Large file, please be patient.

Return Home

Book Reviews

Assignment: Oswald by James Hosty

Oswald Talked by Ray and Mary LaFontaine

Red Roses from Texas by Nerin Gun

Texas in the Morning by Madeleine Brown

False Witness by Patricia Lambert

With Malice by Dale Myers (with rebuttal)

Farewell America: the Book and the Enigma

Dangerous Knowledge: The JFK Assassination in Art and Film by Art Simon

Orders to Kill:
The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King Jr.
by William F. Pepper

In the Eye of History by William Law

Ultimate Sacrifice by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartman

A Farewell to Justice by Joan Mellen

A Simple Act of Murder by Mark Fuhrman

Assignment: Oswald

by James P. Hosty, Jr. (with his son)
(Arcade Press, 1996)

Review by Walt Brown

FBI Agent Hosty, who -- by the title of the book -- was to investigate Oswald, chose instead to make two visits to the Paine house, and, on one occasion, to leave early knowing that Lee Oswald was due there shortly. Such was his "assignment."

The rest reeks of sheer gall. A front-cover tease suggests "new documents," but it should be remembered that they are only "new" because Hosty's employers buried them. The back jacket has a blurb from Posner, which was enough for me to get the book out of the library instead of buying it, and above that is a quote attributed to Bernard Fensterwald, a critic who died long before this book was even conceived. And it makes the whole thing bogus.

Hosty needed to be credible in four areas: Why did he not choose to investigate Oswald? What statements did he make to the DPD on the 22nd about the FBI having prior knowledge? What did the note that he destroyed really say? And why was Hosty transferred to Kansas City, the end of the FBI promotion line, for life? Those are the questions, and they are not well answered. Instead, we are shown Hosty's license plates, which Marina allegedly snuck out of the Paine house to copy, and told of Hosty's concern upon hearing the news because his wife was attending the motorcade. For those with complete assassination lore on their shelves, you'll have to throw caution and $25 to the wind; or wait a few weeks and get it from the bins for $5. New documentation indeed.

Top of the Page

Oswald Talked

by Ray and Mary LaFontaine

Review by Walt Brown

In Oswald Talked, Ray and Mary LaFontaine (Pelican, 1996) -- the journalist authors (as opposed to JFK nut background types [their phrase] and countless other terms of "buff" opprobrium, which they insist they are not) -- offer some tantalizing new insights into some of the ongoing mysteries of events prior to, on, and following November 22, 1963.

Their major findings include: Oswald was ultimately the patsy for DRE, the Cuban group that ultimately sponsored the assassination, hoodwinking both Oswald and the hapless and deceitful Sylvia Odio -- shown to be a hoax -- in the process.

Guns were the common denominator in the entire event, as Oswald was an FBI informant reporting directly to S/A James Hosty, (being part of the "let's see how easy it is to buy guns" scenario, being a snitch for the Lake Ponchartrain raid, and being the source for the November 17 FBI teletype) and Ruby's real raison d'etre was Cuban gun running, not local Dallas entertainment. Proof for this is offered in the person of John Elrod, also arrested on November 22, a cellmate to whom, it is alleged, "Oswald Talked."

Oswald's status changed from CIA man to FBI snitch after his return from Russia, and a long unnoticed Department of Defense ID card, issued to Oswald prior to his release from the Marines on September 11, 1959, and similar (in style at least) to one found on U-2 pilot Gary Powers, ties him closer to the intelligence community than earlier research has noted. The authors also note, quite correctly, that the photo on the DoD card is identical to WC CE 2892, a photo of Oswald taken in Minsk.
There is also an intriguing new look at the last hours, minutes, and seconds in the life of George DeMohrenschildt, which is probably good enough to have merited publication in its own right. Although tangential, it is a bonus here.

The tramps, of course, are featured, as the LaFontaines broke their story in the first place. But there is really not much new, as most people have taken them for tramps, and the theory that Chauncey Holt is an opportunistic fraud does not exactly break new ground. Also thrown into the bunkum pit are Ricky Don White, and rightly so, but in that instance, sadly, the baby is thrown out with the bathwater, as Larry Howard, Gary Shaw, Beverly Oliver, and, to a lesser extent, "amateur sleuths" Gary Mack and Dave Perry are tarred with the same brush as is White, and those folks have done far more for the case than their accusors in this instance.

For what they have done to bring to light the issues sighted above, the LaFontaine book earns a place on the shelf, following a careful read. The reader will also garner a worthwhile dose of minutiae, helpful in understanding additional tangential events in the case. In this framework, John Thomas Masen, the "Oswald look-alike" in the gun community is featured, as he has been in other works, but here he drifts in and out, lacking either focus, or, more significantly, proof that he was an Oswald double. Of equal significance is the importance the LaFontaines attach to the Cuban component of the assassination, which they stress heavily, yet without any of the traditional references to Veciana, "Maurice Bishop," Arcacha Smith, or the usual remaining characters.

That does not mean, however, that the reader should not place this book on the shelf without some serious reservations. For openers, there is much that is conjecture, and an equal portion that cries out for further documentation.

The title itself betrays the integrity of the work: Oswald Talked. We are asked to swallow two very unpalatable postulates to digest the concept that Oswald talked. First, we are asked to believe that Oswald was only one of many suspects on November 22, and therefore could have been assigned a "cellmate,? in this case, one John Elrod. Elrod's arrest record, according to the authors, "would prove to be among the most significant events withheld from the American public." Again, we are asked to invest heavily in the recent revelations (although he told the FBI in 1964) of one person, and one who claimed "...he was in the same cell with Lee Harvey Oswald, and that he knew Oswald didn't kill Kennedy." (p 39) We know that Oswald went from the Texas Theatre, to a cop car, to Fritz's cubicle, then to a lineup. Yet we are told here, "If [IF? ] Oswald was initially considered a suspect in the murder of the President, it was as another face in the crowd; everyone (ital. in original) was a suspect at that frantic hour." Did Fritz interrogate everyone? Is Fritz known to have interrogated anyone else? Was anyone else arrested by officers using the phrase, "Kill the President, will you?" Did D.A. Bill Alexander leave the TSBD to hunt for anyone besides Oswald, knowing that the Tippit killer was also JFK's assassin? The second choke point, regardless of the respective cell arrangements, is that Oswald, in fact, talked. One point that has become clear from virtually every source familiar with Oswald is that he was a master at not talking, or being so cleverly evasive as to be quickly frustrating. Yet we are asked to believe that while he sat in a Dallas cell with his life on the line, having deftly dodged the questions from a roomful of trained interrogators, he nevertheless spilled his guts to John Elrod.

Elrod also claimed he was "put on a chain with Oswald, appeared in lineups, and was interrogated around the clock for forty-eight hours until Ruby shot Oswald." (41) As written, this suggests he appeared in lineups with Oswald, which he did not. It is also odd that Oswald, prime suspect worldwide (ask Col. Prouty, right?), was given a press conference and interrogated off and on for 12 hours, while Elrod, who sadly lacked Oswald's assassin bona fides, things like a rifle, a defector label, or backyard photos, would have been grilled around the clock for an arrest which included "vagrancy," making him the equal of one of the LaFontaines' fabled tramps. It is also noted that Elrod is no longer talking because "Everyone involved in this thing has ended up dead." Logic would therefore suggest Elrod was not involved, since he is still alive.

The Dept. of Defense card reflects deep and careful digging by the authors, yet it may have a simple explanation: Oswald had applied for a passport to attend Albert Schweitzer College in neutral Switzerland. The issuance of such a card to a former marine turned foreign-exchange student assumes a less cryptic urgency under those circumstances.

Medically, the authors miss whatever points they hope to make. They note that the frontal entrance, a mistake of "rube Dallas doctors had been corrected to an exit wound in the Bethesda autopsy the evening of November 22." (50). In point of fact, it became an exit wound after a telephone call from Dr. Humes to Dr. Perry, a head Dallas "rube," on November 23. Also, it is noted that Oswald's gonorrhea in the line of duty makes him a spy. Au contraire; "in the line of duty" in such a record means the individual was infected while engaged in an activity (use your imagination here...) not outside of the line of marine duty. The vast majority of US servicemen with such infections on their service records had identical indications, yet few were spies. If they were spies, they probably would have been smart enough not to, well, get caught with trousers down, as it were.

FBI Agent Hosty gets poor notices, although not in the usual venues. In an undocumented reference (143), he is seen as contacting Oswald in March, 1963, something that eluded both Hosty and the Warren Commission when he testified, as he indicated he could not find the Oswalds, although his search was initially for Marina, as an alien. The LaFontaines tell us that "right-wing subversives were Hosty's FBI specialty" (283); so why the interest in the Oswalds? We also learn that Hosty indicated that Dallas detective Jack Revill noted on 11/21 that he did not want to protect that SOB Kennedy on 11/22, which may be the cause of the subsequent Revill-to-Gannaway memo regarding Hosty knowing Oswald was a Communist and had the capability to kill, an interesting pay-back scenario. In another undocumented outburst, we learn Hosty "had some unwritten-up visits to Marina and may, in fact, have been carrying on an affair with the pretty Soviet immigrant." (308) The old Hosty-Marina tryst... (who's next, Marguerite Oswald and Carlos Bringuer? Mary Bledsoe and Harry Holmes? Gasp...Ruth and Michael Paine?)

Other less than thoroughly documented events that are minor concerns (and common to the genre, despite the LaFontaines' deep -- very deep -- desires not to be part of such a genre) include the notation that RFK was planning a secret invasion of Cuba -- whether this was a secret from JFK is not stated, yet vital. There is discussion of what Carlos Quiroga, and later, Dr. Bernard Einspruch, Sylvia Odio's therapist, told the WC, yet neither testified. (162, 240, 262) There is the claim that Ruby "entered" the room where Oswald was being interrogated (215), and the even odder hypothesis that Ruby would kill Oswald and face the death penalty, rather (poor choice of words) than have Oswald "talk" and prove that Ruby was running guns to Cuba, which probably would have gotten him the key to the city in Dallas. The claim is also made that Ruth Paine telephoned Oswald at 1026 N.Beckley to help him get the TSBD job, yet how could she, if a later fight (11/18) occurred because he could not be found there, as he was registered as O.H. Lee? Tramp Harold Doyle supposedly received"government checks" for a number of years, yet no reason is given, or seemingly sought. Gary Powers was shot down in 1959 (86), and a key memo was written on Wednesday, April 17, '64, when, in fact, 4/17/64 was a Friday. (34)

This last reference is not meant to nit-pick. The whole Elrod case comes down to a couple of phone logs done, when else, on November 22, by harried cops. If they confused cell numbers, (or rifle calibers, as they did), or confused the name Elrod as Oswald, not impossible if you think about it, then the whole Elrod story becomes just another Chauncey Holt-Ricky White "trust me, folks, I know what happened that day."

