A sometimes-entertaining but often overblown and under-imagined fictionalized treatment of an enigmatic crime.


Versace’s Medusa: Andrew Cunanan

The devil made Andrew Cunanan do it, according to this unfocused novel and meditation on the man who murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace.

Cunanan, a 27-year-old sometime-prostitute and drug dealer, became a tabloid superstar in 1997 when he capped a three-month, cross-country killing spree by shooting Versace in the head outside the latter’s Miami mansion. Cunanan then committed suicide and left little evidence behind, resulting in endless speculation about his motives. Diamond’s fictional stab at an answer centers on a nameless, high-ranking devil, a member of Hell’s Grand Council, who narrates Cunanan’s story and claims credit for planning his crimes. Mixing true-crime fact with invented scenes, the devil gives a fragmented, repetitive, and often contradictory account of Cunanan’s deeds. He offers acid commentary on the toxic narcissism and exploitation of Cunanan’s gay demimonde and asserts that he instigated the killings by (falsely) persuading Cunanan that he had AIDS. He situates Cunanan in his own hands-on cosmic insurgency—“I used Cunanan to strike a blow against heaven and for anarchism, espionage, and terrorism”—but sometimes presents himself as a mere figment, “the nothing that men have to create as a scapegoat.” Indeed, when the devil claims to have started the HIV epidemic, killing millions, readers may wonder why he invested so much effort in choreographing Cunanan’s comparatively trivial crimes. Diamond weaves in disquisitions on serial killers and their psychopathologies, on Versace’s flamboyant fashions and swank decor, and on free-thinker Giordano Bruno and the poet John Milton, whose aphorisms are sprinkled throughout. These digressions are often engaging, and some of the insights into Cunanan’s psyche, such as his possible rage at being discarded by sugar daddies when he aged out of his ingenue role, are resonant. But the tale is dominated by the arrogant voice of the devil—“The mutiny against the ‘affirmative lie’ began in heaven when we spirits first rejected the rule of Jehovah and his Great Con that we shall all be with him one day in Paradise”—which grows tiresome. This happens especially in the long passages that critique other, real-life works on the crime and make the novel feel at times like a peevish book review. In the end, Diamond’s bloviating demon all but crowds Cunanan out of the story.

A sometimes-entertaining but often overblown and under-imagined fictionalized treatment of an enigmatic crime.

Pub Date: April 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5119-6828-7

Page Count: 204

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

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The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.



A former Justice Department lawyer, who now devotes her private practice to federal appeals, dissects some of the most politically contentious prosecutions of the last 15 years.

Powell assembles a stunning argument for the old adage, “nothing succeeds like failure,” as she traces the careers of a group of prosecutors who were part of the Enron Task Force. The Supreme Court overturned their most dramatic court victories, and some were even accused of systematic prosecutorial misconduct. Yet former task force members such as Kathryn Ruemmler, Matthew Friedrich and Andrew Weissman continued to climb upward through the ranks and currently hold high positions in the Justice Department, FBI and even the White House. Powell took up the appeal of a Merrill Lynch employee who was convicted in one of the subsidiary Enron cases, fighting for six years to clear his name. The pattern of abuse she found was repeated in other cases brought by the task force. Prosecutors of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen pieced together parts of different statutes to concoct a crime and eliminated criminal intent from the jury instructions, which required the Supreme Court to reverse the Andersen conviction 9-0; the company was forcibly closed with the loss of 85,000 jobs. In the corruption trial of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, a key witness was intimidated into presenting false testimony, and as in the Merrill Lynch case, the prosecutors concealed exculpatory evidence from the defense, a violation of due process under the Supreme court’s 1963 Brady v. Maryland decision. Stevens’ conviction, which led to a narrow loss in his 2008 re-election campaign and impacted the majority makeup of the Senate, seems to have been the straw that broke the camel's back; the presiding judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate abuses. Confronted with the need to clean house as he came into office, writes Powell, Attorney General Eric Holder has yet to take action.

The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61254-149-5

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Brown Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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