I’ve done a lot of reading these hot, summer months, my new passion being…
Who knew Agatha Christie, with a shot of America’s Most Wanted, bubbled through my bloodstream. I should have been tipped off by my O.J. leanings, clearly, in denial…
BUT NOT ANYMORE.
Speaking of The Juice, who walked away from his double-murder rap in 1995 like a thief, or murderer, into the night…
In Contempt, by Christopher Darden (with Jess Walter) 1996, one of the chief prosecuters in The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson. From beginning to end you know, O.J. killed his wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman while our legal system rolled over, blinded by race, seduced by celebrity. Darden’s take is stirring, since the black community shunned him for turning against his own when he was merely, doing his job.
Always interested in both sides….
The Search For Justice, Robert L. Shapiro with Larkin Warren 1996, a member of what became known as, O.J.’s Dream Team, who successfully, and somewhat magically, got him off. A wonderful chaser to Darden’s memoir lacking the emotion, but still compelling. Shapiro, always the gentleman, leaves out how much he wanted to kill fellow dream teamer, Johnny Cochran, with that…if it don’t fit, you gotta acquit, darn glove business.
Since O.J.’s saga was coined, The Trial of a The Century, The Crime of the Century, about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, is a quaint segue.
Cemetery John…Robert Zorn 2012, takes you back to 1932, uncovering who may have really kidnapped Little Lindy from his nursery window, after allegedly executing the wrong guy. Imagine O.J.’s trial 60 years earlier since, it too, was as if the circus came to town, just Jersey instead of California.
Never Enough…Joe McGinnis 2012. Nancy Kissel, 39 years-old, with 3 kids, married to a rich, investment banker at Merrill Lynch, living in Tokyo, decides to kill her husband to be with her blue-collar TV repairman, riding into the sunset with the insurance money, saying it was in self-defense. It’s as though O.J. had a sista.
Who knew, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, was really just a Milton Bradley game.
After Etan, Lisa R. Cohen 2009. The sad, bizarre tale of 6 year-old, Etan Patz, when on May 25, 1972, disappeared on his way to his school bus in downtown Manhattan, changing the laws for tracking down missing children forever. Your heart will ache for Julie and Stanley Patz, still living at their same loft, as if still waiting for Etan, though declared legally dead in 2001, to come back home.
Finding Chandra…Scott Higman and Sara Horwitz 2010, about the disappearance of 24 year-old, Chandra Levy, an American Intern at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington D.C., whose skeletal remains were found a year later, in Rock Creek Park. Reads like a Dominick Dunne novel, especially when you learn she was having a wild affair with married, California Congressman, Gary Condit, 29 years her senior. The book should have been called, Whodunit on the Senate Floor.
Speaking of our favorite sleuth.
Money, Murder and Dominick Dunne…a Life in Several Acts, by Robert Hoflu 2017, is a page-turner suggesting Dunne, who died in 2009, had more lives than an alley cat. Hofler, the little DICKens, decides to air Dunne’s dirty laundry as if Nick, as he was known, lived in a trailer park rather than a rustic home in Connecticut. The murder of his only daughter, alleged star-fucking, along with rumored, random pick-ups of saucy, young men, will keep you engrossed, however, it doesn’t matter what Nick hid in his closet, he was still, one helluva writer.
Have you had enough thrills and chills? Oh, come on, how bout just one more?
New York Notorious, Paul Schwartzman and Rob Polner, 1992. The Reader’s Digest of crime, a collection of short, pithy essays on every murder in New York’s history, from ‘Crazy Joe’ Gallo getting whacked while eating scungilli in Little Italy, to 123 women dying in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Greenwich Village, cruising uptown to The Chelsea Hotel where Sid Vicious, of the Sex Pistols, stabbed Mrs.Vicious, to death. Love their brevity, a refreshing change, since it made me feel, kinda like, Damon Runyon, in a twinset.
Triangle: The Fire That Changed America, David Von Drehle, 2003. One book leads to another, I always say, so reading how, on March 25, 1911, as garment workers prepared to leave for the day, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, consuming the building’s upper three floors, killing 146 people, mostly young women, many jumping to their deaths. If only those cobblestones on Washington Place, now a National Historic Landmark, could talk, what a tale they could tell.
Alright, alright, I’ll lighten up a bit.
Never The Less, Alec Baldwin, 2017. Too much? It’s actually good in spots, like his early acting days, and childhood in Massapequa. Of course, when he starts being pompous Alec, the book takes a nosedive, his ego, the size of Wyoming, grabbing the wheel.
Mistakes We’ve Made; Some in French, Fiona Lewis, 2017. Now she knows how to pen a memoir…a 60s actress turned screenwriter, married to a prominent producer with lavish lore under her belt, such as being invited to spend what turned out to be, Sharon Tate’s last night, cancelling at the last minute. Candor mewls on each page, coated in heartfelt humility. Are you listening Alec?
Seabiscuit, Laura Hildenbrand, 2011. It was even better the second time, and boy, can this lady write. A tale of three, tragic people saved by their mutual humanity and love of one, noble horse. I wept, I cheered and may even have whinnied, as The Biscuit came barrelin round the stretch.