Even so, this is still a great book, despite the reservations noted. It is regrettable that the LaFontaines do not choose to become part of the group of "researchers, investigators, opportunists, disinformation artists, and ordinary nuts with typewriters" (30) who are willing to discuss their findings in public forums. Clearly they are among the better researchers, and their work is to be lauded for what they were able to do and for their dogged efforts. What they needed to do was take the final step and cross the line into the Kennedy camp -- they came real close in working with some fine people, Paul Hoch among them.

Oswald Talked is definitely worth your time!! Unlike other books by lesser writers, such as the work involving Oswald's unwillingness to talk to Will Fritz (Oswald Balked) or the book about Ruby at the DPD (Oswald Stalked) or the one about LHO plotting overflights on a board at Atsugi (Oswald Chalked), or a rehash of the case against Oswald (Oswald Walked), this one is deadly serious, full of good stuff, and reads with a plethora of wonderful literary illusions that both entertain and transport the reader.

Top of the Page

Red Roses from Texas

by Nerin Gun with Thomas Buchanan

Review by Walt Brown

Nerin E. Gun (with Thomas Buchanan, who wrote Who Killed Kennedy?) were able to publish so quickly that their findings were ridiculed as Communist garbage by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover when he testified before the Warren Commission on May 14, 1964. The very least that can be said in Gun's defense is that his work hardly reads like anything from a Communist perspective. The remainder of Hoover's literary criticism, however, is sadly not far from the truth, and Gun may have nobody to blame but himself for the problems with the book.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that Red Roses from Texas is one of the most highly prized collectibles in the JFK bibliography, often fetching asking prices between $500 and $700. That, one is quick to add, is a function of scarcity, not quality, and should a reader be inclined to fill his or her JFK shelves with this book at high cost, know that you are purchasing a collectible, not the key to the riddle within the mystery inside the enigma.

Much of the material is simply very erroneous. This could be viewed from the perspective of, "Well, Gun was working in haste to get the story out, and there was a 'blackout' of sorts with respect to full disclosure then (as now)." But the errors are bigger than that, and while some are excusable, others are simply unacceptable, especially since the reader is asked to believe all of Gun's work without one footnote citation. You read a certain passage, perhaps with a name or site listed that is altogether new -- despite how long you've been on the case -- and you wonder, where did he get that? And you're never told. It's there; it happened.

Several general events are just all wrong, and they should have been more carefully studied prior to publication. The search of the TSBD (pp. 149ff), the events at Parkland (pp. 121ff) and the Texas Theatre (p. 152) are clearly inaccurate, as are the data regarding LHO's citizenship, defection, and USMC status (pp. 47ff). Equally erroneous, and this cannot be written off to any news black-out, is Gun's flashback narrative of the Lincoln assassination (pp. 75-77).

The most egregious errors occur when the author either flat-out misses the obvious, or when he manufactures, and both are troubling. JFK's famous "Ask not..." inaugural is quoted, but very incorrectly. And M.N. McDonald's remarks concerning Oswald at the Texas Theatre are in quotation marks, as if the arresting officer said them, and they indicate LHO was "sitting in...the front stalls," a British way of stating theater seats that were not mezzanine or balcony. One can bet heavily, however, that M.N. McDonald only knew a stall to be a site where horses feed, not where lone-assassins sit during old war movies.

Such inventions are troubling.

Some good points do shine through -- and will be noted. However, the volume of errors causes the reader to question even that which is good -- ah, good point, but is it correct and/or accurate?

It is noted that Mrs. Kennedy thought the proffering of red roses in Dallas was odd; (given the popularity of the 'Yellow Rose of Texas') also noted was the political correctness of Jackie's wearing of the pillbox hat, as Texas women were seen as provincial, wearing hats, so their political agenda was being catered to. The story of Richard Pavlick, the man who would have driven a dynamite filled vehicle into JFK's car in December, 1960, is well told for background. It is noted (perhaps to Hoover's chagrin) that the assassination proved Khrushchev's desire for peace, as the Russians could have used the murder-engendered confusion to move in any number of areas in the world without "pushing the button," and Gun's point(s) there are well taken, as he clearly knew areas where the Russians could have scored some quick and cheap points, but didn't.

It is also noted that Oswald, shown as a Communist, became easy for Dallasites to accept, as he was therefore NOT one of theirs, Lord knows. Yet this suggests conspiracy to Gun, who posits that Communists generally follow orders or plans, and nobody seemed to look, or want to know, if LHO had any helpers on November 22 or at any time before.

Gun was there, in Texas, and Mexico, for much of the time between the assassination and his subsequent publication. His asides, commentaries on Texas, political assassinations in general, the life and times of JFK, and the events that made November 22 unique, are well taken, but they turn a narrative into what seems like a series of essays or thought pieces. And, again, much is wrong. It wasn't 85 degrees in the shade that day, the SS were not all carrying submachine guns on the running boards, and half of the SS agents did not stay in Dealey Plaza. Nor were witnesses Harold Norman, Jr. Jarman, nor Bonnie Ray Williams cited. Instead we learn of "Negroes" under the sniper's window named Ralph Erwing and Washington Harris. Is it real or is it Memorex??????

There are also occasional racist comments, such as the notation that the motorcade was really over when it turned the corner of Elm and Houston, so it was the "colored" who were in Dealey Plaza, or that the police were not immediately interested as the event seemed like someone shooting at the blacks of downtown Dallas (p. 20 and passim).

Tippitt [sic] is seen as dying at Parkland, (p. 130), which is about as accurate as JFK looking ahead to the skyscrapers of Oak Cliff -- there ARE none -- (p. 22), the TSBD measuring 300' by 65', and Oswald announcing he was going to board a ship bound for Leningrad (p. 47).

Gun should have stuck to what was known, rather than embroider facts and hope that nobody else would ever do any research or writing on the subject after he did. While he does not point any accusatory fingers (perhaps it was too early), it's clear he thinks that something was very fishy in Dallas, and that the full truth -- whatever it was, was not sought. "The real life-story of Lee Harvey Oswald will not be revealed for some time, when the 'Secret' stamp is removed from his dossier." (p. 44).

Mr. Gun, wherever you are: it's 1996, and that stamp is still there...

Top of the Page

Texas In the Morning:
The Love Story of Madeleine Brown
and President Lyndon Baines Johnson

by Madeleine Duncan Brown

Review by Walt Brown
[I spoke to Madeleine Brown on one occasion, in 1993. At that time, she promised me some "convincing" documents. She asked only that I send her a copy of "People v. Oswald." I sent it the next day and never heard from her until this book arrived in 1997. Shortly thereafter, I got a call from Harrison Livingstone, who published it, to say that the book had essentially been badly altered, and the truth "re-created" by the typesetter he had hired. I did not know what to make of that. I wrote this review, and Madeleine would later call me to thank me profusely, but noted to me that she had not authorized its publication, nor had she seen any money from it. What was most surprising, perhaps, was that I was acknowledged as a contributor to the work, the first and only time that has ever happened.]

On December 10, 1993 -- at the urging of both J. Gary Shaw and Edgar Tatro, two veteran JFK-assassination researchers who were working with Madeleine Brown on her story of the 21-year love affair she had with Lyndon Johnson -- I contacted Madeleine at her home in Texas. Most of what she told me that night appears in Texas in the Morning (Harrison Edward Livingstone Book, Baltimore: Conservatory Press 1997), a book which derives its name from LBJ bellowing out open windows that there is nothing more wonderful than "Texas in the morning."

The book is a fascinating hybrid of high-power politics, with all the big name players one would expect, cross-pollenated with the amour proper dalliance between Ms. Brown and LBJ between 1948 and 1969. There is literally something for everyone, although there is a sense that some -- but not all -- of the assassination-related material is there to cater to the assassination market. The preface, by Harrison Livingstone, tells us "Lyndon Johnson would have been forced to resign the following month (Dec., 1963) because of the terrible scandals swirling about him." Ms. Brown reinforces this, telling that she believed LBJ would not have survived 1963, politically, if JFK had, literally.

The two main characters met in 1948, as LBJ was emerging from the Box 13 scandal, an imbroglio which saw him win an election by a whisker, and questionable ballots were burned by George Parr, an election official later killed by a single shot. (p. 13) Lady Bird, LBJ explained, was cold and affectionless..."she's a money and power woman and our marriage was one of convenience." (p. 32) As a love story, the narrative then winds around the passion, ignited on occasion and through intermediaries, between the two title characters, which involved some kinky sexual ideas on the part of LBJ (p. 113), a marriage of convenience for Ms. Brown to get J. Edgar Hoover off LBJ's back, and a comment by LBJ: "...right now, we've got to f*** in a hurry because Jack Benny's coming on TV." (p. 154) That last presidential thought requires no additional comment.

The political vortex which swirled around the lovers will naturally draw the reader's avid interest. H.L. Hunt is pictured as having many "ties" to Jack Ruby's girls, (p. 36), and there are alleged ties through Jerome Ragsdale (LBJ's go-between attorney) and Ruby, Oswald, H.L.Hunt, and George DeMohrenschildt. (p. 96) Ms. Brown insists, "I personally saw Lee Harvey Oswald or his look-alike at the Carousel Club," (p. 96), and LHO returns to the narrative on page 154, at the Carousel, shortly before the assassination. The author also says that Ruby told her that Oswald admitted to him that he fired at General Walker, but Brown believed that it was Malcolm "Mac" Wallace who fired that shot.

Wallace, a suspect in other works for the killing of Henry Marshall, a death which protected LBJ, becomes an even more prime suspect here. In the 1950s, Wallace went to a golf course and shot John Douglas Kinzer dead, point blank. Deals were cut, and he was found guilty of murder with malice aforethought, but given a five-year suspended sentence, largely due to Johnson's influence. Ms. Brown is convinced he killed Henry Marshall: "Only in Texas do we have suicides with five bullets in them." (p.85). One would be tempted to add, "And lone assassins with mediocre marksmanship and cheap guns..." Wallace is also portrayed as a grassy knoll shooter, and it is noted that a Wallace plumbing truck was in Dealey Plaza that day. [Ed. note: Wallace, a classmate of Ralph Geb, the mysterious "Saul," is seen as a sixth-floor shooter in The Men on the Sixth Floor by Glen Sample.]

