Book Review: Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

 

  • Confederates in the Attic – Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
  • by Tony Horwitz
  • Publisher – Vintage Departures
  • Copyright 1998
  • 390 pages

Rating - 9/10

Summary - The

Review – To its critics, the United States is a nation with a) little history and b) little appetite for remembering the history that we do have. Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic suggests that at least the “b” part might not be entirely true. Roughly 20 years ago, he revisited the Civil War’s old battlefields and spoke with many Americans to see why we are still so passionately divided about the war.

Vivid Portraits – People & Places

Perhaps the best thing about the book is that Horwitz can just flat write, introducing readers to colorful people and taking them to memorable places.

One of Horwitz’s best decisions was to examine the Civil War “reenactors” who like to stage mock versions of the old battles. He finds that the Confederacy remains wildly popular; at many reenactments “Rebels” outnumber “Yankees” 2 to 1, though the Yankees almost always had more soldiers during the original battles. Surprisingly, many of the Rebels are not from the states of the old Confederacy.

Perhaps the most-memorable person in the book is “hardcore” reenactor Robert Lee Hodge. “Hardcore” re-enactors try to live as much like Civil War soldiers as is possible. (If you’re not hardcore, you’re a “farb” and prone to “farbing out”). Among Hodge’s “super hardcore” activities are –

  • Eating only foods that were available during the war,
  • Wearing uniforms that are made of the same materials as the originals,
  • Sleeping in fields, while “spooning” with other reenactors,
  • Dieting down to a skeletal weight as Civil War soldiers were poorly fed and marched up to 1000 miles per year. (They weighed – on average – about 135 pounds).
  • And bloating on demand – just like a real corpse – after “dying” in battle.

Hodge is kind of nutty, but the reader likes him anyway.

Horwitz’s portrait of Charleston, South Carolina, – “…the most agreeable piece of urban real estate I’d yet visited in America” (p. 50) – reveals a lot about the “culture war,” while making you want to visit. While in Charleston, Horwitz gets a tour of the city’s famous Battery district, which has many old mansions. His guide tells him that many of the Battery’s residents are from faded, old families, their decrepit mansions falling apart because their owners are “Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash” (p. 59).

Westerman Case

Horwitz’s basic thesis is that people often see the war through the imperfect lens of the present. Visiting a high school class here in Alabama, Horwitz finds that many students know almost nothing about the war, including in which century it occurred.

Further illustrating Horwitz’s point is the Westerman case from Kentucky. In 1995, 19-year old Michael Westerman was driving with his wife, Hannah, in his pickup truck. Westerman’s truck had a large Rebel flag attached to a pole in the truck’s bed. As Michael and Hannah drove away from a convenience store, four black teenagers chased them and fired shots, killing Michael.

The case set of a firestorm over the meaning of the flag and what should happen to the four teenagers. Horwitz walked into the firestorm, going to Kentucky as the case unwound. As is often the case in Confederates, Horwitz finds that people’s perceptions vary – and are often driven by their emotions. (In one ironic twist, Hannah Westerman (Michael’s widow), says that James didn’t really care that much about the Rebel flag – he flew it because its red color matched the truck).

The opening scene of the Westerman chapter, in which Horwitz journeys into a low-rent bar called Redbone’s is unforgettable. He finds that the bar recently hosted a “Thank God for James Earl Ray” party on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In the end, Horwitz is very lucky to get out of the bar without a severe beating.

Taps

Horwitz shows that the way that we interpret the past reveals as much about us as it does about the past itself. Whatever your view, if you care about the Civil War at all, you will enjoy Horwitz’s account and be left with a lot to ponder.

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Book Review: X-Rated by David McCumber

  • X-Rated – The Mitchell Brothers: A True Story of Sex, Money and Death
  • by David McCumber
  • Publisher – Pinnacle Books
  • Copyright 1996
  • 539 pages

Rating - 6.5/10

Summary - The Mitchell brothers were two California hustlers who came along at just the right moment (the 1960s) to become pornography kingpins. The times and their fun-loving ways made them counterculture heroes. But the good times faded and one brother ended up dead, shot to death by the other. David McCumber recounts their story in the “pretty-good” book, X-Rated.

Review - In 1940s central California, two brothers (Jim and Artie Mitchell) are born into a family of transplanted “Okies”. The Mitchells are a little different; father, J.R, is a professional gambler who makes a nice living playing lowball. Still, the boys do reasonably well in school and don’t seem headed for any particular notoriety.

