vagos trilogy.  Anyway, yeah, get this book -- George pretty much wrecked his life for it so that’s the least you can do.

Terry The Tramp:  The Life And Dangerous Times of a One-Percenter
  - K. Randall Ball  (Motorbooks, 2011)
First of all, this is NOT a biography of John Terrence Tracy, the more-famous Terry The Tramp of the Hells Angels in the 60’s.  From everything I’ve heard about that guy, that’d be one hell of a crazy book that I hope someone will write one day.   No, this book is about Terry Orendorff, President of the Vagos MC.   I was interested to read Terry’s side of things after reading the way he was depicted in George Rowe’s Gods of Mischief, where, according to George, Terry’s basically a clown who lived off of dues paid by the club (including sales of member’s bikes when they got sanctions imposed on them), which he used to support a big gambling habit after closing down his motorcycle repair shop.   Well, none of that is addressed here, but it’s still an interesting book, chronicling how Terry got started being a biker, building a Harley out of an old wrecked panhead and teaching himself from a Harley manual.   About the only crime Terry was ever involved in, according to the book, was stealing coins out of a fountain as a kid,  but he did engage in a good bit of violence, partially learned from beatings he got from a drunken stepfather, and later from a crazy girlfriend who’d try to shoot him.   Terry did some film work on The Glory Stompers and taught Dennis Hopper some things about riding.   He built a lot of bikes, joined the Vagos, got in a lot of fights, eventually became president and saw the club through a lot of legal battles, federal infiltrators, and less dangerous (but more strange) problems such as what to do about some guys who took it upon themselves to start their own Vagos chapter in Mexico, wearing homemade patches and riding Kawasakis.   Terry helped out brothers who served jail time, lost his own brother to cancer, and suffered health (and financial) troubles of his own.  Of course, the book depicts the Vagos as just a motorcycle club, not a criminal organization, with a few bad apples who got in some trouble due to a persecuting law enforcement system that had a grudge against them.  Where the real truth lies is anyone’s guess, but I’d imagine it’s somewhere between this book and George Rowe’s and Charles Falco’s.   But, that’s only my guess, since I only know what I read.   In any case, it’s an interesting booik, although it does get a bit dull during the legal struggles (invariably a low point of these type of books).  Terry’s life story and all the motorcycle stuff is great, though.  The writing is not bad but it does have odd quirks;  I guess Ball is trying to create historical context but he sometimes inserts completely unrelated things at random.   In the middle of a story about Terry we get a brief history of how James Brown was moving from soul to funk, or what hits Aretha Franklin was having, or what Roger Corman was doing.   It’s strange and awkward and I kept waiting to find out what that had to do with Terry (was James Brown his favorite singer?  Not that I can tell).   Also the design of the book is really obnoxious, with the text having to fit around random sentences that have been picked out and blown up, like “teaser” text to get you to read a magazine article. It’s obtrusive and a pain to ignore them and read around them to keep up with the narrative.  It’s the kind of thing people do to pad out a too-short book, but since this clocks in at 266 fairly-small-print pages, that’s really not the case here, so... I don’t know why the book designers made such a dumb choice.   The book has a couple dozen pictures, a few of Terry but mostly other Vagos (including an odd one with Sonny Bono with the club!), so that’s cool.   Overall it’s mostly a praise-piece (Terry gets compared to John Wayne a lot) but that’s fair enough in a biography, right?   Worth a read.

Outlaws:  One Man's Rise Through The Savage World of Renegade Bikers, Hell's Angels, and Global Crime   --  Tony Thompson         (Penguin, 2011)
Consistently interesting but rather muddled account of a biker named Daniel "Snake Dog" Boone, who joined a British motorcycle club called The Pagans in the early 80's and ended up as part of the European wing of The Outlaws MC, who are at war with The Hells Angels worldwide.   Most of the book is centered on European branches of the gangs, which makes it a little less interesting to me since most of the big trouble happens in the U.S. and Canada.   And Thompson is determined to pack in as much MC history as he can so Boone isn't really the focus of the book, and, thus, it doesn't really have one;  it's a scattershot conglomerate of histories of the Hells Angels, The Outlaws, The Bandidos, The Pagans (U.S. and U.K. versions -- the difference almost gets Boone killed by some U.S. Outlaw buddies who see his Pagans (U.K.) tattoo -- Outlaws are supposed to kill (U.S.) Pagans on sight to keep them out of their territory.   The difference between the U.S. and U.K. also gets Boone in trouble when he wants a cigarette and asks some Outlaws, "Are there any fags in this clubhouse?"   It's very informative and it's well-written and never gets boring because these clubs are attacking one another pretty constantly (if usually not that effectively -- a lot of fights have low body counts), but it does meander and doesn't maintain one storyline to follow very well.  I found it was best read in short chunks, which is why I quit trying to read it all day at home and read it on my lunch breaks at work instead.   Since it's so all-encompassing and focuses on Europe instead of North America, you'll probably want to look elsewhere for the definitive story on the Outlaws vs. Hells Angels conflict, but, in general, it's worth the read. 