Oil and money are power in Texas, but, in retrospect, some of the money amounts that might have seemed like power deals in the 50s, ie., $5,000 -- seem like small potatoes today. But power is power, as Ms. Brown notes, "Few of the people who came in contact with Lyndon ever fully understood the man." (p. 44) My marginal notes indicated, "Imagine how the Vietnamese reacted..." Yet there are a plethora of references to the 8-F group, the Hunts, Murchisons, Syd Richardson, John McCloy (later of Warren Commission infamy), and the famous gathering at the Murchison residence on November 21, 1963, after which LBJ told Madeleine Brown that after the following day, the Kennedys "would never embarrass" him again.

There are other snippets that jog our memories and create a "gestalt" that seems to put Madeleine Brown within the orbit of the assassination events. She tells that she had advance knowledge of JFK's first ballot nomination, but that LBJ would be made VP, at the insistence of H.L. Hunt (a notorious anti-Catholic) and Joe Kennedy, Sr. As VP, Johnson would have total control of the "Invisible Government," also known as the 54/12 group. (p. 127) We are reminded of Truman's angry anti-CIA memo after the assassination, as if he knew something. We are told that her paper husband and some Texas cronies, no strangers to rifles, rounded up some 6.5 mm types and tried to duplicate Oswald's legendary feats and failed. They then hypothesized, based on their inability to duplicate Oswald's feat, that shot one came from the Records Building, number two from the overpass, number three from the knoll, and number four from atop the TSBD, and that they tried to let the Warren Commission know what they knew but they were aware that witnesses with contrary data were disappearing.

When she confronted LBJ with allegations she was hearing that he had something to do with Kennedy's assassination, Ms. Brown tells us that he denied it, pointing the accusatory finger at oil people and renegade members of the intelligence community. (p. 189) There's also a brief note that Rubys girls were entertaining the wayward Secret Service agents out late on November 21-22, 1963 (p. 191).

There are some errors of fact, but that is true of every book, and Harrison Livingstone explained them away to me in a recent phone conversation. On page 104, Ms. Brown used the phrase "case closed," but I kept reading anyhow. A couple of troubling red flags still exist. One is the curious case of Dale Turner, who had been hired through intermediaries to serve as a full-time nanny to Madeleine's son by her prior marriage, as well as to Steven, her illegitimate son conceived with Johnson. On the occasion of one hotel tryst, Turner was carrying luggage when Johnson came through an adjoining door into the hotel room. He would later remark, during intimacy, that it was not good that Ms. Turner had seen him (then VP). A few pages later, Brown tells how Dale Turner left work early one day (unusual in itself), and she was never seen or heard from again. When you contrast that with LBJ's bold promise to Ms. Brown that the Kennedys would never embarrass him after 11/22/63, it strikes an odd chord. On one hand, a maid vanishes for seeing LBJ, but a paramour, and one of many at that, survives with far more damaging knowledge. Let's face it -- Johnson's statement of November 21 can only have one meaning -- it was not as if JFK had promised to stop embarrassing him if he reached the Trade Mart alive. Her recollection of seeing LBJ taking the oath of office on TV (p. 178) is either an event unique in Texas, or is an odd memory merge of some kind -- as it was certainly not televised.

As I read the book, I recalled vividly the tape recording I had made, for research purposes, of my conversation with Ms. Brown on December 10, 1993. When I finished the book, I replayed the tape. In it, she is far more clear in her recollection that LBJ was a part of the assassination, as the oil people had manipulated him to become a go-between because of the manifold problems he was facing -- and which could be cured by a dose of the Presidency -- in November, 1963. She also told me of a letter that night. It was from Murchison to LBJ, circa 1958, and suggested that if he could come to just the right understanding with Richard Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover, and Senator Knowland of California ("Nolan" in my contemporary notes), he could have the Presidency for the asking. I asked her if she could get me a copy, and she promised one if I would send her a copy of "People v. Oswald." The book was mailed the next day; I never got the Murchison letter, despite repeated phone calls, which went unreturned. I spoke to a Texas researcher about the book, and referenced that crucial letter on the tape, and asked how it could have been omitted from the book. I was told that Madeleine had intended it for inclusion, but somehow, and it troubled her, it was NOT included. Odd... *

Texas in the Morning is a book that should be read if you've read the mainstream of what's been done. If your interest is purely documents, intel, or, say, Cuba, it may not interest you as much. I give Ms. Brown much credit for the courage to publish her private life, and the pain of losing her son Steven in 1990. I give Mr. Livingstone credit for putting out a book that many were awaiting as long ago as 1994. If you like steamy, insider politics, (or LBJ's movies of animals mating...), you'll like this one. *Researchers interested in a copy of the tape, contact Walt Brown at JFK/DPQ; one side is the Madeleine Brown conversation, and the other side is the "last interview" with Harold Norman before he died in 1994 -- some interesting things on there!

Top of the Page

False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison's Investigation
and Oliver Stone's Film JFK
by Patricia Lambert

Review by Dave Reitzes

Among those who research the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, there is no other single issue as contentious and divisive as that of Jim Garrison and his legendary investigation. One's opinion of Garrison will inevitably color the way one perceives any book or article about his ill-fated probe. I want to, therefore, state several relevant opinions right up front to spare the reader any effort in inferring them: Jim Garrison, ladies and gentlemen, was a fraud, and if Clay Shaw, David Ferrie, or any New Orleans resident had anything to do with the JFK assassination, Garrison not only couldn't prove it, but had no basis for making any allegations in the first place. He would later literally rewrite the history of his investigation, portraying himself as a doomed David up against the Goliath of a massive government conspiracy, an image which captivated Oliver Stone, who based an influential, admirable and factually inaccurate movie on Garrison's story.

Patricia Lambert's False Witness (M. Evans and Co., Inc., New York, 1999) is the latest of several books challenging the integrity of Garrison's case against Clay Shaw specifically and his self-proclaimed crusade against an alleged evil govern-ment conspiracy in general. Earlier works such as Edward Epstein's Counterplot and James Kirkwood's American Grotesque effectively laid bare a number of the shortcomings in Garrison's case and his investigative methodology as a whole. Lambert's is the first, however, to thoroughly trace Garrison's story from the very beginning of his investigation, through the Shaw trial and its aftermath, and ultimately through the events that led Oliver Stone to bring the man once known as the "Jolly Green Giant" to the silver screen.

As a history of the Garrison investigation, False Witness is a mixed blessing. It is, indeed, thorough about the major issues of Garrison's case against Clay Shaw as well as definitive in its analysis of Jim Garrison's career and personality. Its major problem is that, despite the book's factual accuracy, Lambert's documentation is often less than meticulous. In fact, she has a habit of matter-of-factly asserting conclusions about which controversy continues to rage.

An example is her treatment of what is surely one of the most controversial incidents in the entire New Orleans story: the conversation that reportedly took place on November 23, 1963, between Dean Adams Andrews, Jr., and a man he would later refer to as "Clay Bertrand." Lambert states her findings plainly enough: Andrews' friend and occasional client Eugene Clair Davis called Andrews in the hospital to discuss a job he had for him. One of them -- very possibly Andrews himself -- made a remark about the fame that awaited the lawyer who represented Lee Harvey Oswald, and -- under the influence of heavy sedation and a rather vivid imagination -- Andrews found himself calling his office insisting that he had been contacted about representing Oswald. When word spread, following Oswald's death, about Andrews' claim, the opportunistic lawyer saw no need to straighten out the record -- just the opposite. To enhance his credibility, he embellished his story to include the claim that Oswald had briefly been a client of his, referred by the mysterious "Clay Bertrand." When asked by the FBI and later the Warren Commission to describe "Clay Bertrand," he came up with various contradictory tales. (Of course he contradicted himself, he would later complain -- his interrogators never would let him see copies of what he's said before!) By the time Jim Garrison began looking into the assassination in late 1966, the "Clay Bertrand" story had taken on a life of its own.

But when one flips to the endnotes to see how Lambert arrived at her account, all one finds is a citation to Andrews' testimony at the Shaw trial. Having studied the Garrison episode somewhat intensively of late, I agree with Lambert's conclusion that Andrews told the truth at Shaw's trial: that there was no "Clay Bertrand"; there was only Gene Davis, who did not know Oswald, did not refer him to Andrews, did not phone Dean Andrews about representing Oswald in Dallas, and who simply had the misfortune of discussing the President's accused assassin with the wrong person at the wrong time. Is this account factual? Yes; the record is on Lambert's side: of all the witnesses Garrison CLAIMS in his memoirs to have had to Shaw's alleged secret life as "Bertrand," he could not put a single one on the stand. But those who are presently inclined to believe Garrison's assertion that Clay Shaw used the alias "Clay Bertrand" are not going to be persuaded. Perhaps such true believers would not be persuaded by any possible argument, but more evidence could and should have been offered.

Lambert will be taken to task by many conspiracy believers, even those not especially persuaded by Garrison's arguments against Clay Shaw, for wiping David Ferrie off the list of "mysterious deaths." In this case the factual record is unequivocal: David Ferrie died of natural causes; there was never any doubt about this to coroner Nicholas Chetta and autopsy pathologist Ronald Welsh, and the autopsy report refutes all claims that Garrison and his followers have put forward over the years. But Lambert's brief discussion of the episode is not about to convince those who have taken on faith Garrison's repeated allegations over the years that Ferrie's death was a murder or suicide, and she does not reproduce key documentation such as Ferrie's autopsy report that would aid her case.

What Lambert has done with regard to Ferrie, however, through interviews with key Garrison insiders, is refute an assertion of Garrison's that has gone virtually unchallenged for three decades: that his office had -- only hours prior to the discovery of Ferrie's death -- decided to arrest him. Not so, says then-Assistant DA and longtime Garrison loyalist James Alcock, confirming the accounts of Tom Bethell and others held in lower esteem by Garrison advocates. Thus a "mysterious death" becomes not so mysterious after all: Ferrie was in no danger of being arrested; in fact, he was preparing a $500,000 defamation suit against the DA's office.

But Lambert unaccountably passes over another event that helped Garrison link Ferrie, however tenuously, to an alleged plot: the murder of Florida anti-Castro activist Eladio Del Valle the same day that Ferrie died. When Garrison discovered this -- some two months later -- he asserted that Del Valle and Ferrie had known each other very well, had both been part of an assassination conspiracy and were both silenced by the conspiracy's "clean-up squad"; he claimed that his office had linked Del Valle to Ferrie and the assassination well before the two men died.

