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In A Dark Place and Deadly Obsessions – Book Review

DeadlyObession-InADarkPlace InADarkPlace-DeadlyObessionby: RayGarton

Publisher: Dell Publishing

Copyright: 1992, ISBN: [0440216982]

Type: Paperback

(Deadly Obsessions, by Cliford L. LineDecker and Dr. Frank M. Osanka, PINNACLE BOOKS, 1995, ISBN: [0786001127],  paperback)

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, March 5, 1995

Summary: Two books recommended. Adult material covering crimes of an unusual nature.        

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 3 – March 1995


Why two books under one review?

After moving into a newly remodeled house one evening, Stephen Snedeker, the fourteen year old adolescent of the Snedeker household, walked into the kitchen where his mother was washing dishes and told her, “Mom, we have to leave this house. There’s something evil here.” Later, amid reports of ghostly apparitions and sounds in the house, Stephen will be taken to a juvenile detention center after unsuccessfully attempting to rape his twelve-year-old cousin. IN A DARK PLACE is truly a scary book. But not for the reasons you would think.

John Ray Weber was four years old when he started a fire in a wastebasket at his house in the small town of Phillips, Wisconsin. Twelve or so years later, he was pointing a .22 rifle at his sister demanding that she “go with him”. Shortly after the rifle incident, he smashed a bottle over her head, intending to render her unconscious so that he could molest her. The deadly obsession of DEADLY OBSESSIONS is a chronicle of John Ray Weber’s inalterable trek down a path that lead to the death and mutilation of a seventeen year old girl and the brutal beating of a woman who had the misfortune of being Weber’s wife. This is definitely not a book everyone should read. The details are a bit much. But there are references, sometimes vague, of a John Weber arguing aloud within himself in two voices. There are references to John Weber who sometimes referred to himself as Natas–Satan spelled backwards.

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Coming Back to Life – Review

by: Atwater, P.M.H.

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Copyright: 1988

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 3/5/1995

Summary: Old ideas in new package: the near death experience.

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 3 – March 1995 – Copyright 1995.

There is so much to dislike about this book. Yet, the content and intent are of the highest aspirations. People who have been near-death do have something to offer us, if only of pedestrian interest. But somewhere between intent and final product, the author, Phyllis M. H. Atwater, took a decisively wrong turn in Coming Back to Life.

Atwater’s own near-death experience is most interesting. The first, more like a prelude to a near-death experience than an actual experience, occurred when she was alone in her house and suffered a miscarriage. She hemorrhaged, became unconscious but was able to revive after a couple of minutes. Her second experience was also brought about due to pain. It is this second experience that is the most interesting. She reports leaving her body and becoming aware of her consciousness; her life “flashed” before her eyes. And she came to a realization. In her words, “I had no idea, no idea at all, not even the slightest hint of an idea, that every thought, word, and deed was remembered, accounted for, and went out and had a life of its own once released; nor did I know that the energy of that life directly affected all it touched or came near . . .”

It is Atwater’s reported reaction to her second near-death experience that makes the book credible. It is as if she has been allowed to step back from herself and objectively observe her value as a person. What she finds, she says, is disappointing. Realizing that you are not the perfect you can be a humbling experience. So much so in fact that, if you value life or yourself, you constantly seek ways to make yourself better–not so much materially as spiritually. This is the theme running through the words of practically all people who have experienced “near-death”. They develop an almost insatiable desire to learn, to acquire knowledge and with that knowledge, move beyond the barriers of ego. Therein lies the trouble with this book. It achieves the unenviable feat of stepping on its own conclusion.

In case the reader misses the point, Atwater discusses at some length the work of Richard Maurice Bucke. Bucke, in his book Cosmic Consciousness published in 1901, set out to show how an assortment of fifty people attained spiritual enlightenment. He, like Atwater, codified the various levels of spiritual development in the people he examined. What Atwater describes as the after-effects of the near death experience, Bucke called the aftermath of illumination. The problem with Bucke’s work is that it provides more answers than there are questions. The same holds for Atwater’s work: she answers more questions than there are questions. This is usually a pretty good indication that something else is going on than the mere giving of knowledge. We’re working on a religion here. “Us” the enlightened against “them” the un-enlightened.

If you can wade your way through the elitist undertones–which are probably un-intentionally present but no less bothersome–you may pick-up a few insights into the universal themes of people and religion. Nothing new is said, which is a good thing. It is old thought in a new package–wrapped in a study of the near-death experience. The book would have been better perhaps if the packaging was not used.




