Free Thinking Bibliophile Posts

indexThere are certain elements of life  that remain constant, never-ceasing to captivate, intimidate and stir controversy.  An accepted part of life, sex is one of many things that always sells no matter how taboo it may be in some cultures.  For some, it’s a very private subject that shouldn’t be discussed in conversation outside of the home and for others, it’s a topic which should be freely discussed.   No matter which side you find yourself on,  we can all agree that sex always remains fascinating and its explicitness is part of its aura.

In this intriguing fictional tale,  author C. Robinson brings to us Sunshyne Mercy, teacher by day and escort by night. Existing in two different worlds, Sunshyne exemplifies the human ability to live a life full of contradiction but at the same time, maintaining integrity and hope in world that can be full of treachery, tragedy and disparity.  Jung explained it the best in his analysis of the duality of man.

The book contains an entire cast of characters and I believe that if Oscar Wilde were alive today, this would be by far one of his favorite books.   While the book is about sex in most parts, it’s also about human emotions, psychology and self-reflection.  No one in the book is beyond reproach and through these characters we see the internal struggle for self-acceptance that plagues so many of us.   Sunshyne is an escort, but she’s not the ordinary one and her escapades and thoughts pull the reader in one page at a time.  And through her eyes, we see that we all have secrets, some are just darker than others.  This is the first part of a continuing project and the second part should be just as good as the first if not better.

ISBN-10: 1463517440
ISBN-13: 978-1463517441

Fiction

a nation of enemiesThe Cuban Revolution, carried today by Raul Castro, set an example for other Latin American nations and became the shining example of a successful campaign to resist U.S. intervention.  In time, more countries began to look to Cuba as a model for their own revolutionary goals in an effort to spread Marxist ideology throughout Central and South America. Salvador Allende’s efforts to spread the beliefs throughout Chile would be in good faith but severely short-lived.  On September 11, 1973, he was overthrown in a military coup led by the late General Augusto Pinochet.  Allende, who died of reportedly self-inflicted gunshot wounds, tried unsuccessfully to lead Chile down the path of socialism inspired by his Marxist-Leninist beliefs.  The removal of Allende and assumption of power by Pinochet, would bring Chile some of its darkest days.  Political suppression, unemployment,  famine, murder and corruption became constant aspects of Chilean society under a dictator with an insatiable appetite for power, greed and subordination.  Pamela Constable and Arturo Valenzuela bring the past to life with this excellent historical account of a crucial period in the history of Chile.  Under Pinochet, the dreams of change, freedom and economic prosperity began to fade as the income gap between the rich and the poor became the largest in the country’s history.  Poverty,  depression,  health issues and domestic surveillance by the notorious DINA would transform a once free society in a military state.   Freedom of press, expression and religion became archaic ideas subject to intimidation, imprisonment and in some cases, death.  Schools and universities were under rigorous scrutiny in efforts to purge them of any ideological teachings by the far left bearing a haunting similarity to Nazi controlled Germany.

Old opposition movements began to re-form and newer organizations began to take shape eventually dividing Chilean society between Communist, Christian Democratics, Humanist parties and pro-regime organizations.   Tension began to simmer and Pinochet’s time in office began to see its last days.  His reign lasted from 1973 until October 1988, when the Chilean people demanded change and elected Patricio Aylwin by a large margin bringing democracy back to a country in need of hope and security.  His election was a culmination of years of disillusionment by the Chilean public, and even the Regan administration.  The Chile we know today is far removed from its darkest days under one of the most notorious dictators in Latina American history.  This book is a must read for anyone interested in the regime of Augusto Pinochet and Chilean politics.

ISBN-10: 0393309851
ISBN-13: 978-0393309850

Latin America

peppers order to killApril 4, 1968-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated as he stands on the balcony in front of room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.  That same night, Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-New York) gives what is considered by many to be the best speech of his career on the back of a pickup truck to a crowd of stunned and angry supporters.  A drifter and ex-convict by the name of James Earl Ray is arrested at Heathrow Airport in London after a manhunt and extradited back to the United States.  Following his indictment, he pleads guilty to the crime, but many questions about his motive and actions continue to go unanswered.   The murder of Dr. King and of President Kennedy would be the subject to investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations.  And although the investigations revealed new evidence in both murders, new suspects and evidence of a probable conspiracy in President Kennedy’s murder, the complete truth about both murders continues to elude the American public.