None of this was true. Del Valle was not a suspect; he never had been and never would be linked in any manner to the Kennedy assassination. The Florida authorities developed evidence wholly unrelated to David Ferrie or New Orleans and a suspect for Del Valle's murder was indicted. The assertion that Del Valle even knew David Ferrie is based on the unsubstantiated claim of one individual whose credibility has been called into serious doubt and whose story contradicts the known record of Ferrie's life in the early 1960s. Lambert doesn't mention any of this; Del Valle's name does not appear anywhere in her book. Thus a gap which could have been easily plugged remains open to speculation.

A great amount of space is devoted to the one witness that Garrison relied upon in the '60s as well as in his 1988 memoirs to link Shaw to the JFK assassination: Perry Raymond Russo. Working with newly available records from Garrison's files as well as her own interviews with Russo and various insiders, Lambert achieves what even previous Garrison critics such as James Phelan and Edward Epstein couldn't: She uncovers the full evolution of Russo's story, establishing the true, deliberately obscured chronology of the hurried series of interviews that awaited Perry Russo when he came forward to talk about his onetime friend, Captain Dave Ferrie, following Ferrie's death.

While James Phelan noted that Russo's story about Shaw was contradicted by Russo's earlier statements in the press and in an interview memorandum written by Assistant DA Andrew Sciambra, Lambert has gone even further: She's determined that not only were Russo's recollections influenced by his sodium pentathol and hypnosis sessions with the DA's office -- as outlined in Edward Jay Epstein's Counterplot -- but that even the records earlier journalists such as Epstein had to work with had been falsified by Garrison, who had reversed the chronology of two key Russo interrogations to artificially fortify Russo's story. Her source? The DA's very own records.

One landmark chapter examines in detail for the very first time the decision handed down by Judge Herbert W. Christenberry dismissing the perjury charges that Garrison filed against Shaw following Shaw's acquittal. Long characterized by Garrison as an unprecedented and indefensible example of the government conspiracy against him, Lambert lays out the record and finds it to be exactly the opposite: a sound and just action of jurisprudence taken against a DA who had filed charges against a citizen in bad faith.

Elsewhere, Lambert analyzes step by step how Garrison constructed for his memoirs his revisionist history of the case from bits and pieces of discredited evidence, and an appendix includes a devastating page-by-page refutation of On the Trail of the Assassins. Time and time again, Lambert shows how Garrison's assertions contradict the contemporaneous record of his investigation, including documents culled from his own files. Lambert thus strikes at the heart of the methodology that allowed Garrison to parlay his 1969 failure into a 1991 Hollywood success.

Most surprisingly of all, Lambert pulls the rug out from under the one and only element of Garrison's story given credence by the House Select Committee on Assassinations: the allegation that Clay Shaw had driven Lee Harvey Oswald and David Ferrie to Clinton, Louisiana one day in the summer or early fall of 1963. From newly discovered notes obtained from one of Garrison's original Clinton investigators, Lambert constructs the true Clinton story for the first time.

It was Clinton registrar of voters Henry Earl Palmer, a high-ranking member of the Louisiana Ku Klux Klan, who came forward with his fellow Klansman John Manchester in 1967 with a story that no one in Louisiana had ever heard before: that Lee Harvey Oswald had visited Jackson, Louisiana, looking for a job at the State Hospital there, had been advised that registering to vote might boost his eligibility, and had ended up in nearby Clinton where he allegedly spoke to Palmer. From new Lambert interviews we find out that employees at Louisiana State Hospital had been quite surprised to learn in 1967 that the alleged assassin of John F. Kennedy had once applied for a job at the hospital, something no one but the two employees who testified at Shaw's trial seemed to remember -- though neither had ever discussed the incident with their co-workers.

We learn from the original 1967 Clinton notes that Palmer and Manchester's original story did not include anyone resembling Clay Shaw or David Ferrie; that witness Corrie Collins did not initially remember Oswald having been in Clinton, but rather a local man, Winslow Foster, who arrived at the CORE registration drive in a black car with another local, Estus Morgan; they were the only white people at the drive. Only in January 1968 did Collins begin to "remember" the visitor as Lee Harvey Oswald, and even then his statements do not place David Ferrie or Clay Shaw there. (Ferrie, he thought, looked some-hat familiar; Shaw less so.)

By the time of the trial, almost all the details had been smoothed out, and not only did Collins "remember" a visit from Oswald, Ferrie and Shaw, but so did Palmer, Manchester and CORE worker William Dunn. Manchester now suddenly "remembered" speaking to the driver of the black car, whom he identified as Clay Shaw, and who had reportedly identified himself as an employee of the Interna-tional Trade Mart. In later years this would evolve into the claim that the black car's license plate had been traced to the ITM, a fact curiously absent from the 1969 Shaw trial transcript. Again, lacking are the primary sources. For assassination researchers to discard the seemingly credible eyewitness testimony of eight separate individuals, four of whom linked Clay Shaw to David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald, we need to be shown the complete record regarding the evolution of their statements. Perhaps it's just not feasible to devote that much space for source documentation in a mass-marketed book, but an effort should have been made to present at least key portions of the previously unknown 1967 material. The idea of a second volume devoted to source documents has been discussed among researchers as has the possibility of a CD-ROM database; the need for such resources is something the author, editor and publisher should have foreseen.

A minor problem with False Witness is the scant attention paid to those witnesses besides Russo who testified against Shaw. Is this inappropriate? Not insofar as the witnesses themselves merit; the testimony of such witnesses as Jessie Parker and James Hardiman, for example, were rightly considered nearly as inconsequential in 1969 as that of the infamous Charles Spiesel, whom even Garrison later disavowed. However, a new generation of Garrison advocates continues to cite such witnesses, regardless of the problems with their credibility. Had Lambert devoted two or three pages to Parker, Hardiman, and self-proclaimed handwriting expert Elizabeth McCarthy, it could have preempted dubious arguments that are bound to come from certain quarters.

Lambert also underestimates the staying power of Garrison's wholly unfounded allegation that Shaw was a CIA operative, though she does take the time to examine the claims briefly and refute in particular the misguided belief of recent vintage that Shaw was actively involved in a CIA operation called QK/ENCHANT, in which he actually had been cleared as an unwitting source of intelligence. While Lambert's position -- that there simply is no evidence to support Garrison's allegation -- is eminently reasonable, the failure to thoroughly address the issue leaves practically unopposed the issue that became Garrison's mantra for the rest of his life: that Shaw was a CIA agent whose acquittal had been assured by the CIA, which purportedly infiltrated, disrupted and sabotaged his investigation to protect the conspiracy that killed JFK.

Another weakness of False Witness is the near-total absence of Garrison's allegations of conspiracy wholly or largely unrelated to Shaw, some of which -- such as the limited investigations of Guy Banister's early '60s activities and the 1961 Houma, Louisiana munitions burglary -- have long fueled the belief that Garrison really did "have something" after all. Debate still rages over whether Banister or the Houma episode bear upon an understanding of the Kennedy assassination, and such Garrison suspects as Gordon Novel and Sergio Arcacha Smith are undoubtedly deserving of either a sound debunking or further study, whichever is more appropriate. There are also the numerous questionable indictments obtained by Garrison's office -- such as those of Kerry Thornley, newsmen David Chandler and Walter Sheridan, and several others -- that are dealt with in only the most cursory fashion, if at all. Were the book exclusively about the court case People v. Clay Shaw, this might be understandable; in a book about "the real story of Jim Garrison's investigation," these are glaring omissions.

All of these reservations must be taken in context: Lambert's book is neither an unimportant work or an example of poor scholarship. Rather, I am lamenting that a groundbreaking, eye-opening, highly significant examination of a genuine American disgrace isn't the exhaustive and wholly definitive study I would have liked, nor is Lambert's work presented with the ample documentary resources necessary to demonstrate just how thoroughly researched and well supported are her conclusions.

The bottom line is that Lambert has exposed the real Jim Garrison for the very first time in a way that illuminates both the bizarre nature of his investigation and the personal and political forces that not only made it possible, but that enabled Garrison to rise from his own ashes two decades later with the paradoxical triumph of Oliver Stone's supremely magnificent and historically indefensible motion picture.

Top of the Page

With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald
and the Murder of Officer J. D. Tippit

by Dale Myers

Review by Dave Reitzes

Few Americans know the name J. D. Tippit, yet the murder of that Dallas patrolman on November 22, 1963, has always been one of the key events surrounding the Kennedy assassination. Supporters of the lone assassin theory of Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt often refer to it as the "Rosetta Stone" of the assassination, citing it as an open-and-shut case that proves Oswald a Presidential assassin: Why else, they ask, would he have murdered Tippit? Conspiracy theorists find the event a source of endless mystery: Was the killer in fact Oswald? If so, why are there so many bizarre discrepancies in the evidence? Why did Tippit stop him in the first place? Was Tippit involved with the conspiracy? What about housekeeper Earlene Roberts' claim that a police car stopped and honked its horn outside Oswald's rooming house at 1026 North Beckley while Oswald was inside? Was this Tippit?

Tippit's murder, of course, is only one of the issues with which conspiracy-oriented researchers find themselves at odds with proponents of the official story, but in many ways it's one of the most enigmatic. After all, Oswald was forever silenced shortly after his arrest, and Tippit left behind no indication of why he stopped this pedestrian seemingly at random, nor has anyone credible come forward to explain what Tippit's role in the scheme of an assassination conspiracy could have been.

Dale Myers' With Malice (Oak Cliff Press, Inc., Milford, MI, 1998) then, practically achieves the unthinkable: It has set the record straight. In a nutshell, With Malice affirms the Warren Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald alone killed J. D. Tippit. Make no mistake, however: Dale Myers is no Posner. He's done his homework and his conclusions are both authoritative and well documented. In fact, he succeeds in tying up so many loose ends that it's hard to say who should feel more embarrassed: thirty-five years' worth of conspiracy theorists or members of the two well funded and hugely resourceful government committees whose unconvincing work left so much room for doubt.

Excepting biographical chapters on Tippit and Oswald, the book is essentially divided into three parts. First, Myers exhaustively traces Tippit's movements in the hours before his murder and painstakingly walks the reader through practically each second of the murder, sorting out the details of what each eyewitness reported. A thorough and satisfying section on hard evidence follows, while the lengthy "Hints and Allegations" discusses the many conspiracy theories and lingering questions that have bewildered researchers all these years.

