Friday, 26 September 2014

Murder In Mississippi by John Safran


Paperback:  When filming his TV series Race Relations (2009), John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi's most notorious white supremacists.

A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered and what was more, the killer was black.

At first, the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes.  But then more news rolled in.

Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex.  Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men?

Did Safran have the last footage of him alive?  Could this be the story of a lifetime?

Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.

Over six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder - white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself.

And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.

Murder in Mississippi (2013) is a brilliantly innovative true-crime story.  It is about how Safran "met a white supremacist, befriended his black killer and wrote this book".

Taking us places only he can, Safran paints an engrossing, revealing portrait of a dead man, his murderer, the place they lived and the process of trying to find out the truth about anything.

About the author:  John Safran is an award-winning documentary-maker of provocative and hilarious takes on race, the media, religion and other issues.  John first hit TV screens in 1997 on Race Around The World.  Both John Safran's Music Jamboree and John Safran vs God won Australian Film Industry awards for Best Comedy Series and Most Original Concept.  Other shows include John Safran's Race Relations, which was nominated for two awards at the international Rose d'Or Festival.  John currently co-hosts Sunday Night Safran, a radio talk show on Triple J with cranky but beloved Catholic priest, Father Bob Maguire.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Never Too Late: A Prosecutor's Story Of Justice In The Medgar Evers Case by Bobby DeLaughter


Paperback:  "If it was for the good of mankind, for the good of our state, and for what was right twenty-five years ago, if the courts allow it, and if I ever get enough evidence, a similar stand would still be right today.  Does that which is right and just wane with the passage of time?"

A single blast from a 1917 Enfield .30-06 rifle, fired shortly after midnight in the early-morning hours of 12 June 1963, from a thicket of sweet gum and honeysuckle in Jackson, Mississippi, had, and is still having, such an effect.

It ended the life of Medgar Evers, field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in Mississippi, and it followed his white assassin, Byron De La Beckwith VI, who was tried unsuccessfully twice in 1964 by all-white juries for murdering the man he later described as "Mississippi's mightiest nigger."

A quarter century later, the ripples emanating from that shot tore through the heart and soul of a third person - an unsuspecting and rather unlikely one - a white prosecuting attorney who tried to free himself of the shackles of his past and assumed the challenge of rebuilding the case against Beckwith.

When the district attorney's office in Jackson, Mississippi, decided to reopen the case, the obstacles in its way were overwhelming: missing court records; transcripts that were more than thirty years old; original evidence that had been lost; new testimony that had to be taken regarding long-ago events; and the perception throughout the state that a reprosecution was a futile endeavor.  But step by painstaking step, DeLaughter and his team overcame the obstacles and built their case.

"But I felt that Mississippi and I were being put to the test.  We say that no man is above the law;  but what if he is seventy years old?  We claim that we value all human life;  but what if the life is that of a civil rights activist in 1963 Mississippi?  There is no statute limitations for murder;  but what if it's been a quarter century?  In pursuing justice and maintaining freedom, how much taxpayer money is too much?  Finally, if justice has never been finalized in such a despicable and immoral atrocity and pursuing it will open an old wound, is it not then a wound that needs to be reopened and cleansed, instead of continuing to fester over the years, spreading its poison to future generations?"

On 5 February 1994, thirty-one years later, he played an instrumental role in securing for the Evers family those long-elusive words, "We, the jury, find the defendant guilty, as charged."  For the Everses, those words brought some degree of closure.  For Mississippi, it was an exorcism of sorts.

With the world watching, the state cast out many demons of racism that had possessed it for so many years.  (from the Prologue)

Never Too Late (2001) is the true and complete story of one of the most important and unusual cases of criminal prosecution in American history.  "It tells a story that stays with you - a story about conscience.  Bobby DeLaughter and Myrlie Evers:  two who grew in conscience, courage, and trust."  As a book lives or dies on its inherent life-giving truth and passion, this story, I believe, will endure." (from the Author's Note and Introduction)

About the author:  Bobby DeLaughter was a judge in the Hinds CountyCourt, Jackson, Mississippi.  He graduated from Ole Miss Law School in 1977 and is a former assistant district attorney and a past president of the Mississippi Proseutor's Association.  He is a graduate of the FBI's National Law Institute and has served as lawyer-in-residence at the Pepperdine University Law School.