Decades have passed since Dr. King’s murder and the official story still stands.  But this book by William F. Pepper will challenge everything you thought you knew about the murder and his alleged assassin James Earl Ray.  The Freedom of Information Act completely changed the face of investigative reporting and gave citizens of all professions and walks of life a powerful tool in their efforts to learn the truth about historical events in which disturbing questions still linger.  The FBI, under the tutelage and direction of J. Edgar Hoover, conducted illegal domestic wiretapping and surveillance on American citizens, political organizations and figures.  The infamous COINTEL program cast a dark cloud over the agency and re-enforced the suspicions and concerns of an agency out of control.

1968 was a tumultuous year with the Vietnam war raging  and American involvement increasingly escalating.  Social tensions brimming under the surface resulted in race riots across the country and the murders of John F. Kennedy and Medgar Evars were still fresh in the minds of civil rights activists and citizens deeply concerned about the direction in which their country was headed.   Destined to break with the Johnson administration, King’s opposition to the Vietnam war, his rhetoric and social standing sent chills down the spines of the politicians in Washington and the military industrial complex.  Unwilling to tolerate civil unrest at home, the government began to increase domestic surveillance using MIGs (Military Intelligence Groups), the CIA, FBI, ONI and NSA.  Their trail of King would lead them to Memphis where fate would take over resulting in the tragic events on April 4.  Ray’s conviction seemed simple enough, he pleaded guilty as recommended by then attorney Percy Foreman and sits in jail to this day.   However, as Pepper’s reveals, the guilty plea and evidence presented, both crumble under intense scrutiny and there were events that transpired that day unrelated to James Earl Ray.  Over the years, Ray has given many accounts of his actions that day and none are in tune with those of a lone nut. Portrayed as a stone cold killer and rabid racist, he was convicted in the court of public opinion even before he set foot in a courtroom.  Pepper’s investigation unearths a mountain of evidence and cast strong doubt on Ray’s guilt and forces the reader to re-examine everything he/she thought they knew about one of the most infamous murders in American history.

There’s an entire cast of characters in the book, including President Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover,  H.L. Hunt and Carlos Marcello.  The web of intrigue between these once powerful figures is nothing short of spell-binding and disturbing.   A common question Americans ask one another is who really controls this country?  I believe that investigations into the murders of President Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will provide insight into the machinations of the U.S. Government and show what true power really is.  Had Dr. King lived to this day, he’d be 86 years of age and we can only guess as to what he would think of the current state of our country.  Next month is the national holiday for his birthday, but this year, the celebration will have a different meaning for myself and I’m sure others that have read this book.  I no longer question why he was murdered but question what if he had not been.

ISBN-10: 0786702532
ISBN-13: 978-0786702534

Civil Rights Movement

schweitzerOn September 4, 1965, Albert Schweitzer died in Lambaréné in Central Africa.  The founder of what is known today as the Albert Schweitzer hospital was the recipient of the Noble Peace Prize in 1952.  Today, little is spoken of him and in most classrooms his name is unknown.  But this religious scholar and doctor was one of the most influential and respected individuals of his time.  This is his autobiography, about the life he lived up until several years after he returned to Lambaréné to continue his missionary aid to the people of the Central African nation.  Born in the German occupied territory of Alsace in 1875, Schweitzer began his training in theological studies before making the decision to become a doctor which forever changed his life. His discussions about the Old and New Testaments are thought-provoking and encourage the reader to ask pertinent questions as to what we believe and know about Christianity, the Bible and Jesus.  The writings reveal a brilliant mind, always seeking the truth but remaining a steadfast proponent of analytical and profound thought.

His writings on colonization are those of an individual committed to freedom, prosperity and equality and he holds nothing back in his criticism of the colonial system and its barbaric effects upon the people within its control. Written many years before the civil rights movement, his words serve as a predecessor to subsequent writings and speeches on colonialism penned by such authors as the late Franz Fanon and Huey P. Newton.  Although not as fierce in his rhetoric as the latter two mentioned, his words are just as straightforward and as can be imagined, controversial at the time.  Nonetheless, he would remain in Lambaréné until the end of his life.  Prior to reading this book, my knowledge of Albert Schweitzer was limited and I was unaware of his thoughts, writings and contributions. Having now read this autobiography and learning more about this iconic figure,  I can fully appreciate his contribution to society and the importance of his place in history.