While Myers cannot answer every question, he refuses to dodge the anomalies he cannot explain. He cannot, for example, conclusively explain why Acquilla Clemons reported seeing two men flee the murder scene; perhaps no one ever could. What's impressive are the unexpected points he does score. For example, how many of us knew that, although Earlene Roberts was besieged by reporters soon after Oswald was apprehended, nearly a full week passed before she mentioned anything to anyone about a police car stopping by the house? I didn't know that. Yet the written record is unequivocal about it, and Myers' personal interviews with a number of newsmen and law enforcement officers who questioned Roberts at the time confirm that only later did the story about the police car arise.

Come to think of it, did anyone ever look into the two police officers, Burnley and Alexander, that Roberts reportedly knew, whom she said she initially thought must be paying her a visit? Surely someone MUST have. But no, Myers is the first. He tracked down Charles T. Burnley, the one and only "Burnley" on the police force in 1963, who told Myers he'd never so much as heard of Earlene Roberts or her story until being informed of it around 1991-92. Roberts did know a DPD officer named Floyd J. Alexander, Sr., though, the man she describes in her testimony as a former employer. Myers found Alexander and confirmed this. The only problem is that Alexander had resigned from the force in 1957, leading one to wonder why Mrs. Roberts would be expecting him to visit in a squad car in 1963.

Perhaps it isn't so strange, then, that Alexander recalled Roberts as someone who wasn't "very bright, had a limited number of friends, and would do almost anything to get attention." The last word may belong to Roberts' former employer Gladys Johnson, who recalled having fired Roberts "a time or two" for some of her strange habits, one of which, Mrs. Johnson told Myers, was "[j]ust sitting down and making up tales." Case closed? Myers doesn't explicitly say so, but the conclusion is hard to escape.

It's Myers' work on the hard evidence that is the backbone of With Malice. He details the evidence that Oswald owned the murder weapon, regardless of what some theorize. He demonstrates that the four shells in evidence were indeed fired from that gun to the exclusion of all others, quite to the contrary of claims made by influential conspiracy-oriented researchers such as Larry Ray Harris and Robert Groden. He points out that no matter how weak is the chain of possession for the two infamous shells that Officer J. M. Poe was unable to positively identify for the Warren Commission, the chain of possession of the other two shells in evidence is solid. He offers a well-reasoned argument to support one of the Warren Commission's theories concerning the discrepancy in manufacturers between one of the recovered bullets and one of the shells. He even digs up previously overlooked physical evidence that the famous jacket in evidence indeed came from Oswald's person. The only fault I find in this section is Myers' failure to address the conflicts in the chain of possession of the revolver through the succession of police officers who handled it on November 22. This could have been dealt with easily enough (see Walt Brown, "Talking with Gerald Hill," JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, July, 1998) and certainly warrants a mention.

Perhaps the most memorable portion of the book is Myers' theory of the Tippit murder itself, a scenario so simple and sensible it almost defies belief.

Conspiracy theorists have long cited key eyewitness Helen Markham's assertion that Tippit's killer was walking east on Tenth Street -- when all the other witnesses said he was walking west -- as one of many problems with her testimony. However, the HSCA tracked down eyewitness Jack Ray Tatum in 1978, and Tatum too said Oswald was walking east as Tippit approached him. But as Tippit's car, cruising east on Tenth Street, drew near Oswald, cabdriver William Scoggins caught a glimpse of Oswald and made an observation that essentially went unnoticed until Myers fit it into the proper chronology: "I couldn't say whether he was going west or in the process of turning around, but he was facing west when I saw him." Scoggins was parked slightly to the west of Oswald; Oswald never passed him. His initial impression seems to have been dead on the mark. The next two witnesses to see the killer were Jack Tatum and Helen Markham, who both saw him walking east as Tippit's car pulled alongside him.

The reason Tippit stopped Oswald, it would seem, is the same reason the eyewitnesses disagree on which way Oswald was headed: because he was walking west until he saw Tippit's patrol car, which prompted him to turn around and head in the other direction, back east the way he'd come. Chances are that Tippit noticed Oswald for the same reason that Johnny Calvin Brewer soon would: He was acting suspiciously. It only took thirty-five years for someone to figure that out.

In addition to his review of the events and theories surrounding Tippit's death, Myers is the first researcher to put a human face on the man that the Warren Report left, in the words of Sylvia Meagher, "unknown and unknowable." Granted, it's not a complex portrait that emerges. Where Meagher described the Warren Report's portrayal of Tippit as one-dimensional, Myers' Tippit seems on the two-dimensional side: simply a loving family man and a good cop, with a few minor blemishes on both counts. Potentially relevant personal issues are not overlooked, however, particularly Tippit's infamous affair with a Dobbs House waitress, which Myers has confirmed but which now is clearly irrelevant.

In giving the Tippit murder the scrutiny it deserves, Myers has done more than simply validate the Warren Commission's beleaguered conclusion; he has created the new standard reference to the event. Those who still desire to exonerate Oswald of Tippit's slaying will no longer be able to point to the shoddy work of the Warren Commission or the cursory rubber-stamping given the case by the HSCA as the case to overcome; it is Myers with which they will have to reckon. He's done, in essence, what all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't: closed the Tippit case.

I can assert this from a position of some slight authority, being a conspiracy theorist who has long argued with conviction that Lee Harvey Oswald would not, could not, and absolutely did not kill Officer J. D. Tippit. Dale Myers has single-handedly changed my mind. In fact, had the Warren Commission presented the evidence as effectively as Myers does -- regardless of whatever happened in Dealey Plaza that day -- there may well have been no doubt whatsoever about the identity of Tippit's murderer all these years.

Can there be any higher praise?

Top of the Page

Rebuttal of Dave Reitzes' Review of

Dale Myers' With Malice:
Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit

by Tim Smith

As I read Reitzes' review I was taken aback by what I thought to be minutiae, unsubstantiated assertions, and some things that simply are not true. This is not an attack on Reitzes, only some of his ideas. It hopefully will be done in a gentlemanly manner.

Referring to the Tippit murder as the "Rosetta Stone" of the assassination is an obvious reference to David Belin. The only problem is that the Rosetta Stone was more easily decipherable than the Tippit murder. Reitzes asks a series of questions and then proposes some answers concerning this aspect of the case. He says that Myers has set the record straight. That doesn't seem to be how people like Bill Drenas, Bill Pulte, Ken Holmes, Jr., and Greg Lowery see the events of that afternoon.

Reitzes says we should be embarrassed after reading the Myers book. Why? I am not surprised that two well-funded and hugely resourceful government committees left room for doubt. There were many issues they never resolved, and for obvious reasons. Dale Myers is a careful researcher who has spent an enormous amount of time researching this aspect of the case. Our only embarrassment should be that we didn't exert the same amount of energy that he did. His document section is quite resourceful and the best part of his book. We have to be careful, however, in distinguishing facts from the interpretation of those facts. Dale has presented the facts of the case rather well, but his conclusions are something completely different from those facts.

Reitzes rather casually dismisses the biographical information of Oswald and Tippit. This is a huge mistake because in these chapters Myers lays the ground-work about Tippit's character, while at the same time making Oswald out to be the killer based on none other than Howard Brennan. Anyone who thinks Brennan is a credible witness should have their interpretations naturally questioned on other issues. There is a very subtle link made from Dealey Plaza to Tenth and Patton. To set Oswald up as the killer in Dealey Plaza makes him a natural for the Tippit murder. To miss this is to fumble an important presupposition in Myers' book. [Note from Walt Brown: in Sneed's "Oral History" the interviewed DPD officers "split" on this concept -- some said JFK and Tippit were a natural match; others say they made no connection at all].

Reitzes seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on Acquilla Clemmons and Earlene Roberts. To think this case relies on them is equivalent to thinking Dealey Plaza depends on the three tramps. If you ask the right questions you can eventually make people say what you want them to say. For every witness that discredits, I can find one or two that will say very nice things about almost anyone.

Myers makes Tippit out to be Father of the Year. Despite affidavits in his document section that repeatedly say Tippit had a temper, which is odd in the midst of bio-sketches that don't warrant that kind of input, there they are. Myers never even hints at the possibility that the Tenth and Patton murder may have been the result of some other factor besides Dealey Plaza. We know Tippit had an affair with a waitress at Austin's Barbecue. Reitzes says this information is completely irrelevant, despite the fact that Tippit is killed execution style, and something I'm not so easy to jettison. I'm not willing to cast aspersions on Tippit, but Atticus Finch he was not. We may never know the real reason Tippit was killed that day, and maybe that is the problem. The evidence may not be sufficient enough to draw conclusions beyond a reasonable doubt.

Reitzes now moves on to the backbone of the book. He says that Myers demonstrates that Oswald owned the murder weapon. This is a rather nice presumption. It has never been conclusively proven that the revolver that was found on Lee Harvey Oswald was the murder weapon that afternoon in Oak Cliff. He says that the four shells in evidence were indeed fired from Oswald's gun to the exclusion of all others. This is true. No expert has ever looked at those shells and come up with a different conclusion. When they were fired, however, is something else entirely. The question that should be asked is, why didn't one policeman find any of those shells when they had been canvassing the area for hours? It seems odd to me that this was left to witnesses to make such discoveries (Benavides, and the Davis girls). The bullets are a different story. Cortland Cunningham stated before the Warren Commission that they could not be traced back to Oswald's gun to the exclusion of all others. The House Select Committee said the same thing. Only Dr. Joseph Nichol gave a positive response to this request, after Cunningham didn't say what the Warren Commission wanted him to. Nichol said he could find one matching point, which was a certain driving edge that could be corroborated by a test bullet. R. A. Davenport was given the bullet that struck Tippit on his button, but it was much too distorted for testing. The other three bullets were found in a filing cabinet months later. Chain of evidence anyone?

He then proceeds to the Poe discrepancy, where Poe was unable to positively identify the two shells before the Warren Commission. Again, the case doesn't rest on Poe, but only serves as minutia and a red herring for the uninformed. The jacket then comes up for discussion. Myers never conclusively links the jacket to Oswald. There is no such test that would link the fibers found in the jacket, to any shirt in Lee Harvey Oswald's possession and Myers knows that. The FBI, in 1964, narrowed the dry cleaning possibilities down to about six or seven and then stopped. Why? Marina testified that they never sent out the laundry, but were always washed by hand. That jacket wasn't and never has been linked conclusively to Lee Harvey Oswald.

Doesn't it strike the reader as a bit too convenient that the perpetrator leaves shells and a jacket on his path of escape? Why didn't he just leave bread crumbs from Tenth and Patton to the Texas Theatre? It seems a little too serendipitous for my taste.

