Monday, 30 March 2015

The Neon Lawyer by Victor Methos

Paperback:  At his best, men is the noblest of animals.  Separated from law and justice, he is the worst. - Aristotle

A young lawyer gets in over his head but he won't go down without a fight.

With money and hope in short supply, newly minted attorney Brigham Theodore decides it's time to lower his standards.  He joins a seedy fly-by-night firm in Salt Lake City out of desperation.  After he loses his first case - a speeding ticket - he's convinced his career is over but to his shock, his boss hands him a slightly more complex case:  a capital murder.

Brigham's new client is Amanda Pierce, a lost, exhausted woman who gunned down the man who tortured and killed her six-year-old daughter.  A jury may prove sympathetic to her unbearable pain but the law is no fan of vigilante justice and neither is Vince Dale, the slick and powerful prosecutor who's never lost a murder case.

There's no question that Amanda pulled the trigger - she did it in front of five witnesses.  If she pleads guilty, she will avoid a death sentence but saving her life this way comes with an admission that what she did was wrong.  However, if she refuses the "guilty" label, Brigham will have no choice but to fight for his career and Amanda's life.

The Neon Lawyer (2014) is based on a true story.

About the author:  Victor Methos was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and lived in Pakistan and Iran before permanently settling in the United States.  A fluent speaker of several Middle Eastern languages, he studied science, philosophy and religion at the University of Utah before attending law school.  He's worked as a prosecutor specializing in violent crime and is currently a criminal defense attorney at a multi-million dollar law firm, a serial entrepreneur, and an international bestselling author who’s written over forty books.  He’s currently signed with Thomas & Mercer and has sold over half a million books since 2011.

His current goals are to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on earth, and hopefully not die in the process and be ridden down a mountain as a sled by the survivors.  He divides his time between San Diego, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

Rating:  3/5

Monday, 23 March 2015

Under The Banner Of Heaven: A Story Of Violent Faith (Non-Fiction) by Jon Krakauer

Paperback:  Almost everyone in Utah County has heard of the Lafferty boys.  That's mostly a function of the lurid murders, of course, but the Lafferty surname had a certain prominence in the county even before Brenda and Erica Lafferty were killed.  Watson Lafferty, the patriarch of the clan, was a chiropractor who ran a thriving practice out of his home in downtown Provo's historic quarter.  He and his wife, Claudine, had six boys and two girls, in whom they instilled an unusually strong work ethic and intense devotion to the Mormon Church.  The entire family was admired for its industriousness and probity.

Allen - the youngest of the Lafferty children, now in his mid-forties - works as a tile setter, a trade he has plied since he was a teenager.  In the summer of 1984, he was living with his twenty-four-year-old wife and baby daughter in American Fork, a sleepy, white-bread suburb alongside the freeway that runs from Provo to Salt Lake City.

Brenda, his spouse, was a onetime beauty queen recognized around town from her tenure as the anchor of a newsmagazine program on channel 11, the local PBS affiliate.  Although she had abandoned her nascent broadcasting career to marry Allen and start a family, Brenda had lost none of the exuberance that had endeared her to television viewers.  Warm and outgoing, she'd made a lasting impression.

On the morning of 24 July 1984, Allen left their small duplex apartment before the sun was up and drove eighty miles up the interstate to work at a construction site east of Ogden.  During his lunch break, he phoned Brenda, who catted with him for a minute before putting their fifteen-month-old daughter, Erica, on the line.  Erica gurgled a few words of baby talk;  then Brenda told her husband everything was fine and said goodbye.

Allen arrived home around eight that evening, tired from the long workday.  He walked up to the front door and was surprised to find it locked;  they almost never locked their doors.  He used his key to enter, and then was surprised again by the baseball game blaring from the television in the living room.  Neither he nor Brenda liked baseball - they never watched it.  After he'd turned off the TV, the apartment seemed preternaturally quiet to him, as though nobody was home.  Allen figured Brenda had taken the baby and gone out.