Street Justice -- Chuck Zito, with Joe Laydon    (St. Martin's Press, 2002)
Autobiography of bodyguard/fighter/Hells Angel/actor Chuck Zito, who is perhaps as famous for beating up other actors as he is for things he's starred in (Oz, Sons of Anarchy, etc.)  The book is consistently interesting and Chuck seems like an honorable, honest guy, even if he is a bit of an egomaniac.   There's no doubt he's a legitimately tough guy, but it's also clear he's thin-skinned and can't let any insult, no matter how mild, go by without giving somebody a pounding;   he knocked John Claude Van Damme out just for saying he "had no heart," for christsakes.   Most people would know he was wrong, consider the source, and trust everyone else to know he was wrong, and shrug it off.   But, what the hell, Jean Claude probably had a clock-cleaning due anyway.   Zito talks about being in the Hells Angels, which I imagine is quite a feat considering he doesn't drink or do drugs and that's a notoriously hard-partying organization.   Chuck served jail time for a brother's involvement in a drug deal that he had nothing to do with  (Chuck blows his own horn a lot -- and why not, it's his autobiography -- but he does seem honest about things, so when he says he's not guilty I tend to believe him).    He also talks about his experience as a bodyguard to such people as Sylvester Stallone, Liza Minelli, Cher, Charlie Sheen, and Mickey Roarke (who comes across as a much nicer fella than you'd expect for such a loose cannon).  Chuck shows a lot of respect for those who earn it, and he's fair even to those who don't -- even people Chuck didn't like don't get sniped at much in the book, so it's not mean-spirited.   Chuck reveals some vulnerabilities he may not have intended to reveal, with all the stories of how easily provoked to fight he was -- more people get hit in this book than they would if it were an autobiography of Popeye -- but he comes across as honorable, likeable, no-bullshit, and never boring.   A great book if you're interested in Chuck, the Hells Angels, or just like reading about fistfights.

Check out the 1971 "photoshopping" on the cover there... pretty sure that's a transplanted head, there.

The Twelfth of August -- The Story of Buford Pusser  - W.R. Morris  (Aurora Publishers Inc., 1971)
Classic biography of the Tennessee sheriff immortalized in the Walking Tall movie, published while Pusser was still alive.   It covers his early life, starting out as a bit of a mama’s boy, growing up to be a high school basketball and football star, then a stint in the Marines (he wanted to make it a career but asthma got him discharged).  he came home, got married, worked in a funeral home, had a side career as a professional wrestler, then worked for his police-chief dad as a cop.  Through all of this he had struggles with a mob who came up from the infamous Phenix City, Alabama crime rackets;  they beat him almost to death once when he caught them cheating at dice, and later tried to frame him and his friends for assault.  Deciding to do something about them, he ran for sheriff (barely beating a dead man for the job) and then cracked down on the violent gambling joints and moonshine stills, and in the course of the job he got stabbed and shot multiple times, got rammed by a car and got in car wrecks and brawls, and had to shoot two people.  What comes through is a guy who was incredibly lucky about being unlucky -- he repeatedly gets into situations that should have been fatal, but he survives.   Of the two people he killed in gunfights, one had a gun misfire while it was pointed at his face.  The other emptied his gun at Buford and missed every shot before Buford shot back.   He also survives by being able to take a lot of punishment, such as when he got his jaw shot off during an ambush that killed his wife.   As the Drive-By Truckers (unkindly) put it, “Some folks just can’t take a hint.”  The book was published before the car crash that took his life (possibly the result of tampering, but Buford wasn’t the greatest driver and wrecked a few cars on his own), so for the full story I highly recommend also reading Buford’s daughter’s book, Walking On.   W. R. Morris also fleshes out the story in The State Line Mob (also recommended), which has kind of a Reader’s Digest condensed version of this book in it.  The writing is very simple and folksy-clumsy, but this is still a good book which should be brought back into print; used copies usually go for ridiculous prices.  When I got lucky to find a like-new copy for $20 I pounced on it; I thought I’d never get a copy of this one.  Glad I did, because it was worth the wait.