Enter the 1960s. Searching for their ways in the world, Jim and Artie fall into pornography which booms as society’s mores change. The Mitchells’ panache and love of a good fight leads them to produce the first porn epic (Behind the Green Door) and makes them hippie royalty.

As time passed, the brothers’ paths diverged. Jim was the levelheaded brother who “made the trains run on time.” Artie was the eternal teenager, partying nonstop. Unsurprisingly, tensions arose. In February 1991, Jim went to Artie’s home where he shot and killed Artie. X-Rated traces the Mitchell brothers’ story up to the end of Jim’s criminal trial for the killing.

Big, Rambling Book

Author David McCumber does not use the “just-the-facts” approach favored by many true-crime authors. Rather, his style is both more literary and more partisan. The “literary techniques” bring to mind Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. As was true of Norman’s Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, X-Rated contains many diversions and, as a result, kills quite many trees. For instance, an entire section details Artie Mitchell’s many, twisted relationships with women. While a bit jarring at first, the segment is excellent; it reveals both Artie’s complex personality and the reasons so many women became involved with him.

Other strong material details Artie’s final days. It’s detailed and graphic, but you can’t stop reading. The sad story of an addict’s end reminded me of the end of Wired, Bob Woodward’s biography of John Belushi.

Clunky Prose

While McCumber (or someone) did a great job of gathering material, his writing is often weak. Simply put, he gets in the way of the story. Rather than simply telling an excellent tale, McCumber wants the reader to know that he’s a hipster who enjoys the Mitchells’ attacks on the bourgeoisie. One of the readers on Amazon.com called McCumber a “wannabe Hunter S. Thompson.” That’s a pretty good way of describing the book’s shortcomings. Like Thompson, McCumber’s feelings about events are central to the story; unlike, Thompson (at his best), McCumber’s views are seldom insightful or interesting.

(To be fair, I cannot fathom the one-star reviews on Amazon. X-Rated is imperfect, but there are enough hooks – “Sex, Money, and Death” as the cover states – to rate at least three stars).

A final criticism is that – after a tedious recount of Jim Mitchells’ trial – the book ends before fully resolving the criminal case and the lawsuits that followed. I can understand why McCumber had to go to press, but readers will have to “Google” the Mitchells to tie up the loose ends.

Merry Pranksters – or Degenerates?

People will have varied reactions to the Mitchells. Some will see them as harmless, life-of-the-party types who lived a stoned version of the American dream. Others will see them as pimps who made money from desperate young women. Your opinion may reveal more about you than it does about Artie and Jim. My feelings are ambivalent. The Mitchells were fun. Reading about Artie’s debauched nights in San Francisco made me want to head for the nearest bar. At the same time, the Mitchells often were ruthless users.

Another disturbing aspect of the story (little explored by McCumber) is how quickly  Artie’s friends forgave Jim once Artie was dead and no longer useful to them. Since many of the friends worked for the Mitchells, it seems that they voted with their wallets when they decided that they didn’t need to be too vocal about demanding “Justice for Artie.”

One Story – Two Books

Back in the 1990s, I read John Hubner’s account of the Mitchell Brothers’ story, Bottom Feeders. Hubner takes a much-dimmer view of the Mitchells.

For almost all readers, one Mitchell Brothers story will suffice. Which one would I recommend? I enjoyed both books, but Bottom Feeders is fuzzy in my memory. For the simple reason that Bottom Feeders is about 100 pages shorter, I’d probably choose it. X-Rated has better material, but it’s weighed down by McCumber’s awkward style and personal statements about the culture wars.

Judged on its own merits, X-Rated is a pretty-good book. You have to wade through some of it, but it’s a memorable, “Only-in-America” story.

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Book Review – Dad by William Wharton

  • Dad
  • by William Wharton
  • Publisher – Avon
  • Copyright 1981
  • 421 pages

Rating - 9/10

Summary - An American artist has chosen to live in France, in large part to escape his parents. However, he must return to southern California to deal with his parents’ failing health. This is the plot of Dad, an amazing, bittersweet, autobiographical novel by William Wharton.

Review - In 1979, William Wharton’s novel Birdy became a sleeper hit – a highly-original novel by a first-time, 53-year-old author. There’s not a lot of direct competition for the story of a shell-shocked World War II soldier who feels that he can communicate with birds. Just as surprising was that Wharton repeated his success with another unique novel – 1981’s Dad. As was true of Birdy, Dad forces the reader to think about our often-heartbreaking lives.