In the reconstruction of the crime, Reitzes keeps referring to Oswald as the killer, when that hasn't been proven. He says that Jack Tatum's testimony, along with others, proves that Oswald changed directions and began walking east when he saw Tippit approaching. I agree that the killer may have done this, but it wasn't Oswald.

Why doesn't Myers deal with the fact that it took Tippit twenty-one minutes to travel just a few blocks after he clears on Lancaster at 12:54 PM? He never mentions the fight on Twelfth and Marsalis. He glosses over the Top Ten Record Store incident, and never mentions the James Andrews incident that has Tippit pulling him over, looking into his car and then speeding away. Bill Drenas, in his "Car #10 Where Are You?" article reconstructs this scenario with stellar precision. He also deals with the Top Ten Record Store incident in a three-part series locatable in the Dealey Plaza Echo, a British publication. Drenas fills in gaps that Myers simply doesn't.

In conclusion, Myers offers circumstantial evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Officer Tippit, but never does it in a conclusive manner. He should be commended for his dogged research approach and his uncovering of myriad documents. Myers deserves more than I have been able to give here; this was simply a contrast to the Reitzes piecethat appeared in DPQ. To say the case is closed on the Tippit murder is a bit too presumptuous at this point.

Top of the Page

Farewell America:
The Book and the Enigma

Article by Al Navis

"Farewell America, Al, you have to get a copy of Farewell America," said the voice on the telephone. The soft East Texas twang immediately identified the caller as one William Penn Jones, Jr., and he was calling me from his desk as Editor-in-Chief of the Midlothian Mirror, a weekly newspaper in the town just south of Dallas.

It was about two weeks before Christmas, 1968, and winter in Toronto was fast approaching. America, and indeed the entire world, had just endured what was possibly the worst single year of the century, excepting the wars. It was a presidential election year and Lyndon Johnson said he wouldn't run, but Robert Kennedy said he would. By the end of the year, Kennedy was dead by assassins' bullets, Richard Nixon was President, Hubert Humphrey had lost the election by just over 25,000 votes, and Johnson was back home in Texas after aging 20 years in the previous five.

Add to this, the assassination of civil rights champion Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; North Korea capturing the electronic spyship USS Pueblo; the continuing war in south-east Asia; the Soviet Union occupying Czechoslovakia; a student and worker revolt in France; and the few good things that occurred that year were all but invisible.

The first heart transplant in December, 1967, gave way to an avalanche of them in 1968; American astronauts orbited the moon in preparation for a lunar landing in mid-1969, and President John Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline, married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

So when Penn mentioned Farewell America, I asked him what was it about. The story that Penn told me -- coupled with what I learned from former-FBI-agent-turned-author William Turner and added to the rather bizarre occurrences that would happen to me 16 years later -- is what Paul Harvey routinely calls "the rest of the story."

The rest of this story begins on 22 November 1963, with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. While the various time lines of history converged on that place at that time, what came out of Dallas was best described by a Hopi word koyaanisqatsi, meaning crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, or a state of life that calls for another way of living.

For virtually every person connected with the assassination, this is true and it was especially true for the President's brother, then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Even in the middle of the worst four days of his life, Robert Kennedy had the presence of mind to ask one of his most trusted aides, future Senator from New York Daniel Moynihan, to quietly assemble a small staff to look into his brother's murder. Kennedy basically asked Moynihan to get him the answer to two questions:

  • Did Teamster boss and Kennedy family enemy Jimmy Hoffa have any involvement in the assassination?
  • Was the Secret Service as an agency or specific agents themselves paid off?

In a few months, the results came back to Kennedy: "no" and "no." The report was, however, quite damning in its criticism of the Secret Service agents and the agency in general, as far as their collective performance was concerned. Standard protection procedures had been ignored, countermanded, or subverted, and the result was that the President was left exposed from practically everywhere in Dealey Plaza -- a full 360 degrees of opportunity.

When you look back at the weekend that followed the assassination in 1963, you can probably agree with Robert Kennedy's thinking. Jimmy Hoffa was the most vocal of the detractors of the Kennedy White House as both John and Robert Kennedy had sat on the Kefauver Committee in the late 1950s looking into organized crime in America.

The very fact that the President was so completely defenseless naturally gave cause to cast disparaging glances at the organization whose primary duty it was to protect him.

It is indeed interesting, from the point of view of 35 years after the fact, that Hoffa and the Secret Service would be the primary suspects in the 'crime of the century.' When we now look at who might have had a hand in the planning and execution of this execution, we normally list the CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, the anti-Castro and pro-Castro Cubans, the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Pentagon/DIA, the Texas oil fortunes of the Hunts and the Murchisons and even the massive interests involved in the Federal Reserve Bank. The 'grassy knoll' is getting to be as crowded as a Tokyo subway car at rush hour!

It was during the first few months of 1964 that a copy of the Moynihan report to Robert Kennedy found its way across the Atlantic and into the caverns of French Intelligence and, eventually, onto the desk of President Charles de Gaulle. Who actually was the genesis of what would become Farewell America must now be left to pure conjecture, as it was probably done verbally, covertly and quietly. Was it Robert Kennedy or Charles de Gaulle or both or neither?

It became the provenance of two recently-retired French Intelligence operatives and one of their British counterparts to look into the murder of a president, again probably done verbally, covertly, and quietly. They were basically given carte blanche to travel wherever leads took them and to talk to whoever they thought had useful and pertinent information to give. Their investigation took more than 3 years and covered practically the entire globe.

Because the operatives were just that, and not writers, they enlisted a rather peculiar-looking Frenchman who called himself Hervé Lamarr. It was this slightly built, chain-smoking editor who took the voluminous notes, reports, interview transcripts and essays that the operatives had accumulated over the past 40+ months and collated them into a somewhat readable, concise report. It was also Lamarr who came up with the pseudonym "James Hepburn" based on his overwhelming love and admiration for actress Audrey Hepburn. He bastardized the French words j'aime which means "I love."

It was most probably in mid-December, 1967, that Robert Kennedy received the final draft of the report and its effect was quite noticeable. Kennedy's public image changed from that of a New York Senator to a potential Presidential candidate. His speeches became more international and less local-oriented. And it was quite soon thereafter that he did indeed throw his hat into the ring for the November presidential election.

During Kennedy's all-too-brief run for the presidency, most people judiciously avoided the assassination question, but one student reporter for a campus newspaper in Berkeley, California, asked Kennedy a rather direct question, couched in metaphor -- if elected would he open 'the files?' Kennedy's reply was metaphorical in return, saying that only the President can open 'those files' and I will be President! In less than three days, Robert Kennedy lay dead in a Los Angeles hospital after being shot three times at point blank range 25 hours earlier, only minutes after winning the California Democratic Primary.

After waiting a few weeks, the Kennedy family was contacted about the status of 'the project,' meaning Farewell America. It was now the duty of the last remaining son, Edward Kennedy to basically squelch the entire operation as he said to the effect that he and the Kennedy Family no longer wished to pursue any aspects of either of the brothers' deaths.

So, Lamarr had a book with content that could change the world's view of what had happened in Dallas. After approaching nearly every major American and British publisher and getting rejections from all of them, Lamarr decided to begin in Europe. One can assume that corporate attorneys working as counsel for those American and British publishing houses looked at a statement on page 387 of Farewell America: "We challenge the individuals whose names are cited in this book to sue us for libel."

One can also assume that those same attorneys would have cast a 'no' vote when asked by the editorial staff if they should publish Farewell America. But that was the entire tone of the book, because the book was a natural product of the results of the research and that research named names and placed blames.

While I won't disclose what that research found, leaving it up to you to read the book, I will say that it cast light in directions which, at that time, had always been in shadows. When it was published in France under the title America Brûlé (America Burns), it quickly shot to the top of the non-fiction bestseller charts. Italian and German editions soon followed, each a bestseller as well, and soon it became apparent that the only way to get an edition published in English was by self-publication.

So came the entity now known as "Frontiers Publishing." It was registered in Vaduz, the tiny capital city of the-not-much-larger Duchy of Liechtenstein, nestled in the Alps. The legal office was in Geneva, Switzerland. The editorial office in Paris. The books were actually printed in Belgium and shipped to Manchester, England, and Montreal, Canada. The print run has never been disclosed but my research came up with an approximate number of copies in the 10,000 range. It seems that 4,000 were shipped for distribution throughout the UK and the other 6,000 were dispatched to North America, but by having them sent to Montreal, they kept them out of the reach of the American authorities. Or so they thought.

While the copies which were in Manchester were distributed without incident to various bookstores in the British Isles, the copies that were sent to Canada came under attack quite quickly. After about one-third of the consignment had been shipped, a very odd thing happened. The shipments stopped completely.

I have been able to place together some random facts and oddities into a fairly reliable story of what indeed happened. It seems that the FBI (or, less likely, the CIA) had traced the flow of Farewell America to a book warehouse in Montreal and they elicited the assistance of the Canadian Government (possibly the RCMP, but more probably the Ministry of Customs and Excise) to find a way to staunch the flow of Farewell America into the US.

Now comes the creative part. Through some logistical legerdemain, they were able to create an excise on hardcover books which were printed in Belgium. They were then assigned a 50% duty, to be applied retroactively as well! This means that the books would be seized for non-payment of a duty that didn't even exist when the shipment arrived in Canada. It's like getting a speeding ticket in September after they lowered the speed limit, and you traveled there in July! Nice grift if you can swing it.

From 1969 until 1984, two pallets of Farewell America languished in Montreal, in an unheated, bonded, government warehouse. Freezing cold winters and blistering hot summers -- all 15 of them. During this time, the book became very tough to find, and the price began to climb, eventually hitting more then $100 -- if you could find a copy. The scuttlebutt was that the FBI had bought up all remaining copies and had them destroyed. This type of tactic had worked with two of William Turner's books, The Fish is Red and The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy which Random House had stopping shipping to bookstores a few months after publication, probably at the behest of the FBI. Of the 20,000 copies printed, Random House probably burned three-quarters of them! Not good for the bottom line, but very good for government relations.

But the rumours were untrue, and for some reason, still unknown, the book showed up as part of a Canadian government auction, in the spring of 1984. When I saw that there were two lots of about 2,000 copies each, I decided that I would attend the auction. With most of the auction audience after office furniture and the like, I was unopposed when bidding for the first lot of 2,000 copies. That changed in the few minutes that it took to begin bidding for the second lot. I repeated my opening bid when a voice from the back of the room bid an amount that was ten times ming! Needless to say I didn't get the second lot.