Over a career spanning three decades, Bobby was a criminal defense attorney, prosecutor, and trial judge.  His career in law ended in 2009, with a federal conviction of obstruction of justice, for giving a false statement to FBI agents.  After serving his federal sentence, Bobby and Peggy, his wife of over twenty years, adopted New Orleans, Louisiana as their home.  They live in the famous (or infamous) French Quarter, the setting of Bobby’s new series of Bo Landry thrillers.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Echoes Of My Soul by Robert K Tanenbaum


Paperback:  "That's what I thought you'd say.  So go forth and do justice, Mel.  Do justice."

It was a muggy summer day on 28 August 1963 when Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert were murdered in their apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Months passed as their families grieved the unthinkable and a shaken city awaited answers.

Finally, Brooklyn police arrested George Whitmore, Jr, a nineteen-year-old with an IQ of less than 70.  But his incarceration would ultimately entail a host of shocking law enforcement missteps and cover-ups.

Whitmore had confessed.  Yet Mel Glass, a young Manhattan Assistant D.A. not even assigned to the Homicide Bureau, was troubled by the investigation.  With the blessing of legendary District Attorney Frank Hogan, Glass tirelessly immersed himself in the case.

So began an epic quest for justice, culminating in a courtroom showdown in which the Brooklyn arresting cops refused to admit their flagrant errors, providing a complete defense to a vicious predator.  The outcome would reach far beyond the individuals involved.

Including trial transcripts and never before published crime scene photos, here is a captivating depiction of one of the most intense manhunts of our time.  Echoes of My Soul (2013) is also a testament to the power of individuals like Glass and Hogan, without whom the real killer would never have been convicted and an unjustly accused man would have been jailed for life.  And we may never have gained the legal safeguards that protect us today.

In this first insider's account, New York Times bestselling author Robert K Tanenbaum delivers a page-turning real-life thriller about this historic case - that led the US Supreme Court to issue guidelines known as the Miranda rights in June 1966 - which forever reformed the American justice system.

About the author:  Robert K Tanenbaum is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-five legal thrillers and has an accomplished legal career of his own.  Before his first book was published, Tanenbaum had already been the Bureau Chief of the Criminal Courts, had run the Homicide Bureau, and had been in charge of the training program for the legal staff for the New York County District Attorney’s Office.  He also served as Deputy Chief Counsel to the Congressional Committee investigations into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.  The blockbuster novel Corruption of Blood (1994), is a fictionalized account of his experience in Washington, D.C.In his professional career, Tanenbaum has never lost a felony case.

His courtroom experiences bring his books to life, especially in his bestselling series featuring prosecutor Roger “Butch” Karp and his wife, Marlene Ciampi.

Tanenbaum was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.  He attended the University of California at Berkeley on a basketball scholarship, and remained at Cal, where he earned his law degree from the prestigious Boalt Hall School of Law.  After graduating from Berkeley Law, Tanenbaum moved back to New York to work as an assistant district attorney under the legendary New York County DA Frank Hogan.

Tanenbaum returned to the West Coast and began to serve in public office.  He was elected to the Beverly Hills City Council in 1986 and twice served as the mayor of Beverly Hills.  It was during this time that Tanenbaum began his career as a novelist, drawing from the many fascinating stories of his time as a New York ADA.  His successful debut novel, No Lesser Plea (1987), introduces Butch Karp, an assistant district attorney who is battling for justice, and Marlene Ciampi, his associate and love interest.  Tanenbaum’s subsequent twenty-two novels portrayed Karp and his crime fighting family and eclectic colleagues facing off against drug lords, corrupt politicians, international assassins, the mafia, and hard-core violent felons.