"I turned to go and see if maybe she was at the neighbours'," he explained later, "and I noticed some blood near the door on a light switch."  And then he saw Brenda in the kitchen, sprawled on the floor in a lake of blood.

Upon calling Brenda's name and getting no reply, he knelt beside her and put his hand on her shoulder.  "I touched her," he said, "and her body felt cool.  There was blood on her face and pretty much everywhere."

Allen reached for the kitchen phone which was resting on the floor next to his wife, and dialed 911 before he realized there was no dial tone.  The cord had been yanked from the wall.  As he walked to their bedroom to try the extension int here, he glanced into the baby's room and saw Erica slumped over in her crib in an odd position, motionless.  She was wearing nothing but a diaper, which was soaked with blood, as were the blankets surrounding her.

Allen hurried to the master bedroom only to find the phone in there out of order as well so he went next door to a neighbour's apartment, where he was finally able to call for help.  He described the carnage to the 911 dispatcher then called his mother.

While he waited for the police to show up, Allen returned to his apartment.  "I went to Brenda and I prayed," he said.  "And then as I stood, I surveyed the situation a little more, and realized that there had been a grim struggle."  For the first time he noticed that the blood wasn't confined to the kitchen:  it smeared the living room walls, the floor, the doors, the curtains.  It was obvious to him who was responsible.  He'd known the moment he'd first seen Brenda on the kitchen floor.

Renowned for his insightful portrayals of lives conducted on the outer limits, the bestselling author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer, has shifted his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief.

Under The Banner Of Heaven (2003) is a riveting account of Taliban-like theocracies in the American heartland, controlled by renegade Mormon prophets.  At its core is an appalling double murder committed by a pair of brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they were commanded to kill by God.

Working from a meticulously researched account of this divinely inspired crime, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of polygamy, savage violence and unyielding faith:  a clear-eyed and compelling work of non-fiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behaviour.

It is also "a provocative look at the twisted roots of American fundamentalism" or a brand of religion known as Mormon Fundamentalism (FLDS).  LDS Church authorities bristle visibly when Mormons and Mormon Fundamentalists are even mentioned in the same breath.  As Gordon B Hinckley, the then-eighty-eight-year-old LDS president and prophet, emphasized during a 1998 television interview on Larry King Live, "They have no connection with us whatever.  They don't belong to the church.  There are actually no Mormon Fundamentalists."

It is the aim of this book to cast some light on Lafferty and his ilk and the devastating effect of the practice of polygamy which is abusive to young girls, women and society.  If trying to understand such people is a daunting exercise, it also seems a useful one - for what it may tell us about the roots of brutality, perhaps, but even more for what might be learned about the nature of faith.

About the author:  Son of a doctor and amateur mountaineer, Jon Krakauer was born on 12 April 1954, in Brookline, Massachusetts, and grew up in Oregon, where he began mountain-climbing at eight years old.  After graduating from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1976, Krakauer worked as a carpenter and a commercial fisherman in Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska, devoting most of his free time to climbing.

In 1977 he pioneered a new route up the Devils Thumb in southeast Alaska, and in 1996 he reached the top of Mt. Everest, though four of his five teammates died on the descent down the mountain - an experience Krakauer would write about for Outside magazine and in his book Into Thin Air.

Jon Krakauer is a journalist whose work has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Outside, Architectural Digest, and other periodicals.  Some of Krakauer's essays and articles on mountain-climbing were collected in his first book, Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains, published in 1990.  His next book, Into the Wild (1996), became a bestseller and was adapted in 2007 as a feature film directed by Sean Penn.

Into Thin Air (1997), Krakauer's third book, investigates the commercialization of the world's highest mountain, Everest.  It reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into twenty-four languages.  It also was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle award and the Pulitzer Prize and was named Book of the Year by Time magazine.

His other books include Under the Banner of Heaven (2003), about the Mormon church, which inspired the 2006 documentary Damned to Heaven;  and Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (2009), about an All-Pro NFL football player and U.S. Army Ranger killed in Afghanistan.