Two Plots in One

“Wherever you go, there you are” has become an accepted bit of folk wisdom. In Dad, artist John Tremont’s new life eventually brings him back to the place – and issues – he had hoped to avoid. Home again in southern California, Tremont and his parents try to confront life’s inevitable failures and frustrations while there is still time.

The above thread takes up most of Dad and would be a sufficient basis for an excellent novel. But Wharton adds something else. In the second thread, John Tremont’s son, Bill, is coming of age and is often at odds with John.

The two father-son interactions suggest that growing older and letting go of our loved ones is a bridge that we all must cross. The “dual plot” works because Wharton shows considerable skill in “cutting” between John Tremont’s interactions with his parents (in southern California) and his interactions with his son (on a car trip across the U.S.).

Growth and Tension

The title Dad can be a little misleading. In truth, the novel deals with John Tremont’s interactions with his entire family, including his wife, children, and sister. At the beginning of the novel, Tremont’s parents both suffer health problems in quick succession.

As the plot develops, it becomes apparent that Tremont’s mother is a difficult person. As her health declines, Tremont’s father becomes more independent and – at his son’s urging – begins to grow in unexpected ways. Of course, this causes friction in the parents’ marriage.

Criticisms

While Dad is excellent, some aspects of “Dad’s” journey aren’t 100% believable. As he awakens to the world’s possibilities, he tries a number of new activities. A couple of plot twists that didn’t “ring true” for me involved Dad’s desire to ride on John’s motorcycle and – even less believably – a scene in which Dad ends up smoking pot with some bohemians.

Also, Dad contains an unflattering portrait of Tremont’s mother. While you learn the reasons behind her controlling behavior, you still don’t like her. At times, you feel as though she serves only to antagonize the other characters, that she isn’t a fully-realized character.

Last, whether it was Wharton’s intention or not, John Tremont is something of an elitist. He shares the snob’s disdain for America as a cultural wasteland, relative to Europe. Perhaps Wharton hoped to reveal some of Tremont motivation for leaving the U.S.; or perhaps Wharton wanted to depicting Tremont as a real, flawed person.

Summary

Our media depicts a society of young, healthy, wealthy, and happy people. A look at the “real world” shows us that – for better or worse – there’s much more to life than that. Dad forces us to ponder conflict, decline, and death. It’s not the fantasy that typically sells beer, cars, and cosmetics.

Surprisingly, Wharton forces us to look, but makes it worth our while. Dad is often bittersweet, but it is “holds” the reader because it relates to “the human condition” that we all share. You will not go away unmoved. I recommend it.

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Book Review: Topanga Beach Experience by Paul Lovas

  • Topanga Beach Experience: 1960s – 70s 

  • by Paul Lovas (as told to Pablo Capra)
  • 
Publisher – Brass Tacks Press

  • Copyright 2011

  • 43 pages

Rating - 7.5/10

Summary - Topanga Beach Experience is a chapbook recounting Paul Lovas‘ experiences there during the 1960s and 1970s. The book is short, but has some great anecdotes about bohemian life in Topanga before gentrification. At the end, the reader is left to ponder what we can learn about life from Lovas’ stories.

Review - In the short book Topanga Beach Experience, Paul Lovas recounts his experiences living on Topanga Beach during the 1960s and 70s. He has a great collection of stories about how he and his friends “lived for the moment.”

The Topanga Destroyer

Lovas’ place in the world came about by happenstance. Back in the 1960s, he had a high school friend whose parents had a beach house on Topanga Beach. Lovas and the friend began surfing Topanga and Lovas then moved to Topanga, where he has lived since the sixties.

Eventually, Lovas acquired a reputation as an excellent surfer and friends dubbed him “The Topanga Destroyer.” Much of Topanga Beach Experience centers on the ways that surfing shaped Lovas’ life.

Vignettes

43 short chapters comprise the book, which loosely arranges the vignettes in chronological order. The chapters start with Lovas’ high school experiences and run to the 2000s. However, almost all of the book centers on the 1960s and 1970s.

For the most part, Topanga Beach Experience is lighthearted. Lovas recounts how he spent his early years surfing and partying with the creative people who drifted through Topanga. (In one memorable scene, Lovas and actor Jan-Michael Vincent barely escape getting arrested for drugs. In another, Lovas and a friend “take over” a beach house that Bob “Bear” Hite of Canned Heat had recently rented and trashed).

