Month: March 2016

51andlwz7jl-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Almighty Latin King & Queen Nation still reigns as one of the largest and most violent gangs in the United States. Thousands of young men and women join the gang in search of acceptance and excitement. Visions of grandeur of money, cars, fame sex and power form a nexus of seduction designed to lure new members into the fold.  Tragically some of these members will live and die by the code of the gang.  Others spend their lives in prison but some are able to leave the gang and face a life without the backing of the very people that they have called family for most of their young lives.

Reymundo Sanchez, author of ‘Lady Q’, tells his story or his own path to becoming a Latin King on the gritty streets of Chicago, IL, the birthplace of the Latin Kings.  Born on the back of a pickup truck in Puerto Rico into a dysfunctional household, his young life seems as if it reads from a script all too often played out in low-income households.  Upon re-locating to Chicago, his life takes yet another turn where he is formally exposed to the gang culture then beginning to tighten its grip on the windy city.

Gang memoirs are never easy reads and Sanchez’s story is no different.  The encounters and acts of violence in the book are gritty and his struggle with his own personal demons is moving and eye-opening.   And at times, his story has all of the hallmarks of a classic gangster film.  There’s an assortment of characters, ranging from range from sexual deviants, homicidal maniacs, drug addicts, everyday people and young children caught in the vicious cycle of gang life.  Reading this book made me reflect on my childhood in East New York and the many Latin Kings that I knew on a first name basis as this book could have been written by any one of them.  In spite of its brutally honest recollections of violence, sex and drugs, the book is an invaluable piece of literature that should be read by anyone considering joining a gang or for those seeking to understand what drives kids to join in the first place. It also highlights the ongoing problem of lack of education and family structure issues that continued to plague inner city youths.

ISBN-10: 1556524277
ISBN-13: 978-1556524271

 

Biographies

51goclba5il-_sx303_bo1204203200_On November 22, 1963, Charles Crenshaw was a resident surgeon working at Parkland Hospital when President John F. Kennedy arrived mortally wounded following an ambush in Dealey Plaza.  Crenshaw, along with many other physicians that day, relied upon all of their medical training in an effort to save the President’s life.  Following Kennedy’s death, rumors, misstatements and mystery began to surround the events that took place inside Trauma Room 1 that day and two days later in Trauma Room 2, when Lee Harvey Oswald arrived after being fatally wounded by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby in the basement of the Dallas County jail.

For many years after the events of that horrific weekend in November, 1963, a majority of the doctors remained silent about what they saw that day and their role in the treatment administered to the dying President.  Crenshaw, in direct rejection of an order given by then head surgeon Charles Baxter, decided to write his account of his role that day and published the first version of this book then titled ‘JFK: Conspiracy of Silence’ which has been revised and renamed to the current title.  Dr. Crenshaw’s memoir takes us back in time into Trauma Room 1 and the arrival of the Presidential motorcade.  The recollections are gritty and unrelenting and through his words we are able to visualize the massive wounds sustained by John F. Kennedy and Gov. John Connally and the desperate attempts of the hospital staff to save JFK and the successful effort that saved the life of Gov. Connally.    He also recalls the often overlooked extensive treatment given to the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, two days later on Nov. 24.

This book, which became a #1 bestseller upon its release, is an invaluable piece of literature about one of the darkest days in American history where the government and direction of this nation changed course.   The doctors at Parkland Hospital faced insurmountable tasks that weekend in their attempts to save the lives of three men forever joined in history through murder, deception and complicity.  The book also forces us to ask many what if questions, some of which, if they had been answered, would have changed the investigation into the death of the President and his alleged assassin.  For any JFK assassination researcher or just anyone curious about what exactly happened inside Parkland Hospital, this book is a must read.

ASIN: B017MYRDFQ

 

Assassinations

51xmvffffnl-_sx258_bo1204203200_ On March 5, 1982, comedian John Belushi dies at the age of thirty-three from an overdose of cocaine and heroin leaving behind a widow Judith, friends, relatives and scores of fans.  The former Saturday Night Live star featured in the hit films ‘Animal House’ and ‘The Blues Brothers’, had become addicted to cocaine and at the time of his death, had also included heroin into his repertoire of narcotics .  The highly talented outgoing Belushi had yet to reach his full potential in a career with unlimited possibilities. But just who was John Belushi behind the scenes?  And where exactly did he come from?   His widow Judith Belushi Pisano, old friends, co-starts and directors explain to us what they recall of the life of one of the most popular comics in history.  And what they have presented to us, is the definitive biography of the life of an enormously talented star gone far too soon. His life is examined in detail from his humble beginnings in Wheaton, IL to his final tragic moments in Los Angeles, California.