In 1999 Jon Krakauer received the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is editor of the Modern Library's Exploration series.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Fire Dance by Helene Tursten

Paperback:  A deadly fire in Göteborg leads Detective Inspector Irene Huss back to a fifteen-year-old unsolved murder.

Detective Inspector Irene Huss hasn't seen Sophie Malmborg for over fifteen years but she' still haunted by the strange young ballerina's role in the fire that killed her stepfather fifteen years ago.

Why had she refused to speak to Irene and the other case workers then?

Could an eleven-year-old - even one as disturbed and aloof as Sophie - truly be capable of setting her own house on fire?

Irene's questions resurface when Sophie, now a young adult, disappears, and the charred remains of a dancer are found in an abandoned warehouse.

Irene has a startling realization that could shed light on the case that has been lingering in the back of her mind since the beginning of her career.

The Fire Dance (2014) is the sixth book in the Inspector Irene Huss Investigation series set in Sweden.  It has been translated from the Swedish into the English by Laura A Wideburg.

About the author:  Helene Tursten was a nurse and a dentist before she turned to writing.  Other books in the Irene Huss series include Detective Inspector Huss (2003), Night Rounds, (2006) The Torso (2007), The Glass Devil (2012), The Golden Calf (2013) and The Beige Man (2015).  She was born in Göteborg, Sweden, where she now lives with her husband and daughter.

Rating:  5/5

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

St Patrick's Day

One Of Us (True Crime) by Åsne Seierstad

Hardback:  In the tradition of Truman Capote's classic In Cold Blood (1965), One of Us (2015) is a powerful and gripping depiction of Anders Breivik, the terrorist atrocities in Norway and their aftermath.

She ran.  Up the hill, through the moss.  Her wellingtons sank into the wet earth.  The forest floor squelched beneath her feet.  She had seen him fire and a boy fall.  "We won't die today, girls," she had said to her companions.  "We won't die today."

On 22 July 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed seventy-seven of his fellow Norwegians in a terrorist atrocity that shocked the world.  Many were teenagers, just beginning their adult lives.  In the devastating aftermath, the inevitable questions began.

How could this happen?  Why did it happen?  And who was Anders Breivik?

Åsne Seierstad was uniquely placed to explore these questions.  An award-winning foreign correspondent, she had spent years writing about people caught up in violent conflict.  Now, for the first time, she was being asked to write about her home country.

Based on extensive testimonies and interviews, One of Us is the definitive account of the massacres and the subsequent trial.  More than that, it is the compelling story of Anders Breivik and a select group of his victims.  A picture emerges of a killer - isolated, awkward, with a strange and troubled childhood.

And on the other side, we come to know fascinating, dazzling young people such as Simon Sæbø and Bano Rashid, eager to contribute to their society.  As we follow the path to their inevitable collision, it becomes clear just what was lost in that one day.

After his trial which began on 16 April 2012 and ended with closing arguments on 22 June 2012, the Oslo District Court issued findings that Breivik was sane, accountable for his actions and guilty of murdering seventy-seven people.  He was sentenced to twenty-one years in prison, in a form of preventive detention that required a minimum of ten years incarceration and the possibility of an extension of that incarceration for as long as he is deemed a danger to society.  This is the maximum penalty in Norway;  he will likely remain in prison for the remainder of his life.

A gripping, shattering and vital book, One of Us is the story of a massacre and a study of evil (and madness).  It is also a story about community versus isolation, hope versus rejection, love versus bigotry and a powerful memorial to those who lost their lives.

One of Us has been translated from the Norwegian to the English by Sarah Death.

About the author:  Åsne Seierstad was born in 1970 and studied Russian, Spanish and History of Philosophy at Oslo University.  An internationally bestselling author, she has also received numerous awards for her journalism.  She worked as a correspondent in Russia between 1993 and 1996 and in China in 1997.  Between 1998 and 2000, she covered the Balkans including the war in Kosovo for Norwegian television.  In 2000, she published her first book, With their Backs to the World:  Portraits from Serbia.