The bidder was a nondescript white male in a dark suit, perhaps 6'2" and around 200 pounds, as was his partner. I say 'partner' because they immediately radiated the impression 'government' or 'police'. When I paid for the lot and got my receipt and release slip, I was approached by the two men and offered twice what they had just paid for the second lot in cash, right there and then, if I gave them my release slip and receipt. I politely declined.

Since the books had to be picked up within 24 hours, I borrowed a friend's van and drove to the government warehouse to claim them. Want to guess who was there when I arrived? That's right, the same two guys from the auction the day before. This time they offered me four times what they had paid for the books, which means that I could have made a nice tidy profit -- forty times what I had paid the day before. Again I said. "no thanks" and loaded the fifty boxes into the van and drove away.

I drove around for about 2 hours basically seeing if anyone was following me, but, not exactly being a private detective myself, I couldn't really tell. I had a friend who had a warehouse in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, which had two rear loading docks. One was the standard truck-backs-up-to-the-door height and the other was a long ramp which allowed him to park his car inside the warehouse during the winter. It was up this ramp that I drove that afternoon and for the next two hours the van just sat inside the warehouse as my friend and I chatted.

He called his neighbour, who was an off-duty policeman to come over, which he did. I gave him the short-version of the story, and then drove the van back out and down the ramp, this time driving it a bit faster, trying to make anyone watching believe that I had off-loaded the books and that the van was now empty. The ruse must have worked as not more than 15 minutes later, the sound of glass breaking in the warehouse caused both my friend and his policeman neighbour to go running back there.

When they turned on the lights, all they saw was an arm trying to reach through the broken window pane to unlock the door. But as the lights came on, the arm disappeared, coupled with a loud scream. By the time they had unlocked the back door and opened it, all they saw were the tail lights of a dark-colored Ford sedan high-tailing it out of the rear parking lot. When they shone the beam from a flashlight down on the ground just outside the door, they saw a trail of blood -- he had sliced his arm open on the broken glass when startled by the lights coming on!

So, for the next 15 years I quietly sold copies of this gem to Kennedy assassination researchers from all over the world. I also ended up donating probably close to 200 copies to the JFK Assassination Information Center in Dallas which was run by the late Larry Howard and Robert Johnson. Selling these books at the AIC was my way of donating to their cause.

Even though I know so much about the book, I still have so many nagging questions. Who actually were the three operatives? Who was Hervé Lamarr? Who began and financed the project? And finally, who owns the copyright? This last question will be answered, possibly, in the next few years because, when my supply of Farewell America gets down to a few copies, I am going to reprint it. . . . Let's just see who sues ME for libel!!!

Top of the Page

Dangerous Knowledge:
The JFK Assassination in Art and Film

by Art Simon

Review by Jan Stevens

Because many of us are so close to the "cold hard facts" and their accompanying nomenclature surrounding the Kennedy assassination, we may often overlook the incredible impact it has long had on our culture and its art forms. As the most pivotal solo crime of this century (second only to the Holocaust), the president's murder has had its mark felt deeply in American and European films, novels, plays, pop music, (which will be discussed in a future article) graphic arts, editorial cartoons and paintings. The familiar images pour forth and are forever etched upon our minds: young John-John's final salute, the Jack Beers photo of Oswald's execution, Jackie and the surviving brothers leading the funeral procession, Zapruder and others' films; the list goes on and is personal to each of us. However, too rarely do we, as researchers, consider the effect that those historical four days has made on our consciousness -- as reflected in the artistic forms in which it has been expressed these past thirty-three years. Dangerous Knowledge: The JFK Assassination in Art and Film by Art Simon (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996) does just that, and does it exceedingly well. Simon, a film studies professor at New Jersey's Montclair State College, tackles the subject with deep insight, intellectual prowess regarding his material, and a powerful command of the JFK case.

The book begins with "A History of Assassination Literature" and make no mistake -- Simon has done his reading into the works of Weisberg, Meagher, Lane, Buchanan, Summers et al. -- as well as the extensive role of LIFE magazine, the New York Times and other major media in the case through the years. Throughout this work, it is clear that Simon has followed the "assassination debates" (his phrase) a long time, as he continually brings us back to the work of the research community in its various stages, and the often resulting cultural and political backlash and victories that have occurred over the years. With sociological and even learned psychological observations, Simon skillfully refreshes the reader with comparative analyses -- and does it without pretentiousness. Sure, it's a bit high brow at times, but he makes it readily accessible, for the most part. He notes critical reaction to the Warren Report and the media's coverage of same and has good insight into some of the early coverage of the case provided by soft-porn magazines like Gallery, Penthouse, and Playboy. This is briefly tied into several points Simon makes about the crass aspects of the murder as commercialism and sensationalism (as depicted by some of the less scrupulous over the years), and the similarities to the attraction of some pornography is briefly discussed.

Without getting too deeply into the mechanics of the JFK case and the particulars of the specific investigations and theories, it is evident that Simon is aware of them. He is rich in references to not only mainstream assassination works (and also lesser-known but landmark articles by Bruce Cockburn, Jacob Cohen and others) but is also able to draw from a rich palette of academically oriented materials, even quoting Freudian and Jungian psychology treatises, as well as various professional journals. It all makes sense: the insights he brings to the relationships between media reportage, artistic expression, and JFK researchers' work is riveting. It sometimes may take a bit of effort for the less scholastically oriented to follow the colorful quilts of thought woven in Simon's complex prose, but it is quite rewarding nevertheless.

Dangerous Knowledge follows the case developments as an ongoing media story from the earliest writings on through the post-Garrison period (and the resulting "social illegitimacy," to use his words, of the assassination discourse in the public eye) and beyond. It brings together a most satisfying chronicle of the intense activities in the 1970s, beginning with the televised release of the Groden version of the Zapruder film and culminating with the HSCA Report. Besides a few deserved swipes at CBS and Time/Life, even a few of Posner's Case Closed distortions get injected here, and Simon is quite agile in dismissing them as the desperate yet crafty attempts they often are. Along the way, the book continually stresses the importance of the visual image -- how "buffs" (a term he often uses, yet not disparagingly -- he seems to be one of us) have relied on it to disprove the official version. And often, how the images themselves -- actual films and even created artifact -- sometimes replace objective "reality" in many minds. It is another vehicle that makes this book (and the JFK case) unique.

Commenting on a thesis appearing in the film journal The Cinematic Apparatus, Simon writes that all too often, "...[C]amera vision asserts its superiority over the power of the human organ. The photographic image, despite its differences from the world it represents -- its lack of real depth, the limits of the frame or of color -- has been taken as a faithful representation, its differences disavowed. And it in turn has reasserted the dominance of the visible, and improvement on, or guarantor of human vision."

In much of his commentary, the author subtly prepares us for what is to come: his in-depth look at some of the pivotal works of art and film from the Andy Warhol prints of the 1960s through to the major assassination films.

In this reviewer's opinion, Simon spends far too much time on the infamous Warhol silkscreens of Jackie Kennedy, a few are which get reprinted here. (But why?) There are a scant seven illustrations in the book, including an unnecessary duplication of the cover, and two pages of the aforementioned Jackie artwork of Warhol's. Simon even quotes the radical 60s artist's disinterest and neutrality concerning the death of JFK -- yet goes on and on about these works' creative and societal significance. As art critique (a field I am not unfamiliar with) it still reasonably held my interest. As far as being germane to the cultural output of the assassination as subject matter, there are far better choices.

What has been called "alternative art" or even "anti-art" art is given attention as well, with a chapter on 60s filmmaker Bruce Connor's stunning short subject "Report." It is a remarkable work, and if you've never seen it, you should treat yourself to a viewing if, indeed, it can still be located.

Simon compares the artistic convergence of the Warhol and other avant-garde influences and provides an effective verbal picture of the film's content. It is unfortunate that another Connor work, a collage called "Untitled" is given two glossy pages here for its illustration (one half of one page of which is blank) when it obviously has absolutely nothing to do with assassination imagery. It is, of course, an example of Connor's visual sense and choice of content, but a poor and rather surprising choice for a book which takes such care about other detailed matters.

The book then deals with a few minor conceptual videos that were visual commentaries on the Zapruder footage, before going on to the Hollywood productions of Winter Kills, Blow-Out, The Parallax View, Executive Action, and Oliver Stone's JFK. It is here that Professor Simon's film expertise and communicative acumen shine through.

In Part One, Simon presented the thesis that much JFK literature was rooted in a rather liberal agenda, yet "clung to a faith in [governmental] institutions while targeting the sinister forces manipulating them." In other words, writers castigated the government for the cover-up, yet looked pensively to it for a plausible investigative solution. He contends, for example, that authors Sylvia Meagher and Josiah Thompson were writing before "post modern conspiracy" thinking took hold -- i.e., a viewpoint indicative of a broader, yet more personalized and extremist sense of victimization bordering on what Richard Hofstadter called "the paranoid style" in American politics. In the 70s films and beyond, Simon articulates reasons a clear trend in this direction as, in part, a product of the post-Watergate period. These sections of the author's cause-and-effect reasoning have an implicit strength without being overbearing, but it's way too deep to go into here.

Issues like a "tendency [of researchers] to view historical conflict as struggles between absolute good and absolute evil," as he writes, are brought into focus here that have only relatively recently been discussed in JFK journals and Internet groups. While looking at what critics have accomplished (but at what cost?) the author forces us all to look at our community more carefully.

Back to the films: Simon presents a lengthy analysis of Executive Action, calling it "neither a mystery or a quest narrative...[it] represents conspirators who are essentially static, witnesses to history rather than agents of its change." The author notes how the film's main right-wing plotters, Farrington and Foster, present visual lectures throughout -- as opposed to being intensely immersed in the actions of, say, Oswald's New Orleans activities. He contends that the film's reliance on their watching as events take place diminishes their roles visually as the villainous protagonists they are; even as the movie nears its conclusion, they watch passively as the assassination events unfold on TV.

What is most compelling here and throughout is Simon's continual display of familiarity with assassination literature and its political viewpoints as reflected contemporaneously. He distinguishes between the approaches of the sixties, seventies and eighties, etc. Conceptual frameworks are provided which are grounded in previous critical commentary by authors and media pundits. There is a refreshing lack of bias as well -- Simon is not interested in hitting us over the head with any theories (yet it seems intrinsic to his various arguments that Oswald was not the lone assassin).