Mutant Message Down Under – Review

by: Morgan, Marlo

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright: 1991

Type: Hardcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 3/5/1995

Summary: Excellent Australian backdrop. Recommended. Fiction inspired by actual events and a long definition “walkabout”.

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 3 – March 1995 – Copyright 1995.

Australia. What a strange and lovely place.

This is the second adventure book this reviewer has read. Like the first, The Celestine Prophecy (see February issue), this adventure is a first person narrative supposedly relating true events. MUTANT MESSAGE DOWN UNDER however has fiction written all over it–literally. It was first self-published by the author without the “fiction” word on its cover. By the time the folks in New York finished with it, fiction it was. But the author tells us in a forward that the content was inspired by actual events.

Also in the forward, the author sets a pretty big agenda for such a small book. “America, Africa, Australia all seem to be trying to improve race relations. But somewhere in the dry heart of the Outback….”, she writes. Yes, the Outback. The other side of nowhere which is somewhere. First you love the language–dreamtime, road train, walkabout, outback–and then you love the. . . Well, maybe you don’t love the thought matter. It is rather pedestrian after all.

Our author adventuress is invited to receive an award from a tribe of Aborigine folks called the Wild People or Ancient Ones. The award is for her work in training Aborigine youth in running a business to become self-sufficient. It takes her driver four hours to arrive at the tribe’s location. Unable to speak the language she relies on her driver as her interpreter. The driver is a member of the tribe.

Prepared to receive a plaque or trophy, the author discovers that her award consists of a series of tests. One test involves choosing a rock. It has the power to save her life, she is told. She apparently chooses wisely because the assembled tribes’ people smile warmly at her after she deliberates and plucks a rock from a plate. (Much later, we find the significance of this chosen rock). There is a celebration consisting of music and dancing in which the tribe, in dance and pantomime, relates its history. The celebration ends and the adventure begins.

Our heroine watches the group pack-up and start to walk out into the desert. Her driver is going with them. He tells her that the group is going on a walkabout that will last three months. When she protests that she is not prepared for a trek through the desert and couldn’t just disappear for three months without letting her employer, landlord and family know, she is told by the tribal elder, Ooota, that everyone who needed to know would know.

This is as good as place as any to halt this adventure and discuss some of the amazing concepts buried within words. Walkabout, for example.

If you have never gone on a walkabout in the city of Chicago, you are missing one of the true joys of life. Compton s Interactive Encyclopedia defines a walkabout as: walk about\ n. 1 [Austral.] a periodic return to nomadic life in the Outback by an Aborigine: often in the phrase to go (on) walkabout.

A walkabout is as much a state of mind as physical exertion. For instance, in my frequent sojourns through and around downtown Chicago, I constantly find myself asking, “Who put this stuff here?” The “stuff” could be a discarded beer bottle, a tall building or a bicycle rack. As you go on a walkabout, you begin to appreciate the absence of stuff. Those neatly mowed lawns and trimmed hedges from Hillside to downtown Chicago (one of my longer walkabouts) was just more stuff, more clutter. On a walkabout you learn that there is no intrinsic beauty in stuff. Stuff is stuff. A walkabout is a good way to develop an appreciation for the presence and absence of stuff. I imagine that if a Chicago-area walkabout lasted long enough, the initial shock of seeing the cluttersome stuff polluting the terrain would fade into acceptance. Not an acceptance of the way things are, but of the gestalt, the evolution from flat prairie to city back to flat prairie. On a walkabout, the only thing that really changes is yourself. That’s what a walkabout is for.

But I digress.

Our adventuress picks up tips on surviving a walkabout in the desert. She also takes part in rituals and games of the tribe. She discovers that the people of the tribe continually change their names to reflect the skills and experiences they accumulate in life. She discovers that the tribe can communicate head-to-head–telepathy. Her most amazing discovery is that every member of the tribe must at some point assume responsibility for leading the tribe on the walkabout. When it is her turn to lead, she learns much about herself, protesting her inability, her ineptitude but discovering that on the other side of that chasm separating leadership from following is the skill to lead. Stepping in front of the group merely makes her more a part of the group, it does not separate her from it. Her leadership role and what she has to say about it is probably the most valuable contribution this book has to offer.

MUTANT MESSAGE DOWN UNDER is not earthshaking. If you do not read it, you miss a couple of common messages. Here, the messages are presented in an enjoyably simple manner. If for no other reason, you can read this work for what it reveals about Australia. Australia. What a strange and lovely place.



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