After 11 September 2001, she went to Afghanistan, reporting for a number of major Scandinavian newspapers.  The following year, she went back to live with an Afghan family and wrote The Bookseller of Kabul, which was first published in English in 2003.  It became an international bestseller, selling over two million copies.  The paperback edition remained in the Sunday Times top ten for over a year.  In spring 2003, Åsne Seierstad reported on the war in Iraq from Baghdad and later released A Hundred and One Days:  A Baghdad Journal.  In 2009, she wrote her critically acclaimed book about life in Chechnya, The Angel of Grozny.

Following the atrocities in Oslo and Utøya in July 2011, she attended the trial of Anders Breivik and wrote several articles about the atrocities and their aftermath for Norwegian and international newspapers.  She then began work on One of Us, which became a European bestseller.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Reeva: A Mother's Story by June Steenkamp with Sarah Edworthy

Hardback:  At the end of Reeva's funeral, June Steenkamp's brother-in-law, Mike, said, "Reeva stood against abuse against innocent women and that stand is more powerful now.  She represented a world of strength and people coming out of the church are stronger."

Whatever happened in the small hours of 14 February 2013 will always stand as a double tragedy for two wonderful young people and their families.  The lives of two gifted talents, two incredible role models have been shattered.  It is just such a waste.

Reeva (2014) is the tragic story of the girl at the heart of the most dramatic trial of the twenty-first century.

In the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013, Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, shooting her multiple times while she cowered behind the locked door of a tiny toilet cubicle in their bathroom.  His trial attracted more international media attention and public scrutiny than any since that of O J Simpson.

What went on behind the scenes though?  And what was the real Reeva like, away from the photo shoots and the attention of the media?

A beautiful twenty-nine-year-old from Port Elizabeth, Reeva graduated as a lawyer and used her public profile as a model, TV personality and socialite in South Africa's most vibrant city to campaign passionately for human rights causes.

Keenly aware of the most violent end of the spectrum of abuse, Reeva shared with her Twitter followers the shocking fact that in South Africa, a woman is raped every four minutes and a woman killed by her partner every eight hours...a mother being forced to sell her fourteen-year-old daughter for R7000 to an old man, an old man who could have had Aids or something;  a father locking a girl in a room and letting a series of men rape her for money;  mothers who were forced to take their young girls to walk the railway line, a well-known area for prostitutes.

Her relationship with international hero Oscar Pistorius seemed like a fairy tale of triumph over adversity - double amputee turned champion athlete mets small-town girl with beauty and brains wanting to make her mark on the world.

No one could have predicted the tragic and horrifying conclusion.

Reeva's mother, June Steenkamp, has kept a dignified silence in the face of public scrutiny, media intrusion and of course, the bereavement she has endured.  Until now, no one has truly known what she is feeling, or how she has coped since her youngest child, her 'darling daughter' and 'late lamb', was shot dead.  Powerful and unflinching, and revealing all the details of the sensational trial and its verdict, Reeva offers the only true insider's account of this heartbreaking tale.

June Steenkamp has established the Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation - an anti-abuse foundation based in the family's hometown of Port Elizabeth in South Africa's Eastern Cape province - as a shelter to give vulnerable women and children across the country the skills and confidence to support themselves independently, to learn how to be productive and regain their self-esteem and to empower women.  "It is a fitting legacy and what Reeva would have wanted as a legacy," wrote June Steenkamp.

About June Steenkamp:  Reeva's mother is originally from Blackburn, Lancashire, and moved to Cape Town with her first husband.  She married Barry Steenkamp in the summer of 1981 and gave birth to Reeva, her 'late lamb', in 1983.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

God's Lent Child - Unknown

'I'll lend you a little while a child of mine,' God said.
'For you to love the while she lives
and mourn for when she's dead.
It may be six or seven years or forty-two or three
But will you, till I call her back, take care of her for Me?