The Beast - Paul Di'Anno  (John Blake, 2010)
Autobiography of Iron Maiden's original frontman, who turns out to be pretty much of a psycho.   Sex, drugs, and violence are all done in excess, and Di'Anno brags about all if it in detail;  even stuff he should be ashamed of, he seems to take a weird delight in telling you about.   According to Di'Anno he's beaten up (and usually tried to murder) everybody who's ever looked at him funny, drank "enough to drown a dwarf" pretty much every night, snorted more cocaine than Scarface on a regular basis, and had sex with just about every woman he's ever met and usually in lots of half-a-dozen at a time.   He's pretty obsessed with his own fame (I don't remember Killers or Battlezone being that huge, but maybe I was out of the loop), and Maiden has definitely had a big influence in his life.   There's a lot of braggadocio in this, but also some honesty -- Paul doesn't try to hide that he's beaten the crap out of his multiple wives, even though that's not going to make him look good.   His assessment of Bruce Dickenson is pretty fair -- he thinks Bruce is the best singer Maiden ever had, but that Paul's voice works best for the older material and Bruce's for the new.   I can agree with that.   The writing is raw and full of so much British slang it's almost Clockwork Orange, but it's good to read one of these rock-star autobiographies that were actually written by the subject instead of some ghost-writer.  Paul doesn't come across as a guy you'd want to hang out with (he likes to break things, shoot up hotel lobbies with BB guns, piss wherever he happens to be standing, throw his shit around the walls like GG Allin, and you never know what will provoke him to try to kill you) but since you don't go into this book expecting the story of a nice guy (it is titled The Beast, after all), it delivers.   If you want sex, drugs, violence, rock and roll, and general insane behavior, you've got it.  

An American Demon
- Jack Grisham   (ECW, 2001)
They say a crazy person isn’t really crazy if they know they’re crazy, but maybe that doesn’t work with sociopaths, because the former TSOL frontman doesn’t take it easy on himself in this memoir, which casts him as no less than a demon.  He never comes off as completely repentant -- Jack knows the stuff he did was hateful and wrong but even at his worst he still seems to take an impish glee in telling you about it.  And even though it all leads to him being pretty much of a sad sack loser, he doesn’t do a whole lot of self-pity-wallowing, either -- just enough to accurately reflect what he was going through.   it’s not a strict autobiography because Jack depicts himself as a semi-supernatural being, visited occasionally by God or the Devil, and with magical powers that let him see other people’s fates or help him escape trouble through un-divine intervention.  Those expecting just a scene-report will be disappointed -- there’s not a lot of name-dropping or details about the making of TSOL albums; it’s not about punk rock, it’s about Jack, and it’s admittedly self-indulgent because that’s what Jack’s life was all about -- self-indulgence.   There’s not really a lot to explain how he got that way;  you gather that his childhood wasn’t the best, but he also depicts himself as such an asshole that you can hardly expect it to be; he got spanked a lot, but he also tried to burn his dog alive, so it could be more cause-and-effect than plain abuse.   Through it all, Jack doesn’t blame anything -- he is, simply, a demon.   He goes on to desecrate churches and graveyards, burn schools and businesses, burglarize houses (mostly just to make the owners feel violated), beat the hell out of people for very little reason, treat girls like sex dolls, abuse substances, you name it -- he does everything short of murder and really avoids that only by chance, since he did jump up and down on a guy’s head and throw another off a bridge onto the rocks.   It’s a pretty disturbing narrative because Jack doesn’t feel bad about any of it (although you get a sense that he trusts the reader to do that for him) and he doesn’t really condemn his behavior -- as a “demon” he kind of glamorizes it, but knows the reader will judge him harshly for it.   But you may cut him a little slack just for being redemptively honest.   Hopefully he’s better now (he’s become a hypnotherapist, but I don’t think I’d let the dude hypnotize me).  Whatever else this book is (or isn’t), it’s extremely well-written and hard to put down;  you may be disturbed (god, I hope so), but you aren’t going to be bored.   And I’m not even a huge TSOL fan (they really only had one good album and an EP), so you can easily get into Jack’s writing without being a fan-boy.