However, the book has a more-sobering, serious side. Lovas also discusses:

  • the Vietnam draft,
  • the time a good friend of his was stabbed in the heart. (He lived).
  • And the destruction of Topanga’s beach community by (first) floods and (then) the State of California.

Whatever the topic and tone, the book is consistently interesting.

Areas for Improvement

Prospective buyers should know that Topanga Beach Experience is not a “true book” – it’s a chapbook and the printing reflects that. It’s something of a cross between a pamphlet and a book. There are 18 pages of interesting pictures, though they are grainy, black-and-white. (There are 43 pages of text, as the “photo pages” are not numbered). Moreover, the pages’ size varied a little, which gives the book an “untidy” appearance.

One thing that I would have liked to have read is a bit more reflection at the end of the book. Lovas sums up simply by stating that “success is just a smile on your face.” It’s not a bad way to end, but Lovas has lived an unconventional lifestyle in a place that has been a center of many of the social changes in the U.S. since the 1960s. Paul’s reflections on “what it all means” would have been welcome.

Summary

Topanga Beach Experience is a fun, lighthearted look at a world that – for the most part – no longer exists. It’s also cheap – with shipping, my copy set me back $7.50. I recommend it to anyone interested in the 1960s, bohemians, surfing, or southern California.

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Book Review: Privileged Information by Tom Alibrandi with Frank H. Armani

  • Privileged Information – The Gripping True Story of an Attorney Who Risked Everything to Protect His Client’s Horrifying Secrets
  • by Tom Alibrandi with Frank H. Armani
  • Publisher – Harper Paperbacks
  • Copyright 1984
  • 314 pages

Rating - 8.5/10

Summary - This a true-crime story with a twist. On one level, it’s the story of Robert Garrow, a cold-blooded- but canny – rapist and murderer who terrorized upstate New York in the 1970s. On another, it’s the story of an attorney wrestling with his conscience about his duties to a client who has brought agony to so many lives.

Review - A few weeks ago, I was loafing in a thrift store and I came across Privileged Information. I was uncertain about whether I should buy it, but I thought that it had to be worth a dollar. It was a good decision as the largely-forgotten story makes for a top-notch book.

Robert Garrow

The villain at the center of Privileged is Robert Garrow. Garrow was born in 1936 in Mineville, New York. His childhood was horrific. He suffered physical abuse by his dysfunctional parents who sent him to live on a neighbor’s farm at age seven. On the farm, Garrow had no children to play with, worked all day long, and eventually began having sex with the animals. Garrow later joined the Air Force but spent most of his service time behind bars.

Unsurprisingly, Garrow became a violent criminal. He had a particular animus toward long-haired men and petite women. Garrow spent eight years in prison but, after his 1969 release, seemed to calm down and live an exemplary family life. However, Garrow could only stay on track for so long; as the book begins in July 1973, Garrow is roaming upstate New York, committing rape and murder.

One good “hook” in the story is that Garrow’s considerable “street smarts” make him more interesting than the typical, violent criminal. He was skilled at eluding capture and showed that he knew how to manipulate both the legal and prison systems.

Enter the Attorneys

Author Armani found himself appointed to defend Garrow. At the time, Armani had a wife, two daughters, and a successful Syracuse law practice. But the Garrow case would nearly destroy him.

Given the mountain of evidence against Garrow, an acquittal was very unlikely. Armani and his co-counsel (a flamboyant man named Francis Belge) tried to construct an insanity defense. A moral dilemma arose when Garrow revealed that he had committed several murders and told the attorneys where he had left the victims’ bodies.

The victims’ families were desperate to find their loved ones. However, the attorneys could not reveal the location of the bodies – information that clients reveal to their attorneys is privileged. When it later emerged that Armani and Belge had failed to help authorities locate the bodies, the two attorneys faced dire consequences. (Forty years later, the case is still widely cited, as a Google search will reveal).

Well Done

The “confidentiality” angle adds a lot, but Privileged Information would still be terrific without the issue. Simply put, the book is “well done” on all levels.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the authors’ vivid portrait of upstate New York. I took a trip to the region way back in 1981 and it brought back some fond memories. As in the best books, the authors make you feel as though you are there. Another bonus is that you learn a lot about the practice of law in a small town. The attorneys and judges all know each other – at least by reputation – and it influences the way they conduct the case.

Summary

Privileged Information doesn’t look like much, just a mass-market paperback with 8 pages of grainy pictures. Don’t be fooled. It’s a fascinating, well-written story that will appeal to all true-crime fans.