She'll bring her charms to gladden you
And should her stay be brief -
You'll have her nicest memories as solace for her grief.
I cannot promise she will stay
Since all from earth return
But there are lessons taught down there
I want this child to learn.

I've looked the whole world over
In my search for teachers true
And from the things that crowd life's lane
I have chosen you!
Now will you give her all your love
Nor think the labour vain
Nor hate Me when I come to take this lent child back again?

I fancied that I heard them say, 'Dear Lord Thy Will Be Done'
For all the joys the child shall bring, the risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shelter her with tenderness, we'll love her while we may
And for the happiness we've known, forever grateful stay!
But should thy Angels call for her
much sooner than we planned
we'll brave the grief that comes
and try to understand.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Anni Dewani née Hindocha: A Father's Story by Vinod Hindocha with Shekhar Bhatia

Paperback:  Anni:  A Father's Story (2015) is a dad's heartbreaking account of his treasured daughter's life that was cut short in a horrific honeymoon murder.

On 13 November 2010, Anni Dewani was on a dream honeymoon in South Africa after celebrating the happiest day of her life, her marriage to handsome husband Shrien.

But the idyllic holiday took a dramatic and tragic twist when the couple were kidnapped at gunpoint as their taxi drove through a tough township near Cape Town.  Businessman Shrien, from Bristol, was released unharmed by the captors but Anni was blasted at close range in the neck and died on the spot.  Her body was found slumped in the blood-soaked back seat of the cab hours later.

When news of the horrific murder reached her parents they were hit by a double hammer blow - not only did they have to deal with the loss of their beloved daughter in the most brutal of circumstances, but police also told them one of the suspects behind the slaying was her husband, Shrien.

When Shrien called Anni's father, Vinod, right after her family were told of this horrendous news, he kept repeating the same words to his father-in-law:  "Sorry, Dad.  I could not take care of Anni."  As apologetic and reassuring as these words were at this tragic time, it had loaded meaning.  What was he trying to say to his late wife's father?

Why hadn't Shrien done something to protect Anni when he left the taxi and left her alone and scared?

After a long, drawn-out extradition process, Shrien was brought back for trial in South Africa, piling more agony on the victim's distraught family.

Why Anni?  Why our family?  Why did those evil people shoot her when she was so defenceless and the robbery had already taken place?  They could have just released her.  They could have pushed her out of the vehicle too.  They had a gun, a loaded gun, and she was a girl who could not fight back.  There was no need to shoot or kill her.  It was an act of enormous cowardice and evil.

Anni:  A Father's Story is an incredibly moving account of his daughter's life from her happy childhood through to the lavish wedding to Shrien that was meant to signal a new life for the 28-year-old Swedish-born beauty and the dramatic conclusion of her husband's trial in 2014.

Dad Vinod Hindocha recounts how his family struggled to cope with the devastating loss of Anni, how they saw their hopes for her future shattered in the blink of an eye at the hands of hitmen - for reasons which still largely remain a mystery - and their battle to see justice done.  He also tells of their attempts to reconcile themselves with the court's verdict and of a future without their beautiful daughter whose life was so cruelly and inexplicably extinguished.

About the author:  Shekhar Bhatia is a London born journalist who has been on the staff of the Evening Standard, Sunday Mirror, Daily Express, the Observer and the Sunday Express where he was Chief Reporter.  He began his journalistic career at the age of 17 on the Waltham Forest Guardian in East London and worked in the old Fleet Street from the age of 22.  Shekhar has produced documentaries for British and American TV companies on subjects such as the Oscar Pistorius shooting of Reeva Steenkamp for NBC and the BBC.  He also helped produce Channel Four's Dispatches TV programme on Anni's death, entitled "Murder on Honeymoon."