He had published two nonfiction titles:  The Piano Teacher (1987), exploring his investigation and prosecution of a recidivist psychosexual killer, and Badge of the Assassin (1979), about his prosecution of cop killers, which was made into a movie starring James Woods as Tanenbaum.  His latest nonfiction book is Echoes of my Soul (2013) providing a first insider's account of the historic Wylie-Hoffert case, that led to the Miranda Rights, and of the courageous stand that forever reformed the American justice system.

Tanenbaum and his wife of forty-three years have three children. He currently resides in California where he has taught Advanced Criminal Procedure at the Boalt Hall School of Law and maintains a private law practice.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Depraved Indifference by Robert K Tanenbaum


Paperback:  Butch Karp is New York City's toughest Assistant District Attorney.  And he's facing his dirtiest job yet - the prosecution of a group of Croatian nationalists responsible for the terrorist killing of a New York cop.

It looks like an open-and-shut case, but why are the FBI, the Catholic Church, and even the New York City Police Department going to any lengths to protect the guilty?

Karp wants to know and he'll stop at nothing to bring the cop-killer to justice, even if it means following a twisted trail of evil that tests the bounds of crime and punishment and probes the darkest depths of human depravity.

Depraved Indifference (1989) is Tanenbaum's second novel in the Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi series.

About the author:  Robert K Tanenbaum is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-five legal thrillers and has an accomplished legal career of his own.  Before his first book was published, Tanenbaum had already been the Bureau Chief of the Criminal Courts, had run the Homicide Bureau, and had been in charge of the training program for the legal staff for the New York County District Attorney’s Office.  He also served as Deputy Chief Counsel to the Congressional Committee investigations into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.  The blockbuster novel Corruption of Blood (1994), is a fictionalized account of his experience in Washington, D.C.In his professional career, Tanenbaum has never lost a felony case.

His courtroom experiences bring his books to life, especially in his bestselling series featuring prosecutor Roger “Butch” Karp and his wife, Marlene Ciampi.

Tanenbaum was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.  He attended the University of California at Berkeley on a basketball scholarship, and remained at Cal, where he earned his law degree from the prestigious Boalt Hall School of Law.  After graduating from Berkeley Law, Tanenbaum moved back to New York to work as an assistant district attorney under the legendary New York County DA Frank Hogan.

Tanenbaum returned to the West Coast and began to serve in public office.  He was elected to the Beverly Hills City Council in 1986 and twice served as the mayor of Beverly Hills.  It was during this time that Tanenbaum began his career as a novelist, drawing from the many fascinating stories of his time as a New York ADA.  His successful debut novel, No Lesser Plea (1987), introduces Butch Karp, an assistant district attorney who is battling for justice, and Marlene Ciampi, his associate and love interest.  Tanenbaum’s subsequent twenty-two novels portrayed Karp and his crime fighting family and eclectic colleagues facing off against drug lords, corrupt politicians, international assassins, the mafia, and hard-core violent felons.

He had published two nonfiction titles:  The Piano Teacher (1987), exploring his investigation and prosecution of a recidivist psychosexual killer, and Badge of the Assassin (1979), about his prosecution of cop killers, which was made into a movie starring James Woods as Tanenbaum.  His latest nonfiction book is Echoes of my Soul (2013) providing a first insider's account of the historic Wylie-Hoffert case, that led to the Miranda Rights, and of the courageous stand that forever reformed the American justice system.

Tanenbaum and his wife of forty-three years have three children. He currently resides in California where he has taught Advanced Criminal Procedure at the Boalt Hall School of Law and maintains a private law practice.

His latest and twenty-fifth Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi novel, Fatal Conceit, is out now.

Rating:  5/5

Journey Of A Thousand Miles by Lang Lang with David Ritz


Hardback:  The sensational Chinese music prodigy tells his heartbreaking, dramatic, and ultimately triumphant story in Journey of a Thousand Miles (2009).

Born in China to parents whose musical careers where interrupted by the Cultural Revolution, Lang Lang has emerged as one of the greatest pianists of our time.