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Book Review: Goat Brothers by Larry Colton

Goat Brothers
by Larry Colton
Publisher – Doubleday
Copyright 1993
559 pages

Rating - 9/10

Summary - In 1977 Sara Davidson published a memoir titled Loose Change, which recounted the lives of Davidson and two of her sorority sisters from the University of California (Berkeley) from the early-1960s to the mid-1970s.

In 1979, Larry Colton and Steve Radich, two men who had attended Berkeley during the same period, were discussing Davidson’s book. Radich told Colton (a journalist) that he should write about some of the men who attended Berkeley at the same time. Perhaps surprisingly, Colton followed through and the result is Goat Brothers.

Review - Back in the early-1960s, five men pledged the “jock” fraternity at the University of California – Berkeley. Over the following three decades, against the backdrop of a changing America, these men found their way in the world – albeit with many wrong turns. One of them – author Larry Colton – recounts their five stories in the compelling Goat Brothers.

Who are the five “Goat Brothers?”

In their fraternity’s argot, Goat Brothers were the pledges (prospective members) who went through Hell Week together before becoming brothers (full members). The five men in Colton’s book are -

  1. Larry Colton – the author and chief protagonist. Colton was a Cal baseball star who married actress Hedy Lamarr’s beautiful daughter, Denise. Colton made it all of the way to baseball’s major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies. But the dream was not what he’d thought it would be. Eventually, Colton landed in Portland where he lived a hand-to-mouth existence as a freelance writer and single dad. You have to give Colton credit for telling many unflattering stories about himself. (He also tells unflattering stories about his buddies and this “warts-and-all” characteristic helps make Goat Brothers very readable).
  2. Loren Hawley – a star football and rugby player at Cal – and the life of every party. At Cal and afterward, Hawley was best buddies with quarterback Craig Morton, who went on to a long NFL career. Stories of Hawley’s partying are some of the best reading in Goat Brothers. Unfortunately, Hawley was also the child of a dysfunctional family, a world-class dissembler who brought pain into his life – and the lives of many whom he touched. Hawley is the most-ambivalent character in Goat Brothers.
  3. Like Hawley, Steve Radich was also a football star and –  again like Hawley – he evokes ambivalent reactions from the reader.  Radich had many secrets, perhaps that biggest was that he had gotten a woman pregnant and “done the right thing” by marrying her before their son was born. At that point, Radich stopped doing the right thing and had nothing else to do with his wife or new son. As the years passed, Radich (who worked at his family’s successful car dealership) drifted, searching, from one thing to another while engaging in riskier and riskier behavior.
  4. Jim van Hoften – who was on the crew team at Cal, was an achiever and the most likable of the group by far. He was always an outcast in the fraternity and would later recall his four years at Cal as the worst time of his life. But after Cal he went to graduate school, became a fighter pilot, then a college professor, and later an astronaut on the Challenger space shuttle. Seemingly, van Hoften was the only one of the five to escape the 1960s without deep scars.
  5. A third football player, Ron Vaughan had the saddest story of the Goat Brothers. Unbeknownst to anyone, he was one-eighth black in a fraternity that did not admit blacks. Vaughan bore down while in school and earned a degree in architecture. But after Cal, he drifted into homelessness and mental illness, enduring several hospitalizations. Ron is likable, but he’s something of a “sad sack.” The reader wants him to stand up for himself.

How Unique?

One question that dogs the reader is how typical these five men are of their generation. Certainly, they lived dramatic lives in dramatic times. Disappointment left many of them with lingering unhappiness, particularly toward the women in their lives. But were these guys were unique? After all, most of us find that many of our youthful goals were unattainable – or not what we wanted to achieve, after all. Moreover, few of us escape love’s slings and arrows completely unscathed.

Boys versus Girls – Colton’s Goat Brothers versus Davidson’s Loose Change

Is the “sequel” (Goat Brothers) better than its original inspiration (Loose Change)? This is a difficult question. I prefer Goat Brothers, but a woman might prefer Loose Change.

In my humble opinion, Goat Brothers is superior because it follows the characters into their early-50s, while Loose Change follows its characters only into their mid-30s. The women in Loose Change were still “works in progress”at the time of its publication and it is difficult for the reader to see what they would make of their lives. A second reason that I prefer Goat Brothers is that Loose Change author Sara Davidson used pseudonyms for her sorority sisters and changed some details of their life stories. I much prefer Colton’s use of his fraternity brothers’ real names and their true (if sometimes-messy) life stories. (Goat Brothers also has photos of the characters, which Davidson obviously couldn’t include in Loose Change if she wished to protect her subjects’ privacy).