My Dark Places - James Ellroy   (Vintage, 1996)
Crime novelist James Ellroy may be a neurotic creep, but he's an honest one... maybe more honest than some readers will be able to handle.   His mother was murdered by a person unknown in 1958, apparently the victim of a date rape that went worse.  At the time Ellroy -- already a bit warped at 10 years old -- saw this as kind of a lucky thing because he'd followed his divorced dad's lead in hating his mother and considering her a drunken whore.   As he lived with his father he realized the man was a weak, vindictive liar, and became more curious about who his mother really was.   He developed an obsession with the Black Dahlia murder case, as kind of an obsession with his mom’s strangled-and-dumped body by proxy.   And the whole thing messed him up pretty good;  in an autobiographical section he details what a crime-obsessed creep he was.  He shoplifted almost everything he owned, ate, or got stoned on.   He masturbated constantly (both himself and one of his friends), peeked in windows, and broke into houses to steal panties.   His house was so full of dog shit from an un-trainable pet that it ended up condemned.   He drank and took drugs (especially eating cotton out of stolen decongestant inhalers that worked as a cheap form of meth) and was a hard-line right-wing racist who idealized Nazis (or at least pretended to because he got attention when he acted crazy).  He had sex fantasies about his mom and apparently knew the penis-size of all his male relatives.  He read crime novels obsessively and eventually wrote them.   That part of the book is train-wreck fascinating and Ellroy’s brutal on himself.   Then, thirty-five years or so down the line, he decided he wanted to re-open his mother’s murder case, mostly because he’d been unfair to her and wanted to know who she really was.   So he contacted a Detective Stoner (the section on Stoner is a digression on other cases he handled, and it’s interesting but distracts from the real story and breaks the obsessive focus of the book -- there isn’t much of a flaw in this book but what little there is is that) and they doggedly searched for anybody who could know anything about this very cold case.   They don’t get many answers but Ellroy does get some of what he needs out of it.  Well-written (of course) and fascinating true-crime/autobiography/biography that may be a bit rough for some, dwelling as it does on such warped and unhappy things, but it’s unflinching and, though Ellroy had it rough and got handed a raw deal, he never whines about it or uses it as an excuse... just explanation.    Recommended.

 Legion of the Damned - Sven Hassel  (Cassell, 1957)
Autobiographical anti-war novel written by a German soldier from WWII.   Sven is not sympathetic to the Nazi cause and hates Hitler, but he’s pressed into the worst kind of service when he deserts and is then sentenced to a penal battalion.   His life becomes a hellish nightmare as he and the other prisoners are trained past the point of exhaustion, abused by sadistic maniacs, fed slop and kept in a constant state of fear, all so they’ll be at home in the worst battlefield conditions.  Then they’re sent to the Russian front to man a tank.   Hassel’s more concerned with finding food or warmth and avoiding mean officers than he is with fighting, and his friends Porta, Old Un, Bier, and Titch are similarly unmotivated, not giving a damn about the Third Reich, just survival and finding a way out of the war.   They do get in hellish battles nevertheless, and Hassel ends up captured by the Russians and forced to work in a factory, which the prisoners mostly sabotage.   He finally manages to escape that, only to find that his wife’s been murdered by the Nazis.  Feeling dead inside, Hassel endures more starvation and misery and terrifying tank duels, but they also have parties with the enemy, and each side fires into empty spaces in no man’s land to keep up the pretense of fighting and appease the officers, who are the only ones who care about having a war.  Then Hassel almost gets killed in a brutal armored train attack that leaves him with shrapnel in his gut and soaked in a friend’s blood and brains.  The hospital does surgery on him with barely any anesthesia, but he survives and is sent back to his unit, which is soon down to seven men out of an original six thousand.   If you’re looking for a war-is-hell book, congratulations, buddy, you damn sure found it.   The writing is good but the narrative gets a bit disjointed because he’s got a lot of time to cover and is just picking representative bits, sometimes without much background info.   Also, he’s concerned with army life in general, not just battles, so you should be as interested in stealing chickens or gambling for booze as you are gunfights and shelling.  In any case, it’s pretty brutal stuff, and war is anything but glorified.   And don’t worry that you’re reading something from the enemy’s point of view;  even though they can’t resist typing his name with lightning bolt SS’s on the cover, Sven’s no Nazi type.

