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THE DARKEST GLARE

A TRUE STORY OF MURDER, BLACKMAIL, AND REAL ESTATE GREED IN 1979 LOS ANGELES

An entertaining true-crime period piece built around a chillingly odd sociopathic villain.

The engrossingly bizarre tale of a murder plot within Los Angeles real estate circles.

Journalist Jacobs ably captures the seamy backdrop of 1970s Southern California via the strange saga of acquaintance and prominent Angeleno Jerry Schneiderman. “Over two years,” writes the author, “he said not a peep about how he transformed himself from a picked-on Jewish kid from a throwaway section of L.A. into a successful developer/public advocate with an infectious cackle. Never once did he mention that he was the weak tip in a murder triangle.” Jacobs describes this milieu as chaotic yet ambitious: “This is what hungry companies did in the late-seventies LA of social experimentation. They fed the need, caring little if it were for a chiropractor, pop psychology gimmick, or conglomerate.” The murder improbably germinated due to an ill-fated partnership in an upstart space-planning firm comprised of charismatic Richard Kasparov (whose financial chicanery would imperil the business), workaholic Jerry, and their foreman Howard, “a fair-skinned Charles Bronson” whose competent exterior concealed a spiraling violent rage. About Howard, the author wonders, “why did an old-school construction chief with a trick back, nervous wife, and a union card decide to mortgage his soul?” Following workplace conflicts, Howard recruited hapless underworld figures for an ambitious murder-for-hire scheme, starting with his erstwhile partners. After numerous bungled attempts, which Jacobs plays for humor and tension, Howard’s gunman succeeded in murdering Richard. He then confronted Jerry with insults, threats, and blackmail, noting, “I’ve killed before Richard and gotten away with it. And I’ll do it again—with you.” Eventually, Howard was arrested but not before subjecting Jerry and others to protracted trauma. Notes the author, “Should Howard get out, prosecutors still believed, some of those who dared to tell the truth about him would ‘be as good as dead.’ ” (Howard died in prison.) Jacobs writes in a pulpy, flamboyant style that mostly masks some repetition and digression.

An entertaining true-crime period piece built around a chillingly odd sociopathic villain.

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64428-191-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


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  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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UNDER THE BRIDGE

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Godfrey reconstructs a horrific murder with a vividness found in the finest fiction, without ever sacrificing journalistic integrity.

The novel The Torn Skirt (2002) showed how well the author could capture the roiling inner life of a teenager. She brings that sensibility to bear in this account of the 1997 murder of a 14-year-old girl in British Columbia, a crime for which seven teenage girls and one boy were charged. While there’s no more over-tilled literary soil than that of the shocking murder in a small town, Godfrey manages to portray working-class View Royal in a fresh manner. The victim, Reena Virk, was a problematic kid. Rebelling against her Indian parents’ strict religiosity, she desperately mimicked the wannabe gangsta mannerisms of her female schoolmates, who repaid her idolization by ignoring her. The circumstances leading up to the murder seem completely trivial: a stolen address book, a crush on the wrong guy. But popular girls like Josephine and Kelly had created a vast, imaginary world (mostly stolen from mafia movies and hip-hop) in which they were wildly desired and feared. In this overheated milieu, reality was only a distant memory, and everything was allowed. The murder and cover-up are chilling. Godfrey parcels out details piecemeal in the words of the teens who took part or simply watched. None of them seemed to quite comprehend what was going on, why it happened or even—in a few cases—what the big deal was. The tone veers close to melodrama, but in this context it works, since the author is telling the story from the inside out, trying to approximate the relentlessly self-dramatizing world these kids inhabited. Given most readers’ preference for easily explained and neatly concluded crime narratives, Godfrey’s resolute refusal to impose false order on the chaos of a murder spawned by rumors and lies is commendable.

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-1091-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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