ASIN: B00N04PC9W

Biographies

hurtThe assassination of President John F. Kennedy remains the biggest unsolved murder in American history.   The murders of the President, Lee Harvey Oswald and Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippitt, have fascinated the American public for over 50 years.  Hundreds of books have been published, each one analyzing the case from a different angle.  Henry Hurt presents to us, his investigation into the murder and why there’s reasonable doubt about what we’ve been told to believe all of these years.  The book was published in 1985 and since then, other books have appeared, most notably Joseph McBride’s ‘Into The Nightmare’.  There is far more information is available today than when Hurt wrote this book due to the release of thousands of pages of documents relating to the investigation.  But any researcher into the assassination will be well served by reading Hurt’s interesting investigative report.   From the start, he explains that he wanted to believe that the Warren Commission report was the final say on those tragic events in Dallas on that day.  But as he continued to dig deeper into the investigation, more questions arose than answers, casting severe doubt on the Commission’s report and giving him reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The most perplexing aspect of the entire crime is that as one uncovers more information of the sinister deeds that day, the more mysterious and puzzling it becomes.  There are never-ending leads and hundreds of suspicious characters, but concrete links to major figures continue to elude even the most experienced of researchers.  Hurt’s research into the lives of Oswald and Tippit was exhaustively completely and  he concludes, both men are still a mystery.  And while the question as to whether Ruby, Oswald and Tippitt knew each other remains,  there’s circumstantial evidence that there did indeed exist, some sort of relationship between the three.   Hurt also revealed the names of several individuals who I previously had been unaware of and their possible relationship to the events in Dealey plaza.   I should point out that those who are familiar with the assassination and have previously read other books will fill in some of the gaps in the book regarding information unknown to the author at the time.  This book is rarely mentioned in conversations about the assassination and is sometimes overshadowed by Jim Marrs’ classic, ‘Crossfire’.  But I think it is recommended reading for anyone interested in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

ISBN-10: 0030040590
ISBN-13: 978-0030040597

JFK

mosaicFifty-One years ago, a mother of two was brutally murdered in broad daylight in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.  For several hours her identity remained a mystery to investigators.  When her identity was revealed, it as sent shock-waves through the political and intelligence circles of Washington and raised the eyebrows of researchers of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Mary Pinchot-Meyer, the estranged wife of Cord Meyer, Jr., was only 44 when she was murdered, leaving behind sons Quentin and Mark.  Peter Janney, a friend of the Meyer family and best of friend of the Meyer’s late and middle son Michael,  presents to us his investigation into her murder and why it remains a crucial part of the investigation into the murder of President John F. Kennedy.

But who was Mary Pinchot Meyer and who would want her dead?  Janney answers these questions and his closeness to the Meyers gives him a unique perspective regarding her murder, the actions of her close “friends” after her death, the sham trial against Ray Crump, Jr. and the actions of his own father, Wistar Janney, also an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency.   Beginning with Meyer’s death, the book takes us through several twist and turns, each revealing more and more troubling aspects of both murders.   We’re also introduced to several highly important individuals related to both of the deceased such as William Harvey, Ben Bradlee and the mysterious James Jesus Angleton.  And the further the author takes us into Meyer’s life and the chilling connections surrounding her  death, the more we realize how crucial her murder is in solving the crime that occurred in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963.  Many years have passed since she and JFK departed this earth, but their murders have brought to life a very dark side of U.S. intelligence.  Her life was truly a mosaic, filled with unbelievable characters and events and one that continues to put fear into those who knew and loved her.

ISBN-10: 1510708928
ISBN-13: 978-1510708921

 

JFK

20180603_134838Interestingly, the term “Camelot” was never used by President Kennedy or his family.  And according to Author M. Schlesinger, Jr., it was a term coined by the press to described the Kennedy legacy.  The President’s death still remains one of the most shocking moments in U.S. history.  Thousands of pages of documents relating to his administration and murder still remained classified as do numerous documents relating to the then Attorney General and President’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy. In recent years, more information about the inner workings of the Kennedy administration have come to light. And the number of books written by people who knew the President or are investigation his murder is nothing short of staggering.  To my knowledge, there is no other President in history about which, so many books have been written. The prevailing image of JFK is that of a young President, murdered by a lone assassin, leaving two children and a grieving widow behind.   However, the further we explore his murder, administration and personal life, the more we will come to realize that there was indeed a very dark side to Camelot.

Seymour M. Hersh, the famed investigative journalist, takes us deep inside the Kennedy family and their history in the politics of the nation.  I forewarn the reader that the book isn’t pleasant. Hersh does not sugar coat anything and at times some of the things that are revealed are both shocking and disturbing.  People with knowledge of the Kennedys and assassination researchers will know quite a bit of some of the things in the book.  But for those who are learning these facts for the first time will find themselves in for a shock and a new understanding on how fractured the personal life of John F. Kennedy was.   It’s often been said that Kennedy and his mother Rose had what would be considered a “cool” relationship. Often away during his childhood, his relationship with his mother quite possibly played a large part in his future relationships with his wife and the many affairs he had during his lifetime. Guided by an assertive and driven father who would not take losing at any cost, the young Senator and future President found himself in the biggest office in the land, inheriting the problems of the previous administration and a nation in the midst of political and social upheaval.   But behind the scenes, the President was in a tumultuous marriage, strained by infidelity and the prying eyes of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.   Protected by his father Joe, Sr., and his younger brother Bobby, the young President was continually insulated from situations that could have severely damaged his reputation and possibly removed him from office.