Killer Clown: The John Wayne Gacy Murders
- Terry Sullivan & Peter T. Maiken  (Pinnacle, 1983)
Intensive account of the investigation and prosecution of one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, John Wayne Gacy, who strangled over thirty young men and buried them in his crawlspace or threw them off a bridge.   Gacy comes across as an extreme sociopath, palling around with the cops who are keeping him under surveillance, certain to the very end that nothing will happen to him and he’ll get away with it.  Even when the bodies are found under his house he tries to shrug it off by saying a lot of people had keys to his place.   It’s all told for the viewpoint of the cops and prosecutors, so you get more police procedural than lurid details about the murders, but it’s still unavoidably nasty given the subject matter (such as pumps trying to clear water out of Gacy’s crawlspace getting clogged repeatedly by lard-like rotting flesh).   And Gacy’s attitude toward the killings is horrific.  As in most true-crime books, the last section -- dealing with the trial -- gets a bit boring, but the first two-thirds give you a lot of insight on how cops conduct long-term investigations.   Well written.

The Last Victim - Jason Moss   (Warner Books, 1999)
Ambitious high school kid Jason Moss decides he's going to get inside the minds of serial killers by writing them letters, posing as their type of victim.   He gets mail back from Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, Henry Lee Lucas, and even Jeffrey Dahmer... but his biggest response comes from John Wayne Gacy, who even starts calling Jason on the telephone.   Jason thought he was smart enough to manipulate these killers, but with Gacy he bit off more than he could chew, and Gacy out-gamed him and subjected him to letters and calls filled with all kinds of twisted perversions (even trying to get Jason to have sex with is own brother).   Despite the wear and tear on his mental health, Jason keeps up the correspondence, thinking he's on the verge of some insight.   He even agrees to fly to the prison and visit Gacy on death row, believing it will be under safe conditions.   It isn't.   The writing's pretty simple and Jason comes across as a bit arrogant and unaware of his own naivety, even after the fact, but it’s still a dark, scary book and hard to put down.    And Gacy comes across as a real monster, determined to keep following his predator drives right up to the day of his execution.   There’s insight into the other killers as well; Manson’s letters were incoherent and rambling, Dahmer’s polite and shy but intrigued (he almost never wrote back to anyone), and Ramirez was a Satanic show-off who thought he’d found a disciple.  But Gacy thought he’d found another victim, and in a way, perhaps he did; it’s not covered in the book because it happened seven years after it was published, but Jason Moss eventually (driven by what, no one knows) shot himself in the head on 6-6-06 (you have to wonder if it had something to do with Ramirez because of the date).   Dark but compelling stuff, and later made into an equally-dark movie, Dear Mr. Gacy, which is also recommended.

The Stranger Beside Me -- Ann Rule   (Pocket Books, 2009 (first published 1980))
Ann Rule’s blockbuster about Ted Bundy is the Winchester Mystery House of true crime novels -- it’s not likely to out of print and so she’ll probably have to keep adding on chapters with new editions for the rest of her life.  It’s very well-written and has a unique perspective, since Rule was a friend, co-worker, and correspondent of Bundy’s for years, even while working on this book before Ted was even a suspect.   Even though Rule is a bit of a ghoul, making a living writing about murder, she balks at gory details here, so some of the more lurid aspects of Bundy’s crimes (his necrophilia, for instance -- Bundy liked to revisit bodies, put makeup on them, and keep having sex with them) barely get a mention, so if you’re looking for that stuff (and let‘s be honest - those of us who read these books totally are), you may be a little let down.  But as to what Bundy was like (as much as anybody can know since he was a sociopath who created a fake persona for the world) or the trials, that’s handled in sharp focus.   Rule worked at a suicide hotline with Ted, who seemed like a nice, compassionate, gentle guy.   She also wrote articles for detective magazines and became aware of missing-girl cases, writing about them (and discussing them with Ted) before ever even dreaming he was the one responsible.   During the trials they kept up heavy correspondence, much of which is reprinted here, and Rule also recounts some of the mail she’s gotten since Bundy’s execution, from women who were picked up by him in the ‘70’s but managed to escape.   one thing that strikes you in this book is how easily Ted Bundy got away with things.  Girls disappeared one after the other and he made little effort to be inconspicuous, using fake arm and leg casts to get their sympathy (and attract everyone’s attention) so they’d help him and be lured into his trap.   He did his crimes with a gold VW Beetle -- a very noticeable car that even people with no knowledge of cars would recognize and remember even if they weren’t paying much attention.   And yet he racked up body after body -- exactly how many is still not known;  they confirmed 36 but it’s likely in the hundreds, since Ted drove around from state to state, indulging his compulsions, bludgeoning and strangling.   The girls tended to be the same type -- long dark hair parted in the middle -- and this seems an attempt to deal with the humiliation of being dumped by a girl named Stephanie.   Ted remade himself to get her back, and when he succeeded he promptly dumped her just to get even.   But that didn’t seem enough for his sociopathic ego, so he killed dozens of girls who looked like her.   Bundy is revealed as a master manipulator, holding off his own execution for years, tricking Ann and hundreds of “groupies” who thought they were in love with him, even jerking around Focus on the Family’s James Dobson by telling him what he wanted to hear (which is fair enough since Dobson’s another  (albeit non-homicidal) sociopath who does the same thing to millions).    it’s a thick, intimidating-looking book of 625 pages of relatively-small print, but I never had any trouble staying with it.   Definitely worth your time.