His role as Jake in the ‘Blues Brother’s is among one of my favorites and the film itself retains a place in my collection of films.  The cameo appearances by numerous music stars, choreographed dance scenes and overall humor to the film make it one that I have watched several times and still find it enjoyable.  His death and this biography shed light on the notorious drug culture that walks hand in hand with the celebrity lifestyle.  Belushi, like hundreds of other stars, fell victim to a climate in which drugs, alcohol, sex and most other vices known to man are easy to obtain and abuse.  Tragically, he wouldn’t live to talk about his past addictions and his name shares a place on a long list of celebrity drug tragedies that is populated by such names as River Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Farley, also of Saturday Night Live fame. Nonetheless, he remains an icon in American cinematic and television history and the short career he did have resulted in some of the most memorable moments ever captured on screen.  It’s often said that as long as we’re remembered, we live forever. In John’s case, he will live for an eternity.

ISBN-10: 1590710487
ISBN-13: 978-1590710487

Biographies

51hke4pto-l-_ac_ul320_sr214320_New Orleans remains one of the most popular and mystical cities in the United States.  The Big Easy is rich in history, culture and home to some of the best food found in America.  In fact, just thinking about it brings me back to my visit last year and the incredible plate of fried chicken, red beans and rice that I enjoyed thoroughly.   Spending the majority of my time in the French Quarter on Bourbon Street, I felt as if I had stepped back in time to an era when New Orleans was also one of the most infamous cities in America, filled with pimps, madams, prostitutes,  escorts, intelligence operatives and mafia bosses, most notably the legendary Carlos Marcello.  Kent “Frenchy” Brouillette (1935-2015) teams up with Matthew Randazzo and brings us the story of his life from his humble beginnings in Marksville, LA to his time in the Big Easy and his association with underworld figures such as Carlos Marcello, Norma Wallace, Diamond Jim Moran and Dutch Kraut.  And what we come to learn is the incredible story of one of a legendary figure in the history of the New Orleans underworld.

I do have to admit that I’m a sucker for good true crime stories and biographies of those who at one time were entrenched in the street culture.  I find that crime figures are usually the best readers of people and reveal to us some of the darker sides of human emotion and psychology that many would second guess exist.  Frenchy fits right in to my expectations and his revelations were far more interesting than I could ever have imagined.  My biggest shock is that I had never heard his name prior to reading his book.  One of the most interesting parts of this incredible book is its relationship to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Thanks to Jim Garrison, who is also covered in this book, New Orleans was put into the spotlight with the failed trial of businessman Clay Shaw in the late 1960s.   I wouldn’t say that this book is a smoking gun, but for students of the crime, the information about the characters at the focus of Garrison’s investigation and Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK’ is priceless.  And after reading this book, you just might view the crime in a completely different light and have a new found understanding of the City of New Orleans.

ISBN-10: 0692237488
ISBN-13: 978-0692237489

 

Biographies

511no8zpqyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_On November 22, 1963, several crimes occurred in the city of Dallas.  The murders of JFK, J.D. Tippitt and Lee Harvey Oswald gripped the nation and dominated news headlines here in America and abroad.  The investigation that followed was intended to be an open and shut case, but when we look back in hindsight, we are able to see that it was anything but.  One of the most disturbing aspects of the crime, is the illegal removal of Kennedy’s body from Parkland Hospital.  Far from standard procedure, the removal violated Texas State Law and raised endless suspicious about the actions of the Secret Service and Lyndon Baines Johnson.  The Warren Commission and its report created more questions and provided fewer answers.   To this day, chilling and horrific details about the handling of Kennedy’s body continue to come to light showing a dark and sinister plot in effect.