The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky, 2006. Did you know New York, instead of the Big Apple, could have easily been called, the Big Oyster, since, up till the early 1900s, so many nested in our harbor, even the poorest soul could afford them? Wow, considering now, they could go for 6 bucks a piece, you can’t help but be in awe, and think of the pearls that may have come as a side dish.
House of Outrageous Fortune, Michael Gross…15 Central Park West, the World’s Most Powerful Address, 2014. All I know, ten pages in, I changed into my best dress and pumps being in the printed presence of such wealth and privilege. Gross, a topnotch writer…a cross between Sherlock Holmes, Somerset Maugham and a Navy Seal, fiercely reports what life is like behind all those dollar signs, in this case, by the square foot. A fascinating read.
Hallelujah Anyway, Anne Lamott, 2017. We all need a little Annie, that queen of candor, and her tender, delightful two cents…essays on mercy and forgiveness that prod open one’s heart, not to mention consciousness, causing you to cleanup those spiritual closets.
Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott, 1994. When her young brother sat overwhelmed at the family kitchen table, having to write a school assignment on birds, he said to their father, “Dad, how can I do this by tomorrow?” And he said, “Bird by bird buddy…bird by bird.” What I refer to as, the Writer’s Bible.
Unless, Carol Shields, 2002. Not much of a novel reader, this 200 page stunner, a birthday gift, about a writer and her family, had me by the short hair. There’s nothing like purely penned prose to breathe new life into one’s own. As I’ve heard it said…we writers, aspire to inspire, and Shields leads the pack.
Crackpot, John Waters, 1986. An acquired taste, I’ll admit, but like tuna tartare or Tab, once you like it, that’s all he wrote. Waters, the consummate nut, cheerfully spilling his guts without passing go, makes you laugh while hiding the book in the sports page. He gets A for candor, and another, for shock…oh that Johnny.
Conversations With Capote, Lawrence Grobel, 1985. Truman’s last interview reading like a brush fire, filled with brilliance and the casual evil he was so famous for. Sad in spots, since alcohol and drugs have taken their toll, but you get an idea of the addicted, tormented artist wielding his wit like a swish…blade (Couldn’t resist).
Hell No, Tom Hayden, 2017. His last say, since he died at 76 in October, 2016, one of the leaders of the Chicago Seven…his heartfelt feelings on Vietnam, and why those who protested must be honored, remembered and appreciated. Alas, a wonderful way to take flight.
The American Spirit, David McCullough, 2017. The John Lennon of historians who never fails to educate and captivate…a collection of his speeches many given at colleges where he tells the graduates, how vital it is to read. Amen, Mr. MCullough…Amen.
The Year of Voting Dangerously, Maureen Down 2016. Esteemed columnist for the New York Times, a selection of smart, irreverent essays on Trump and Hillary that will have you laughing, despite Tweets, secret emails and the sad fact our country is presently mired in such deep shit.
JFK’s Last 100 Days, Thurston Clarke, 2013. It’s so interesting to me what came before that fateful day in Dallas…the plans he had, how he felt about things. Clarke, who penned my favorite Bobby book, The Last Campaign, brings you back to the fall of 1963, before our country changed forever.
Nemesis, Peter Evans, 2009. The hatred between Aristotle Onassis and Robert Kennedy flies off the page as they fight over Jackie, Bobby so against their impending marriage, Evans claiming, Ari chipped in to have Bobby, pushed out of the way, permanently. Is it true? Read it, then you tell me.
I Heard You Paint Houses; Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheehan & The Inside Story of The Mafia, The Teamsters, & The Last Days of Jimmy Hoffa, Charles Brandt, 2004. How’s that for a title? James Hoffa, notorious president of the Teamsters Union before Bobby, in 1967, put him jail, pardoned by Nixon in 1971, disappeared on July 30, 1975, never to be seen again. 28 years later, his best pal, Frank Sheehan, an eternal suspect, gives Mr. Brandt a deathbed confession that had me and my pal Ed on the edge of our sofas. It’s the Godfather with the Sopranos, along with Goodfellas, On the Waterfront. No wonder they’re making a film as we speak, with Pacino as Hoffa, and Di Niro, The Irishman.
The Revolution of Robert Kennedy, John Bohrer, 2017. Just when you think you know everything, more lore is revealed. Who knew, after his brother’s death, RFK wanted in the worst way to be LBJ’s Vice-President, despite the no love between them, Johnson just stringing him along until he finally resigns as Attorney General to run for the Senate.
The Library Lion, Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes, 2009. A swift, sweet read for all ages, with illustrations that will make you…well, roar. I warn you though, you’ll want a big, old lion, of your very own, to read and rest your head on. And why shouldn’t you have one?
The Secret in the Old Attic, Carolyn Keene, 1944. Getting back to True Crime…if you just want to get your feet wet, for me, it all began with Nancy Drew way back when. Who knew, at 10, that Nancy would be to blame for my giddy, gallopping, ghoulish streak.