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Property of the Folsom Wolf – Book Review

PropertyOfTheFolsomWolfby: Don Lasseter

Publisher:  Pinnacle Books

Copyright: 1995, ISBN: [0786000902]

Type:  Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, September 5, 1995

Summary: Well written social history with a murder event as backdrop with victims Corinna Novis and Lynel Murray as the focus. 

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 9 – Sept 1995 – Copyright 1995:


In 1980 Cynthia Anderson, eighteen at the time, married Ron Coffman. In March 1982, when she was twenty, she left her husband, taking their two year old son. A year later she left her son with grandparents and headed off to Arizona. Her use of drugs–marijuana, cocaine, occasionally heroin but mostly methamphetamine–started before she was a teen. During the almost three years between arriving in Arizona and meeting Greg Marlow, Cynthia Coffman’s life does not appear radically unusual. There were the drugs of course. She worked as a bartender and had a number of boyfriends, one of whom was more or less a constant. She learned to ski and would call back to her native St Louis to inquire about her son.

The only trouble Cynthia Coffman had with the law during this time was when her boyfriend got into a fight with a couple of thugs. After leaving the scene, he and Cyndi were stopped by the police. They found a derringer in Cyndi’s purse. They also found cocaine. She was arrested for possession and being under the influence of a controlled substance. She was released four days later, on April 9, 1986, pending criminal charges.

Then in June of 1986, Cynthia Coffman met Greg Marlow. By November of 1986, both were in the custody of the Redlands, California police being questioned about the murders of two young women.

Don Lasseter provides historical sketches of the lives of Cynthia Coffman and Greg Marlow. He also relates why Corinna Novis and Lynel Murray were at the places they were when Coffman and Marlow singled them out for murder and rape. Up until the times their paths crossed those of Coffman’s and Marlow’s , the two victims could have been from a different planet, so removed they were from the life-styles of their murderers. Coffman and Marlow killed the two young women in their constant search for drug money and money to finance a trip to Texas where Marlow was to kill a pregnant woman and collect $10,000 for the job. In the latter part of the book, the parents of Corinna Novis drove out from Gooding, Idaho and lived in a camper-trailer to attend the trail.

The most interesting details in PROPERTY OF THE FOLSOM WOLF concerns the defense of Cynthia Coffman against the murder charges. Her defense lawyers attempted to show that Cynthia suffered from the battered woman syndrome, “a subcategory of post-traumatic stress disorder”. Dr. Lenore Walker, an expert on the subject, provides analysis of the five-and-a-half month relationship between Coffman and Marlow.

It was Dr. Walker’s belief that Marlow had succeeded in making Coffman totally subservient to his will. He did this by beating her, cutting off her hair during one of their drunken arguments and threatening to kill her son if she ever left him. Marlow did these things, according to Dr. Walker, because of his hatred of women–starting with his mother. His  mother, a prostitute, had initiated him into sex when he was thirteen. She had injected him with heroin around the same age. It was Doris, his mother, according to Dr. Walker, that Marlow was attempting to destroy when he struck out at Coffman, making her a participant in the killings of Corinna Novis and Lynel Murray.

In reading Dr. Walker’s analysis of the relationship, you realize how desperate we can sometimes become to excuse our behavior. At one point, Dr. Walker, the expert, says that any woman, even women not normally suspected of being passive, could be suffering from the battered woman syndrome. The entire concept as used in the trail is simply amazing.

For their part, the prosecuting attorneys make a somewhat more reasonable argument. When Cynthia Coffman and Greg Marlow joined together, they created a third entity. Both became influenced by this third entity and came under its spell. Each was satisfied in their own way. When the time came that they should have pulled away–she leaving him or he leaving her–they didn’t.

In an epilogue, Don Lasseter provides some rather surprising information on the judicial system in California as of 1994. Taken together, the story of Coffman and Marlow and the fact that “nearly 400 condemned killers were lodged at various stages in California’s pipeline of appeals”, it makes you wonder about the purpose of courts and trails and punishment and social convention. Something is wrong here.

PROPERTY OF THE FOLSOM WOLF is very well written and appears to have been put together as a work of social history. It is thought provoking to say the least.


Hackers – Review

by: Bischoff, David

Publisher: HarperPaperbacks

Copyright: 1995

Cover: novelization of Rafael Moreu script

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 9/5/1995

Summary: Glamorize one wrong to correct another?

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 9 – Sept 1995 – Copyright 1995.


This is a pleasant little book. It is of course based on the current movie by the same name. This reviewer has not seen the movie.

Briefly, the story is of Dade Murphy who, at eleven years of age, is forbidden to use a computer or touch-tone phone until he is eighteen years old. A court imposes this “punishment” after the Secret Service arrests him for spreading a virus that crashes 1,507 computer systems on Wall Street. Seven years later and living in New York with his computer and phone privileges restored, Dade falls in with a group of young people adept at hacking. One of the group accidentally hacks into a super-computer owned by a company called Ellingson Mineral and steals a file. This would be a simple case of hacking except that the company’s computer security chief, who calls himself The Plague, his super hacker name, is up to a few accounting tricks. The stolen file could expose The Plague’s embezzlement of millions of dollars from the company. He wants the file back. But he also sees a golden opportunity.

The storyline of Hackers is classic Machiavellian intrigue with enough originality to make it truly entertaining. The arch villain, The Plague, eludes justice and wings off to Hong Kong where he can continue his masterful displays of digital manipulation.

Some of the computer hacking stuff in Hackers is out in cyberspace not even waiting the possibility of happening–like hacking into the White House computer and having a neophyte at the other end of a telephone hookup type “echo” so that the hacker can get a password displayed on her screen. Much, much too convoluted since the entire point of hacking is to avoid humans.