Shekhar has spent four years on the murder story, working closely with Anni's family, who asked him to help them write this book.  He describes himself as the "luckiest reporter in the world" for having had the opportunity to travel the globe meeting his heroes, including the late Nelson Mandela in his Presidential mansion while flying around Southern Africa on a private jet with the Prince of Wales.  Shekhar has also reported from five World Cups including the most recent in Brazil and five Olympics.

In November 2014, he was named Journalist of the Year at the Asian Media Awards.  He is a lifelong supporter of West Ham United, lives in London with his student daughter Chameli and is set to move to New York later in 2015 for work.

The Hindocha family have asked that all the proceeds due to the family from the sale of this book be donated to a charity in Anni's name.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Badge of the Assassin by Robert Tanenbaum and Philip Rosenberg

Hardback:  Badge of the Assassin (1979) is the true story of one of the most intense manhunts in police history and of the young district attorney who brought a trio of cop killers to justice.

In rare instances, a book about a criminal episode transcends its immediate subject and achieves a stature beyond the conventional true crime genre.  Truman Capote's In Cold Blood is a case in point along with Thomas Thompson's Blood and Money.  Badge of the Assassin belongs in that company.

The story begins with a brutal double murder:  at a Harlem housing project in May 1971, two on-duty New York City policemen are ruthlessly gunned down by members of the self-proclaimed Black Liberation Army.  An agonizing cross-country manhunt for the killers ensues, leading detectives into every corner of the black revolutionary underworld:  to San Francisco, to New Orleans, to a rundown farm in a small town in Mississippi where one of the murder weapons (the "badge of the assassin") is found buried under five feet of soil.

Robert Tanenbaum, a dynamic and indefatigable young district attorney, led the investigation and acted as the prosecutor in the case, which culminated in two dramatic trials of The People v Herman Bell, et al.  Tanenbaum and novelist Philip Rosenberg make the reader a participant in the four-year struggle for justice, recreating every scene of the spellbinding human drama - from the actual shootings through a series of brilliantly engineered arrests to the tension and excitement of the courtroom.

Badge of the Assassin is the true story of a shocking crime, told with all the skill and subtlety of first-rate fiction.

About the authors:  New York Times bestselling author Robert K Tanenbaum is a nationally known attorney and legal expert.  He is one of the country’s most respected trial lawyers and has never lost a felony case.  Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tanenbaum attended the University of California at Berkeley on a basketball scholarship.  He received his law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.  At the outset of his distinguished career, he was an Assistant D.A. in New York County, where he ran the Homicide Bureau, served as Chief of the Criminal Courts, and was in charge of the D.A.’s legal staff training program.  Mel Glass, John Keenan, and D.A. Frank Hogan were his esteemed mentors, and Echoes of My Soul is a tribute to them, written at the request of Mel Glass with his active involvement.

Tanenbaum’s tireless quest for justice led him to be appointed Deputy Chief Counsel for the Congressional committee investigations into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Following an esteemed career as a successful prosecuting attorney and high profile defender, he served two terms as Mayor of Beverly Hills and continues to teach law in California, New York and Pennsylvania.  A popular media guest, he regularly appears on television shows as a legal commentator.

He is the author of three non-fiction books, including The Piano Teacher: The True Story of a Psychotic Killer and Badge of the Assassin, the true account of his investigation and trials of self-proclaimed members of the Black Liberation Army who assassinated two NYPD police officers – later adapted into a movie starring James Woods as Tanenbaum.  He is also the bestselling author of the Butch Karp series featuring two fictional District Attorneys in New York.  A native of New York, Robert Tanenbaum currently lives with his family in Beverly Hills, California.

Philip Rosenberg is a screenwriter and the author of The Seventh Hero, a study of the writings of Thomas Carlyle;  his other two books are a highly acclaimed novel, Contract on Cherry Street and Point Blank (with Sonny Grosso).