The more aggressively hostile and activist political climate of the seventies, as reflected in The Parallax View is given similar treatment, with the author contending that the film acted "not as an act of historiography, but as a political intervention." As a narrative, the movie (like Executive Action) blames not a government conspiracy but a type of "power control group," (the Parallax Corporation -- in EA it was far-right business-men and a few former government types). This is a concept more familiar to later assassination newcomers by way of Col. Fletcher Prouty's Secret Team.

Lesser known than some of the others, Winter Kills (from the Richard Condon book of the same name) was finally released in 1983, almost five years after its completion. This black comedy, which starred Jeff Bridges and John Huston, was a fictional account of a Kennedy-esque president gunned down in a Philadelphia motorcade, and his brother's complex machinations (and manipulation by others) in trying to find the truth, as opposed to the film's "Pickering Commission's" Report conclusions of a lone assassin. Solid background about its plot, political ideas, and narrative-visual technique is provided.

Brian Depalma's film Blow-Out (1981) is presented, since its main character's obsession with the photographic and acoustical evidence of a politician's murder seems to mirror so much of the critical community's reliance (and, currently, questions of authenticity about) the recorded assassination images. Of the assassination films discussed, and the ones alluded to (such as In the Line of Fire) I would have liked to see at least two more noted: The 1975 film Three Days of the Condor, a spy thriller with certain obvious, yet indirect relevance to the JFK case, and the always- overlooked 1977 ABC-TV film, The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. Both are part of the cinematic canon as regards the JFK murder and would fit in quite well with Simon's brand of scholarship and cinematic expertise.

The book devotes only the last twenty-two pages to the Stone film, but they are finely tuned and power-packed. Besides astute and effective analyses of Stone's conceptual and political approach and portrayals of the case, such as those that abounded in early 1992, Dangerous Knowledge makes two points about JFK which I believe are worth reiterating.

1) Simon notes that "in replacing the lone assassin theory with the theory of the lone investigator [read: Garrison] the film diminished, at the level of narration though not at the level of imagery, what is so historiographically important about the assassination debate...Although in inter-views Stone acknowledged the collective efforts of assassination critics and argued that the dramatic format required their consolidation within the figure of Garrison, his failure to challenge the conventions of that format reinscribes the simple approach to causality that elsewhere JFK attempts to counter." It is a valid argument brought up partially elsewhere, but Simon tackles it head-on and triumphs in this valid, supportive critique.

2) The books contends that, as in any number of war films (the type which one film critic called the "last stand" picture), Stone's depiction of the loss of Garrison's case against Shaw sets the audience up: "individual wartime losses are represented in order to arouse sympathy for the general cause... Whereas in 1969, the Garrison trial served to divide assassination buffs and send the anti-Warren Commission critics temporarily into retreat, its courtroom failures are resurrected in JFK to suggest the power of the cover-up and the loneliness of the investigator." Simon thinks that Stone unites cinematic and intellectual processes by engaging the viewer to become part of the investigative process. The infamous Costner stare into the camera at the end of his court summation with the words "it's up to you" puts the icing on the cake.

Observations like these -- and even ones Simon makes about JFK that were made before (but far less enigmatically than is done here) -- enliven the book's contextual approach within the framework of the critical literature, the appreciation for the artistic temperament, and the case for conspiracy. As far as other assassination-related works of artistic expression, I just wish Simon had included the aforementioned trading card illustrations, some of the more clever cartoons (Doonesbury especially). a few other films like "Flash-point" and those previously mentioned. Still, there's plenty here and Simon takes the reader inside the creative process, a difficult objective to accomplish when writing about any of the fine arts, and still appeal to the comprehension of the per-haps non-artistically inclined lay person.

Reader, beware: this is not a book to take with you to read at the beach for light summertime reading; Simon's thought processes and sociopolitical savvy will, at times, tax your concentration--but you will be amply rewarded for the effort.

There's serious insight and genuine food for thought here. Professor Simon's observations of the thirty years of JFK assassination research (with impressive footnoting), as reflected in art and the culture of film is fresh, convincing and satisfying. There is the author's finite choices of inclusion, and it is not the final word on the subject, but there is an acute cultural awareness rendered in these pages that is alive with passion for its subject. With a little bit of work once in a while, most readers of Dangerous Knowledge should come away far richer from the experience.

©Jan Stevens 1996. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Top of the Page

Orders to Kill:
The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King Jr.

(New York: Carrol & Graf, 1995)

by William F. Pepper

Review by Terence P. Ripmaster PhD

William F. Pepper is an English barrister as well as an attorney in America. His long years of interpretive and tenacious research have given us an effectively detailed study of the events associated with the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. It will dispel any lingering thoughts that James Earl Ray acted alone that day in Memphis, Tennessee and could even, if taken seriously, result in Ray's release from a 99-year prison sentence.

Pepper begins with a harsh assessment of how the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) handled their investigation of Dr. King's murder, which resulted in the Committee's confirmation that Ray was the lone gunman. However, they did suggest, ever so timidly, that there was a probable conspiracy behind King's assassination. Almost all of their evidence and documentation was then locked up and classified. Through his valiant efforts through the Freedom of Information Act, Pepper has succeeded in freeing up some of these files.

It is no wonder that the government would prefer this information be kept hidden away, as Pepper has presented abundant and apparently verifiable evidence that there was some sort of FBI plot behind the King assassination. Coupled with the FBI's vendetta (and most readers are familiar with Hoover's hatred of MLK), Pepper goes so far as to name names in the Central intelligence Agency, which also had Dr. King under close surveillance through the Operation CHAOS program. (This program was run out of the Office of Security, which enjoyed cooperation with Hoover's other FBI domestic surveillance operations during the 60s.)

The story, as it evolves, is convoluted in every sense of the word. The governments case went like this: James Earl Ray, a drifter with a prior criminal record, rented a room in a cheap boarding house opposite the Lorraine Motel (where Dr. King and his aides were staying) and with a Remington 760 Game master rifle, hit King with one fatal shot. After this, Ray tossed a bag on the street, complete with extra bullets and personal items and took off in a white Ford Mustang. He headed for Canada, took a flight to London, then to Portugal, then back to London and was finally apprehended there on June 8, 1968, two months after King's murder.

He was extradited to the United States and placed in a cell from July 19 until March 10, 1969. For ten months, Ray was watched 24 hours a day and every word of his to the outside world was monitored. As in the case of Lee Harvey Oswald, he had been convicted in the media and could not have received a fair trial.

It must also be recalled that Ray, from the time he allegedly rented the room in Memphis until his arrest in London, used a series of aliases such as Eric Galt, John Willard, Ramon George Sneyd and Paul Bridgeman. Much to his credit , Pepper tracked down each of these names until we find that an "Eric Galt" did exist--and worked on US defense contracts--at Union Carbide in Toronto (where Ray fled after the assassination). Galt had a top secret security clearance.

Then there is the complex story of James Earl Ray's various attorneys. Initially, one Arthur Hanes and his son Arthur Hanes Jr., flew to London to represent Ray. When he arrived back in America, Ray changed lawyers, hiring Percy Forman. Forman was taken ill and a judge appointed Hugh Stanton Sr. as co-counsel. After Ray's conviction (he pleaded guilty) Mark Lane and Jim Lesar became his attorneys until the early 1980s. Pepper is Ray's present counsel.

Orders to Kill explains how writers who were "friendly" to the FBI were selected to publish the first books about Ray. They were Gerald Frank (An American Death) and William Bradford Huie (He Slew the Dreamer). Early critics of the lone assassin theory were JFK luminaries Harold Weisberg (Frame Up) and Mark Lane (Code Name Zorro ).

Ray was born in 1928, had served in the military in World War II, and was a petty criminal who served four prison terms in the 1950s and 60s, escaping from prison in 1967. Pepper skillfully follows almost every step of Ray's life until the day he is incarcerated for King's murder. The trail takes us to New Orleans, where we meet some people associated with figures which assassination researchers are familiar with. There is Myron Millet, an associate of Mob leader Sam Giancana and Joe Chimeno, an operative for Carlos Marcello, and of course, the mysterious "Raul". Other characters playing a role in Pepper's narrative include Oliver Patter-son, an FBI and HSCA source and Frank Liberto, owner of a Memphis produce company.

From J. Edgar Hoover to a list of other names in Pepper's book, there were enough people who despised Martin Luther King to form an army of assassins. But who finally did it? Pepper is convinced (and quite convincing) that James Earl Ray was not the gunman. Many details are presented about a shot from the brushy area nearer to the Lorraine Motel. The author also outlines ballistic data related to the slug taken from King and to the fingerprints on the rifle. None of it can point conclusively to Ray.

When a new hearing was finally convened on December 16, 1993, there was virtually no media coverage. As in the JFK and RFK assassination cases, it seems the media is still dedicated to holding onto the official story.

Pepper presents the following analysis: "There could no longer be any doubt that the chief prosecution witness had been drunk and unable to observe anything... Somehow he [Dr. King] had been mysteriously moved from a secluded ground-level courtyard room to a highly exposed balcony room...As a result of appears conclusive that the fatal shot was fired from the brush area and not from the bathroom [at the rooming house] There were increasing indications that members of the Liberto family at least in Memphis and New Orleans were implicated in the killing (pp. 230-231).

These remarks appear near the middle of the book. Pepper then traces these persons and events to their final conclusions and flatly asserts that Ray was not the killer, but rather that an elaborate conspiracy existed to assassinate MLK.

If he wasn't the killer, who was James Earl Ray? Why did he use the name of Eric Galt, an actual person with a government security clearance? Where was Ray at the exact moment that King was murdered? Was he a patsy, as Pepper claims? Indeed there are points in the book where Pepper seems unable to remove himself from the narrative and his research. He is convinced that there has been a friendly and quite comfortable accommodation between US intelligence agencies and crooks. This is not a new concept to JFK researchers and is hard to doubt given our present understanding of the FBI and CIA's domestic and foreign policy operations of the 1960s.

We now know that Martin Luther King had a resolve to join the civil rights struggle with some of the forces of the anti-War movement and there's abundant evidence in this book that this move had government agency personnel in a spin as to what to do about King's efforts. I would agree with Pepper that it is more than likely that these agencies went into action in order to eliminate Dr. King. Exactly how it was done may never be known. Ray is still alive*, of course, as are others who may have been involved in the plot. Orders to Kill takes us a lot closer to understanding this case and moves us a few steps closer to a solution. Without a doubt, a must-read!

Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

*James Earl Ray died of liver disease, April 23 1998.

Top of the Page

Return Home