A bright spotlight on well-worn ground.

KENNEDY'S AVENGER

ASSASSINATION, CONSPIRACY, AND THE FORGOTTEN TRIAL OF JACK RUBY

Why did Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald?

Abrams, chief legal analyst for ABC News, and journalist Fisher team up for their latest investigation, this time focused on the trial of Ruby, accused of killing JFK assassin Oswald. With the shooting broadly televised, Ruby’s defense lawyers—headed by “square-jawed, silver-maned, impeccably groomed Californian Melvin Belli, arguably the most famous lawyer in the country”—hoped to spare Ruby from the death penalty by conjuring an innovative defense. Ruby, Belli asserted, suffered from a rare mental illness—psychomotor variant epilepsy—that resulted in a fugue state, during which he had no control over what he was doing. The authors offer an animated, overwhelmingly detailed examination of the trial, from the family’s decision to hire a high-powered “superstar” lawyer, whose $50,000 fee, the family believed, could be raised by selling Ruby’s story; to the verdict, when jurors unanimously found Ruby guilty and sentenced him to death. Jury selection was predictably contentious. Of 900 people called to serve, 500 showed up, and after 14 days of lawyerly wrangling, a jury consisting of eight men and four women, all White Protestants, was finally seated. Abrams and Fisher mine transcripts and news coverage to dramatize the trial as it unfolded, including witness testimony, lawyers’ objections, the judge’s rulings, and Belli’s repeated calls for a mistrial. Medical experts for the defense and the prosecution offered contradictory theories about Ruby’s mind. The verdict “was simply the end of the beginning”; Belli won an appeal, citing more than 200 errors by the judge. An increasingly paranoid Ruby testified before the Warren Commission about his motivation, denying a prior connection to Oswald. Suffering from cancer, he died in prison, awaiting a new trial. Did Oswald act alone? Did Ruby? Hints of a conspiracy, left unquestioned by the authors, feed into what they contend “a majority of Americans” suspect.

A bright spotlight on well-worn ground.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-335-91403-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

IN COLD BLOOD

"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

Did you like this book?

more