In his defense, President Kennedy isn’t alive to defend himself and like all of us he had his faults.  Had he lived, there’s a strong possibility that he may not have had a second term in office due to the many scandals brewing just beneath the surface and ready to explode at a moment’s notice.  However, the facts remain that he did avert a nuclear war, put into motion several important laws and had begun to work on a plan for civil rights.  And contrary to Hersh’s assertion that Kennedy alone was responsible for Vietnam, Kennedy did in fact have a plan for withdrawal that sadly, he wouldn’t live to fulfill.  This book is a roller-coaster ride, full of all sorts of interesting pieces of information.   All of the major players are here, and what results is a complicated web connecting Washington, the Italian-American mafia, call-girls, Cuban exiles, the military and the Central Intelligence Agency.  Hersh did a incredible job researching this addicting and intriguing read.

ISBN-10: 0316359556
ISBN-13: 978-0316359559

JFK

ows_144380183016065Political dynasties are as American as apple pie.   We all know the names Bush, Clinton, Rockefeller, Roosevelt and Kennedy.  Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (1888-1969) and Rose Kennedy (1890-1995) produced nine children together and helped create a legacy that continues to this day.   Tragically they lost four of their nine children to violent deaths.  Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy (1932-2009) carried the touch for the family for many years until his own death in 2009.  In death, they became larger than life figures who became staples of American politics.  But behind the historical speeches, money, looks and fame was a Kennedy whose life took a tragic course of its own.  She is nearly forgotten in history books about the Kennedys but her story is one that must be told.  And here, Kate Clifford Larson tells the sad story of Rose Marine “Rosemary” Kennedy (1918-2005).

From the outset, the story is gripping as Rose realizes that something is not right with her daughter who seems to be developing much slower than she should be.  It is not long before it is realized that Rosemarie is developmentally disabled.  Rose refuses to give up and teaches her daughter, eventually making enough progress where Rosemarie is able to function with some independence.  Larson even includes snippets of letters Rosemarie wrote showing both her progress and lack of development.

In the time period in which mental disability was rarely spoken of and in primitive stages of treatment, the Kennedy family name had much to lose.  And this could not be allowed.  The family desperately wanted to help its beloved Rosemarie and her father Joe, finds out about another new experimental treatment.  And this is the turning point in the book and the author captures the tragedy perfectly, driving home the point to the reader.   For Rosemarie, her life would never be the same again and in some ways was  over for good.  Tragically, she spent the rest of her life in an assisted living facility, never again able to venture out on her own.  In seclusion, she remained a carefully guarded secret but her sisters would use her disability in one of the most moving examples to date.

While she may have been unaware, Rosemary’s condition served as the catalyst for her brother John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) and sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver  (1921-2009) to create the Special Olympics, through the Kennedy Foundation in partnership with several organizations.   The Special Olympics continues to this day and through the games, the memory of Rosemary Kennedy lives on.  This is her story, the good, the bad and the heartbreaking.

ISBN-10: 0544811909
ISBN-13: 978-0544811904

Biographies

51v-zflygul-_sy344_bo1204203200_The fallout from the arrest and subsequent conviction of Warren Jeffs shocked the Fundamental Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and its contingent of believers. The man who proclaimed himself to be the prophet has been revealed to be nothing more than a pedophile with a talent for extreme rhetoric.  He and many other powerful men, kept the members of the FLDS in an iron grip was they exploited them for their own personal gain.  Child labor, sexual abuse and underage marriage have resulted in infamy and the interest of State and Federal authorities.  Defectors from the church have become testifying witnesses and told their stories on television and in books. Among these heroic individuals if Carolyn Jessop, whose own story of escape and survival is just as moving and shocking as many others.  In confluence with ‘Stolen Innocence‘ and ‘The Witness Wore Red‘, she also takes the reader deep inside the FLDS to witness the reality faced by her and dozens of young women who are married off to far older men who sometimes are even related to them by blood.  At the age of eighteen, Carolyn is married to Merrill Jessop, a leading figure in the FLDS.  Over fifteen years, she gave birth to eight children, including one with a sever physical disability.   Miraculously, she escapes the church and starts a new life but her old life remains with her as a reminder of the fate faced by other young girls who are unable to make their own escape.

