AMERICAN GROTESQUE by James Kirkwood

AMERICAN GROTESQUE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Kirkwood, a novelist, begins with his fulsome 1968 Esquire profile of Clay Shaw. He became great friends with Shaw, as he tells it, a development which forthrightly colors this long, exuberantly pictorial elaboration of his Playboy trial coverage. Kirkwood relays local scuttlebutt (allegations of pretrial dirty work, Garrison's mental instability, etc.), but only scratches the surface of New Orleans politics. His gossip detours around the domain of New Orleans' intelligence community, and the topic of Shaw's homosexuality is delicately avoided (as it was by the prosecution). Disapproving of the D.A.'s efforts to bring in the Warren Report, Kirkwood discusses it only as it figured in testimony (the autopsy rehash, Zapruder film reruns, etc.), underlining the prosecution witnesses' demerits. The foremost protagonist is Perry Russo, lone auditor of the alleged conspiracy. Kirkwood finds him a mixed-up, suggestible attention-seeker. Post-trial interviews comprise the most distinctive part of the book: in addition to Russo, Kirkwood talked with the jury foreman, Miguel Torres (a convict who claimed the D.A.'s office tried to bribe him), Judge Haggerty, and Garrison. The book ends with further scandal: the judge's arrest at a stag show and election-primary rumors of homosexual malfeasance by Garrison. Kirkwood's portrait of Shaw as St. Sebastian is overdone to the point of self&feat; and this is not the place to look for a full, objective appraisal of problematic figures like Dean Andrews; but the book does clinch the impression that legal grounds for the conspiracy charges were insufficient. Impermanent attraction for an audience beyond hard-core buffs.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1970
Publisher: Simon & Schuster