Yet despite his fame, few in the West knows of the heart-wrenching journey from his early childhood as a prodigy in an industrial city in northern China to his difficult years in Beijing to his success today.

"'Number One' was a phrase my father - and, for that matter, my mother - repeated time and time again.  It was a phrase spoken by my parents' friends and by their friends' children.  Whenever adults discussed the great Chinese painters and sculptors from the ancient dynasties, there was always a single artist named as Number One.  There was the Number One leader of a manufacturing plant, the Number One worker, the Number One scientist, the Number One car mechanic."

Journey of a Thousand Miles documents the remarkable, dramatic story of a family who sacrificed almost everything - his parents' marriage, financial security, Lang Lang's childhood, and their reputation in China's insular classical music world - for the belief in a young boy's talent.

And it reveals the devastating and intense relationship between a boy and his father, who was willing to go to any lengths to make his son a star.

"In the culture of my childhood, being best was everything.  It was the goal that drove us, the motivation that gave life meaning.  And if, by chance or fate or the blessings of the generous universe, you were a child in whom talent was evident, Number One became your mantra.  It became mine.  I never begged my parents to take off the pressure.  I accepted it;  I even enjoyed it.  It was a game, this contest among aspiring pianists, and although I may have been shy, I was bod, even at age five, when faced with a field of rivals."

An engaging, informative cultural commentator who bridges East and West, Lang Lang has written more than an autobiography:  his book opens a door to China, where Lang Lang is a cultural icon.

Written with David Ritz, the coauthor of many bestselling autobiographies, Journey of a Thousand Miles is an inspiring story that will give readers an appreciation for the courage and sacrifice it takes to achieve greatness.

About the authors:  Lang Lang was born in 1982 in Shenyang, China.  He has played with the leading orchestras in all of the major concert halls throughout the world.

David Ritz is a bestselling music writer who has cowritten autobiographies with Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, and B B King, among others.

To Be Imperfect


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Half-Moon and Empty Stars by Gerry Spence


Paperback:  Half-Moon and Empty Stars (2001) is a legal thriller, a family drama, a love story, and a visionary work of fiction that examines our dearest values of life and death.

Vincent Bugliosi described the book as "a compelling family drama centred around the death penalty."

When a local land developer is found murdered outside his home in Twin Buttes, Wyoming, Native American activist Charlie Redtail is immediately charged with the crime.

Everyone knew that Charlie fiercely opposed the victim's plans to build on sacred ground, and the local District Attorney is demanding the death penalty - not for justice, but with her own agenda in mind.

The trial will draw Charlie's friends and family together despite the shared pains of their past and their own conflicting desires, and send idealistic small-town lawyer Abner Hill on a quest for the truth - for his client and himself.

"Justice is always better than truth," Henry Old Deer said.  He threw a crumb from his Snickers bar to the dog, who grabbed it in midair.  "I have thrown this dog the crumb.  The truth is the dog likes Snickers too.  But truth does not feed a dog.  Justice is when the dog is fed.  Do you understand?"

It will open old, unhealed wounds in the town of Twin Buttes, uncover a bitter legacy of prejudice against Native Americans that span lifetimes, and keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final gavel falls.

Basically, this is the story of twin brothers - half Arapaho, half white - set in a small Wyoming town.

One goes the way of the Native American (Charlie Redtail), the other the way of the well-heeled investment banker (Billy Redtail).

About the author:  Gerry Spence is a trial lawyer in the United States.  In 2008, he announced he would retire, at age 79, at the end of the Geoffrey Fieger trial in Detroit, MI.  Spence did not lose a criminal case in the over 50 years he practiced law.  He started his career as a prosecutor and later became a successful defense attorney for the insurance industry.  Years later, Spence said he "saw the light" and became committed to representing people, instead of corporations, insurance companies, banks, or "big business."  Half-Moon and Empty Stars is his first and widely acclaimed novel.

Rating:  6/5

Quiet