Friday, 6 March 2015

The Piano Teacher: The True Story of a Psychotic Killer by Robert K Tanenbaum and Peter S Greenberg

Paperback:  Everybody has a dream.  For twenty-five-year-old aspiring actress Suzanne Reynolds, her dream ended in 1966 in a gruesome encounter with eccentric New York ragtime pianist Charles Yukl.  Fooled by his choirboy looks, Reynolds had no idea the man who taught her the piano was a woman-hating recluse who spent his days lost in fantasies of perversion.  As a result of the plea bargain for Suzanne's brutal murder, Yukl soon gained his freedom due to a shocking series of legal errors and killed again.

Eight years later, in 1974, the body of twenty-three-year-old Karen Schlegel was found on the roof of a Greenwich Village apartment.  Immediately upon the second murder, Yukl was regarded as a "textbook example" of the problems of rehabilitation and parole because these were not average murders by New York standards.

At the time, The L.A. Times said in relation to Yukl, "the revolving door of the criminal justice system has become a broken centrifuge, no longer capable of separating the reformed embezzler from the vicious murderer."  It held that Schlegel's murder was "entirely attributable to the killer's premature release from prison.  In Yukl's case as in thousands of others, the antiquated machinery of the law was completely overwhelmed by the job it was devised to perform."  He became regarded as "a killer whose accomplice is the ineptness of the legal system.

Almost eight years to the day after he strangled Karen Schlegel, Yukl used his bed to barricade himself in his Clinton Correctional Facility cell.  Psychiatrists talked him out of the room and he was transferred to an observation cell in the prison hospital.  Shortly after one o-clock the next afternoon, Charles Yukl hanged himself using a piece of mattress cover for a rope, with his death ruled a suicide.

The Piano Teacher (1987) is a riveting dramatization of two horrific crimes and their aftermath.  It brilliantly portrays a madman set on fulfilling his own sadistic and homicidal dreams and the flawed justice system that gave him the opportunities to do so.

About the author:  New York Times bestselling author Robert K Tanenbaum is a nationally known attorney and legal expert.  He is one of the country’s most respected trial lawyers and has never lost a felony case.  Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tanenbaum attended the University of California at Berkeley on a basketball scholarship.  He received his law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.  At the outset of his distinguished career, he was an Assistant D.A. in New York County, where he ran the Homicide Bureau, served as Chief of the Criminal Courts, and was in charge of the D.A.’s legal staff training program.  Mel Glass, John Keenan, and D.A. Frank Hogan were his esteemed mentors, and Echoes of My Soul is a tribute to them, written at the request of Mel Glass with his active involvement.

Tanenbaum’s tireless quest for justice led him to be appointed Deputy Chief Counsel for the Congressional committee investigations into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Following an esteemed career as a successful prosecuting attorney and high profile defender, he served two terms as Mayor of Beverly Hills and continues to teach law in California, New York and Pennsylvania.  A popular media guest, he regularly appears on television shows as a legal commentator.

He is the author of three non-fiction books, including The Piano Teacher: The True Story of a Psychotic Killer and Badge of the Assassin, the true account of his investigation and trials of self-proclaimed members of the Black Liberation Army who assassinated two NYPD police officers – later adapted into a movie starring James Woods as Tanenbaum.  He is also the bestselling author of the Butch Karp series featuring two fictional District Attorneys in New York.  A native of New York, Robert Tanenbaum currently lives with his family in Beverly Hills, California.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Savage Son (Ture Crime) by Corey Mitchell

Paperback:  10 December 2003.  Sugar Lane, Texas.

It was a night of celebration for the Whitaker family.  Their eldest son, Thomas Bartlett "Bart" Whitaker, was graduating from college but when Bart's younger brother, Kevin, opened the door to their house, a masked intruder shot him point blank.  His mother, who was behind Kevin, took the next bullet followed by Mr Kent Whitaker and Bart.  Blood was everywhere.  Tricia, 51, and Kevin, 19, both died that night but somehow Bart and Kent, then 54, survived.

Both men had survived a broken arm.  According to Kent, the bullet he had taken had "entered my right shoulder and travelled through the arm muscle, striking midhumerus and shattering the bone."  Bart had been shot in the left arm.