 Green River Killer: A True Detective Story - Jeff Jensen & Jonathan Case  (Dark Horse Books, 2015)
Well-done true-crime graphic novel written by the son of Tom Jensen, one of the detectives who worked the Green River Killer case.   With exhaustive effort, Tom Jensen keeps trying to get information out of a frustrating, misleading Gary Leon Ridgeway until they can find missing bodies and confirm that Ridgeway actually was the killer.  Told in simple, stark, but effective black and white, this reads very fast but packs a lot of emotional impact, blending years of investigation with well-handled time shifts, and focuses more on the emotional hardship of the detectives and the victims’ families instead of Ridgeway, who doesn’t seem to know why he killed, either;  he just felt a need to.   Well done. 

Born Evil - Adrian Havill  (St. Martins, 2001)
Hadden Clark was a weirdo from birth.  His mom blamed a bad forceps delivery for his strangeness, and his dad called him “the retard.”  That might explain why he’d get confused by patterns in rugs and fall down, but not why his parents -- who’d wanted a girl -- put him in dresses and called him “Kristen.”   When kids picked on him their pets would go missing and then be returned to their doorstep, butchered.  Hadden had a whole zoo of animals he ended up dissecting.  And his brother (who presumably wasn’t a forceps case) wasn’t much better -- he ended up biting a girl’s nipple off during sex and then deciding he’d better kill her, so he did, then cooked and ate one of her breasts before dismembering her in bathtub.  He failed to fit all eleven pieces of her in his small car so he kept some in the closet, then tried killing himself but kept passing out during the stabbing.   Anyway, turns out he was the good kid in this family.   Hadden became a chef but got fired from a restaurant for drinking beef blood.  He also used to surround his bed with rotten turtle carcasses that stank up the neighborhood.   He got kicked out of the Navy for wearing women’s panties.  Eventually his weirdnesses turned homicidal and he murdered and partially ate a five-year-old girl.  Then he decided he wanted to be a woman in whose house he was boarding, so he dressed up as her, suffocated her by winding her head in duct tape, and lay in her bed for a while.   Eventually the cops caught him, living homeless in the woods, and tried to get him to confess, which he wouldn’t do.   After he got convicted he started claiming to have a dozen or so more, but that may be a Henry Lee Lucas syndrome of wanting attention;  on trips to find the bodies he has to be dressed as a woman, claiming “Kristen” is another personality.  Very weird and fairly graphic true crime.

The Burn Farm - Michael Benson    (Pinnacle, 2009)
Sheila LaBarre was incoherently crazy and was known as a local crank for yelling at everybody who came near her New Hampshire farm.   She kept using near-retarded hired hands for sex partners, then would beat them until they "admitted" to being pedophiles... and then she'd kill them because she believed she was an angel sent down to cleanse the Earth of pedophiles.   She'd record the "confessions" - I guess thinking that'd justify what she did - and then burn the bodies.  This book rambles along about the case without building much impetus, and really gives no insight on how Sheila was able to attract any victims at all;   she seemed so completely crazy you can't imagine anyone wanting to get within a country mile of this nutcase.   The cover copy tries to paint her as some sort of "dominatrix" but it sounds more like flat-out beatings and murder than anything that was supposed to be "erotic."  It's a very strange book in that it goes into lots of graphic details about sex (and is preoccupied with telling us, at great length, that Sheila had an abnormally tight vagina, like it didn't grow since she was a child and made sex painful... and then she goes on to have tons of sex?), but despite all of that, the book is prudish about language: I can't remember ever seeing another modern book where the word "fuck" was starred out.   Yep, the book is full of "f***"s.   Seems like Sheila's not the only sexual weirdo working the room....  Not terrible if you're interested in the case, but not engrossing otherwise.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! Another extremely interesting and readable chunk of book reviews!