Still, you can’t go wrong with either book. (My 2012 review of Loose Change is here – http://mobilemojoman.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/book-review-loose-change-three-women-of-the-sixties/).

SummaryColton’s Moment

In Goat Brothers Larry Colton recounts his long career as a writer, with its many ups and downs. I believe that – when it’s all said and done – Goat Brothers will stand as Colton’s “moment” as a writer. He makes you care about these guys – warts and all – for 560 pages. He also makes you reflect on the long, winding path that your acquaintances and you are taking through this world.

Reading Goat Brothers is a big investment of your time, but Colton makes it a rewarding experience. (Twenty years after initial publication, readers will want an update on these five; a few updates are available on the ‘net).

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Book Review: Deadly Weekend by John Dillmann

Deadly Weekend – A True Story of Obsession and Murder
by John Dilmann
Publisher – Berkely
Copyright 1991
256 pages

Rating - 8/10

Summary - The murder of a wealthy physician (who was also a closet homosexual) in one of the world’s most exotic cities sounds like the plot of a detective show. Sadly, it actually happened in New Orleans in January 1978. The detective on the case, John Dillmann, recounts the story in the good true crime book Deadly Weekend.

Review - A common plot in literature is the person who is – in some way – out of place. John Dillmann’s Deadly Weekend recounts a real-life tragedy that follows this storyline. In the 1970s Dr. Mark Sheppard was a successful anesthesiologist in St. Petersburg, Florida. However, unbeknownst to most people, Sheppard was a closeted gay who frequently traveled to New Orleans where he spent his time amongst the black “hustlers” of the gay community.

While in New Orleans, Sheppard constantly tempted fate, exploring the seediest corners of the Crescent City with some of its most-disreputable characters. Sadly, this would lead to tragedy as Dr. Smith became a murder victim. The case fell to Detective John Dillmann who later became a successful author by recounting some of his more-notable cases in four true crime books.

John Dillmann

The case soon bogged down and Dillmann found himself traveling to St. Petersburg to look for clues. As Dillmann’s investigation proceeded, he uncovered more of the details of Sheppard’s secret life. These revelations give Deadly Weekend a voyeuristic quality that makes the reader feel (slightly) guilty about reading the book. Given that Sheppard worked so hard to cover up his secret life, it is a bitter irony that his secrets were blown into the open by his murder.

New Orleans

New Orleans is one of my favorite places and my love for it led me to read Deadly Weekend. Indeed, The Crescent City plays a co-starring role in all of Dillmann’s books. Those who have visited “NOLA” will recognize many of the City’s landmarks. But Deadly Weekend exposes the seamy backwaters that don’t make the tourist brochures. The reader enjoys the armchair travel.

No Guarantees

One of the best things about the Dillmann books is that they present police work and the legal process, as they are – and not as we would like them to be. Dillmann and his colleagues on the New Orleans Police Department constantly had to “make do” with inadequate funding and low salaries that required them to spend much of their time “moonlighting.”

Moreover, when the cases moved to trial, there were no guarantees that justice would be served. This uncertainty helps build the suspense in Deadly Weekend and the other four books. It must also be said, unfortunately, that the four books lose a lot of their momentum when the cases come to trial; Dillmann cannot maintain Deadly Weekend’s momentum when the lawyers take charge of the proceedings.

Motivation

In Deadly Weekend, Dillmann writes in a straightforward style. He spends relatively little time ruminating on the victims, the crimes, and the criminals who commit them. This can be good in that Dillmann doesn’t tell the reader what to think. At the same time, the reader wants to know why a successful person such as Dr. Sheppard  behaved in a way that could only end badly for him. There are no answers in the pages of Deadly Weekend – you have to speculate as to what drove Sheppard.

Summary

The Reed Business review on Amazon.com -

(link – http://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Weekend-John-Dillman/dp/042513072X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388592602&sr=1-1&keywords=deadly+weekend%2C+john+dillman

- states that Deadly Weekend isn’t up to the level of Dillmann’s earlier efforts (Unholy Matrimony & The French Quarter Killers). I disagree. Granted, Unholy Matrimony is difficult to beat, but Deadly Weekend is at least its equal and is considerably better than The French Quarter Killers (and the fourth book in the series, Blood Warning). Having said that, all four books will appeal to true crime fans who want to read about New Orleans’ underworld. For those interested in Dillmann’s books, Deadly Weekend is a great place to start.

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