The arms of the Whitaker men weren't the only things to be set and healed that night.  According to Kent, a self-described very religious man, he "felt God's presence and comfort" in his hospital room the night of the murders.  As a constant stream of well-wishers respectfully marched in and out of his hospital room, he claimed that "Scriptures of comfort came to mind" and described it as if "God gave me a shot of Novocain" to deal with the pain of the complete and total upheaval he was now about to embark on.

Miraculously, on the same night his beloved wife, Tricia, and his equally beloved son, Kevin, were murdered, Kent Whitaker decided to invoke a "conscious act of will."  He forgave the shooter.

Not wanting to be burdened by the additional emotional turmoil wrought by anger, Kent made an emphatic decision to forgo anger and hatred.  Instead, he decided to turn his faith over to God.  He stated, "I wanted whoever was responsible to come to Christ and repent for this awful act."

Kent's decision to forgive startled even himself.  Earlier, he felt the normal feelings of an individual who had a loved one ripped away from him - depression, anger, the desire to kill his wife and son's killer.  He stated, however, that once he decided to forgive the killer for the murders, "This forgiveness astounded me."  He believed the act saved his life and changed everything for the better.

To the cops, the story didn't add up.  Moreover, to the seasoned lead detective in charge, the crime scene sent up an obvious red flag and his first thought was that he was looking at a staged robbery.

Not long after, their investigation discovered a stunning web of lies.  Bart hadn't been enrolled in college since his freshman year.  Instead of attending classes, he'd spent his days playing video games while planning to murder his family to inherit their million-dollar estate.  Police confirmed this information by obtaining Bart’s school transcripts with grand jury subpoenas.  When confronted with this information, Bart told police and his father that he had informed his mother that he was not graduating.

In a later counselling session with Dr Lynne Ayres, the doctor was appalled by the encounter in which she described the single session with Bart as a "very disturbing interview, especially social disconnections."  In just one meeting, Ayres determined that Bart was egomaniacal, extremely narcissistic and removed emotionally from everyone around him including his girlfriend and family.  She felt he believed he was better than everyone else around him including Ayres.

It turned out that Bart, then 24, had arranged the assassination.  He was arrested, convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.  In 2008, Bart explained why he wanted to kill his entire family, weaving together reasons with envy, insecurity, anger and hate.  Bart, meanwhile, still sits on death row.  Kent and his new wife, Tanya, visit him once a week.  "My relationship with my son is much better than it had been. He has become much more open and honest with me about his failures, about his losses, about the things that were bothering him at that time," Kent says.  "I just wish that I had had the relationship with him then that I do now."  Kent admits that there are still days when he struggles, especially with the fact that he has a loved one on death row.  Today, Kent and Tanya travel the country speaking about the power of forgiveness and redemption.  To this end, Kent has written a book - Murder by Family (2009) - about his heart-wrenching journey after the brutal murder of his beloved wife and son.

Savage Son (2010) is about a chilling murder case that reveals the twisted motives of a seemingly All-American Boy-Next-Door and tells a true story of why a son and brother wanted to kill his father, mother and brother.

Bart Whitaker currently resides in the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, and awaits his unknown execution date.  He still has the right to appeal his death sentence in the federal courts.  To pass the time, he writes posts for his blog that focus on prison conditions, arguments against the death penalty, attacking any media coverage of his case and mocking people who write him letters that are not deferential enough to him.

About the author:  Corey Mitchell (d 2014), JD, was a law school graduate and the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller Dead and Buried (2003) as well as Murdered Innocents (2009), Pure Murder (2008) and Strangler (2007).  He was also the author of the underground true crime classic, Hollywood Death Scenes (2001).

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

World Read Aloud Day 2015

Every year on the first Wednesday of March, World Read Aloud Day calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories among children, teens and adults worldwide.  Find out more at

William Chapman, Canadian poet (1850-1917)