Vincent Palamara has composed the ultimate compendium, based on testimony of those involved, as to what occurred regarding the shots in Dealey Plaza, the arrival of the motorcade at Parkland Hospital, the treatment of the President up until his death, the removal of the body, the trip to Bethesda and the controversial autopsy that followed.  Presented in a reference format, the key portions of testimony are provided in an outstanding reference format.  And as we follow Palamara’s chronology, we are able to visualize the horror and anguish that gripped the halls of Parkland Hospital.  The Zapruder film showed the public the devastating head wound suffered by Kennedy and the aftermath that followed in the motorcade.  But it is through the testimony of  doctors that we can began to truly understand the violent and gory death that Kennedy suffered.  And even more disturbing is the secretive and deceptive transport of Kennedy’s body to Bethesda Naval Hospital, a later change from the intended Walter Reed Hospital.   The true gift of this book is not that Palamara is writing his own opinions, but that the details we learn come directly from those who were there.  And through their words, that the true horror of that day comes to us refusing to leave.

ISBN-10: 1634240278
ISBN-13: 978-1634240277

Assassinations

MalalaOn a recent flight back from Europe I had a chance to catch an engaging documentary about Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who was shot along with two friends by Taliban rebels for their efforts to promote the education and freedom of young women to live the lives that they choose.  The shooting nearly took her life, killed her but miraculously she survived and went on to become a Nobel Peace Prize winner and spokesperson for thousands of young women throughout the world who are also denied the right to a formal education, freedom of thought and freedom of expression.  Upon returning from abroad, I added her autobiography to my list of books to read and after finishing this book, my only regret is that I did not read it sooner.  I find it hard to put into words how much admiration I have for this young woman for her courage and efforts to improve her homeland of Swat, Pakistan.  Although she no longer lives in the village of Swat, she still retains an emotional and spiritual connection to the place of her birth.

In recent years, she had developed into an excellent public speaker and highly articulate young lady whose voice has been heard in by millions.  Resettled into a neighborhood in Birmingham, England, her family has adapted to the British way of life but will forever remain Pakistanis as heart.  Their plight and eventual relocation is a story of which most of us here in the west could never see ourselves telling.  We are fortunate to live under the rule of democracy, a constitution and a bill of rights  that guarantees each of us rights that are dreamed of by people from nations on all continents.  And through this wonderful and yet tragic account, I learned not only her story but many facts about the history of Pakistan and its tormented relationship with India that has never healed.  From its beginning, Pakistani society been volatile with murders, assassinations and political coups overthrowing one government after the next.  And with the fallout from the 9/11 attacks and the U.S. government’s pursuit of the Taliban, the nation of Pakistan has been transformed into one of the most dangerous places on earth.  Through voices such as Malala, our eyes and ears can be opened to the life that lies ahead for many of the young in the Middle East.

ISBN-10: 0316322423
ISBN-13: 978-0316322423

Biographies

HissJanuary 21, 1950-Alger Hiss is convicted in a second trial on the charge of perjury stemming from his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee regarding his relationship with former defector and Soviet spy, Whitaker Chambers.  The Hiss-Chambers case showcased the widespread paranoia and phobia in the United States of the ideology of communism and its believers.   Years before Joseph McCarthy went on a tirade and nearly destroyed the lives of an endless number of respectable U.S. citizens,  a  young congressman from California name Richard Nixon spearheaded the campaign to root out communist and counter espionage in the United States government.  The congressman later became President and is the only one to have resigned in office.

Allen Weinstein has painstakingly recreated the case from beginning to end, examining the childhoods of both men and the very different paths each took in life.  To this day, the whole truth about what really happened between Hiss and Chambers continues to elude even the most efficient of researchers.  Hiss himself sometimes gave conflicting information or in other cases withheld it and Chambers proved to be a believable  but questionable witness with many eccentric traits.  What started out as case of accusations, eventually turned into an investigation that drew the attention of the President of the United States, the Justice Department and J. Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

I first read about the Hiss case after reading the books of author David Talbot.  Motivated to learn the full story of this sensational case in United States history, I picked the book up on Amazon and what I’ve found is the definitive account of the case which showcases the political climate of the United States during that era and the deep tensions between the United States government and the Soviet Union.  In later years, there would be many more cases of spies defecting such as Kim Philby, Anatoly Golitisin, Yuri Nosenko and the infamous Robert Hanson, portrayed brilliantly by Chris Cooper in the thriller ‘Breach’.   The Soviet-U.S. spy defections and paranoia of communist influence would ruin many lives and nearly destroy the intelligence agencies of three nations.

ISBN-10: 0817912258
ISBN-13: 978-0817912253

Investigative Report