However, it is the language that stands out in this book. In fact, in reading the terse, high speed verbalized communication of thought, you become very conscious of the way language is and can be used to establish that most sought after of human vanities–exclusivity. But that’s a different subject.

There is only one problem with Hackers……

The issue of entertainment and social values is even now being discussed in law-making circles. Couple of years ago, violence and Saturday morning cartoons were the rage. Now it’s the Internet and sex. Somewhere down the line, social responsibility and behavior will be the issue.

The message in Hackers is that it’s okay to commit one wrong to correct another. This reviewer has a problem with that. If the message is thrown out as food for thought, fine.

But the way Hackers delivers the message, it is meant to justify the antics of a new elite. Don’t we have enough elitist experts already with their expert knowledge to justify just about anything?




Hot Zone, The – Review

by: Preston, Richard

Publisher: Anchor Books, Doubleday

Copyright: 1994

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 9/5/1995

Summary: Must Read.

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 9 – Sept 1995 – Copyright 1995.

The movie “OUTBREAK” is loosely–and I mean loosely as in Hostess Twinkies being a health food–based on Richard Preston’s book, THE HOT ZONE. Dustin Hoffman plays a crusading medical researcher set on stopping an outbreak of the fictional Motoba virus. Rene Russo plays his estranged wife, also a medical researcher working for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, who becomes infected with the virus. Morgan Freeman is commander of the United States Army Medical Research Institute Of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) unit where Hoffman works. Donald Sutherland, appropriately I suppose, plays the boss of everything. There are only three good qualities in this movie: the breathtaking cinema photography, watching Rene Russo, and seeing Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland in the same scenes. The worst thing in this movie is the veiled reference to nature exacting revenge on humankind by releasing a deadly virus because we cut-down trees. (Oh mi gosh!, humankind being punished again!! already!!)

OUTBREAK follows a predictable scenario. A virulent virus is discovered in Africa in 1967 among some mercenary soldiers. The U. S. Army obtains a sample of the virus and contains the spread of the virus by killing-off the entire mercenary force along with the medical personnel taking care of them. Some thirty years later, the virus re-appears and spreads to some twenty-six hundred people in a small town in California. The antiviral drug developed by the Army in 1967 will not work on the new strain. So, old meannie, Donald Sutherland wants to do the air bomb thing again and wipe the town off the face of the earth. If you’ve watched any made for TV-movie, you know what happens.

THE HOT ZONE is much more entertaining and much scarier. It’s also a true story.

In 1980, the very sick, fifty-six year old Charles Monet arrives at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. He is a “human virus bomb” waiting to explode, or “crash” to use the biohazard terminology. Sitting in the Nairobi Hospital, waiting to be admitted, Monet crashes. Spewing blood from every body opening, sloughing the linings of his intestines, Monet is taken into intensive care and is looked after by Dr. Shem Musoke. While performing his ministrations Dr. Musoke is sprayed with a fountain of blood from the semi-conscious though still crashing Monet. Some of the blood gets into Dr. Musoke’s eyes. In the world of viruses, little things count.

In reading THE HOT ZONE, you can’t help but to compare it to Michael Creighton’s first novel, ANDROMEDA STRAIN. But the comparison is unfair. Creighton’s book was a tense, spell binding novel of what could happen when science is confronted with the unknown; Richard Preston’s book is about what actually does happen. Crieghton’s book is a superior work of fiction; Preston’s a superior work of investigative reporting.

THE HOT ZONE recounts the re-emergence of the Ebola and Marburg viruses. It is how Preston fits these viruses into modern life that fascinates. On page 383, he writes, “The paving of the Kinshasa Highway affected every person on earth, and turned out to be one of the most important events of the twentieth century. It has already cost at least ten million lives…”

It is Preston’s ability to express the connectivity of life as a backdrop to this story about viruses, to express the idea of villages, towns and cities, of all living things, connected in sharing a global time and place that places this book above the ordinary. It is achieved almost as a work of art. In defining a virus on page 85 for instance, he says that a virus is “strictly mechanical, no more alive than a jackhammer. Viruses are molecular sharks, a motive without a mind.”

Thus far, outbreaks of the Marburg and Ebola viruses have been restricted to Africa–the Sudan and Zaire primarily, the first recorded near the Ebola River in 1976. In 1989 a shipment of monkeys were delivered to Hazleton Research Products, the Reston Primate Quarantine Unit in Virginia. One or more of the monkeys were infected with the Ebola virus. It was what happened during the ensuing sixty days that provides the drama of THE HOT ZONE. The movie “Outbreak” deals with what could have happened if the monkeys had escaped containment. The facts however demonstrate how real the potential is of a virus emerging from the hinter regions of Africa and entering the global community via commercial transportation.

There are curiosities about events related in THE HOT ZONE. For instance, we can be impressed and utterly absorbed by the extraordinary precautions the USAMRIID takes in handling biohazards. But the more you read about the space-suits, the jet streams of Clorox, the hatboxes and all the rest, the more you come to believe that the precautions are more mental exercise than physical constraints in a dangerous environment. This is aptly brought home when one of the monkeys escapes its cage in Reston and the “hot” insert team must decide what to do.

Another curiosity in THE HOT ZONE is the understated assumption that a virus could come along and wipe out the human race. It is a curious assumption because it contradicts all the relevant indicators. For instance, the Marburg virus that infected and killed Charles Monet infected Dr. Shem Musoke but did not kill him.

If you read no other popular science book this year, read THE HOT ZONE.



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