Laura Palmer who is an author of several books including another with Jessop titled Triumph, puts Carolyns words into writing as she tells her incredible life story that is sure to leave the reader in a state of shock and confusion.  To some it may seem unreal that her story is being told in 2007. But the reality is that in some parts of this country, things are done in a completely different way.   But the question is when does that way become both a crime and tragedy?  Jessop in some ways was lucky, she gained freedom for herself and all of her eight children.   Others who have left have not been as fortunate and have had to get authorities involved to reclaim their families.  And some have even faced continued harassment from the community they once called home.  As to be expected, the book’s antagonist is her former husband Merrill, a man much older and of a sometimes vindictive nature. His actions in the book are beyond reprehensible but critical in understanding the methods of control both physically and mentally that are employed by the powerful male members of the FLDS.

There are times where the book is a tough read and some parts are infuriating. But if you can make it through, you will find yourself in her corner rooting for her and her children to finally gain their freedom.  And in this case, she truly does save the best for last.  Leaving the only culture you have ever known is never easy and for those that do, they leave behind people that they despise but also people that they love deeply.  The human mind is an invention that continues to mystify even those that understand it the best.  Carolyn’s story reminds us that not all prisons are physical.  The power of the mind is often underestimated and taken for granted.  If I had been born into a FLDS family, perhaps my way of thinking would be different from the way it is now.  I use the term free thinking in the title of the blog because I believe that everyone should have the ability to engage in free thought and form their own opinions. After finishing Jessop’s story, I am even more grateful for the many freedoms I do have and I make it a point to never take any of them for granted.  For a good story about the real FLDS, this is a good place to start.

ISBN-10: 0767927575
ISBN-13: 978-0767927574

 

 

Cults

scarpaOn June 4, 1994, Greg “The Grim Reaper” Scarpa died of AIDS related complications at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota.  The former mobster is known as one of the most feared killers in mafia history.   Joseph Valachi is thought to be the first made member of a La Costra Nostra family to shed light on the dark secrets held by the mafia.  Following Scarpa’s death, it came to light that he had been an informant for the FBI as early as 1953 preceding Valachi by ten years.  Unlike Valachi, he never testified and while an informant he continued to operate on the streets of New York with sometimes very deadly consequences.  From all accounts, he took part in or played a supporting role in dozens of murders, some of which remained unsolved.   His son, Greg Scarpa, Jr., is still incarcerated but has renounced his former life as a mobster and continues his quest to have his conviction reviewed and his jail time reduced.  I was previously familiar with the author Peter Lance, having read his book ‘A Thousand Years For Revenge’ as a sophomore at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.   This book on Scarpa came as a recommendation from Amazon and I jumped at the chance to read this engaging and shocking expose.  And while the cover of the book is highly enticing on its own, what’s contained is the pages of this book is nothing short of mind-boggling and will make you question everything you thought you knew about the trials and convictions of mobsters, most notably, John Gotti, Vic Orena, Sr.,  Sammy “The Bull” Gravano and Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso.  And next to Scarpa, Casso figures prominently throughout the book and his relationship with the government is just as fascinating.

Lance does a masterful and mesmerizing job of investigation the government’s relationship with Scarpa and the intelligence he was providing to the FBI.   Receiving intelligence in return from the bureau, Scarpa was given a free pass to continue his criminal enterprise, avoid criminal prosecution and perfect his craft as a stone cold killer making the streets of Brooklyn run red with blood.  Lin DeVecchio, who was his handler, was charged and later acquitted of four homicides related to his relationship with Scarpa. And while he avoided prosecution, this book sheds new light on his actions at the time resulting in even more questions than answers.  DeVecchio didn’t take part in this book and never responded to Lance’s requests for interviews.   Whether his choice to avoid Lance is admission of guilt or a carefully thought out plan of defense is up to the reader to decide.  What is clear from this book is that for 30 years, Greg Scarpa, Sr., enjoyed a privilege seldom given to mafia killers.  Following his death, the fallout from his time as a confidential informant continued for several years.   However, not all of the fallout was negative.  In fact, Lance reveals several important details regarding the war on terror that have a direct relationship with the Grim Reaper himself through his son Greg Scarpa, Jr., and his incarceration with the infamous terrorists Ramzi Yousef and Terry Nichols.  For those who have studied the first World Trade Center bombing and the Federal Building  bombing in Oklahoma, this section of the book will be highly interesting.  When I started reading this I literally could not put it down.   For information on Greg Scarpa, the Colombo Crime Family wars and the government’s fight against and collusion with the mafia, this book is a must read.

ASIN: B009NG0SIG

 

Organized Crime