In January 1972, two men walked into Ara Arax's Fresno (California) nightclub and shot him to death. His son, 15 at the...


"IN MY FATHER'S NAME: A Family, A Town, a Murder"

In January 1972, two men walked into Ara Arax's Fresno (California) nightclub and shot him to death. His son, 15 at the time, swore to find the killers--a quest that would lead him to the city's history of police corruption, the seedier side of the '60s drug culture, and five generations of familial violence going back to Turkish Armenia. Rumors abounded: The popular club owner was involved in drugs; he owed money to the mob; he was up to his ears in gambling and prostitution. Mark Arax, now a Los Angeles Times investigative reporter, went ""undercover"" in his hometown in 1988 to find those responsible and to settle his own demons regarding his father's culpability. The murder ""wasn't so much unsolved,"" he discovered, ""as it was uninvestigated."" The Fresno Police Department had a history of involvement in vice, drugs, murder, and extortion going back to the 1870s. Things hadn't improved much nearly 100 years later under Chief Hank Morton and his lieutenants. Arax found ties between these police officers and his father's business partners and friends; in particular, Frank Nunez, a known drug dealer with connections to the Anthony Simone family, drug smugglers allegedly under the protection of Chief Morton and his cronies. Arax's delving into his father's life and character revealed a man trying, despite a family heritage of crime and violence (one grandfather fled Turkey following a murder; Arax's unrepentant uncle Harry had done time in San Quentin for killing a policeman), to balance honor with success in a corrupt environment. In the end, the author found a lot of circumstantial evidence--not enough to put together a case, but enough for him to renew his faith in the memory of his father. Despite Arax's uneven, often melodramatic writing, this is a startling dissection of a corrupt city and an intensely personal history of the Armenian-American people.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 1996


Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995