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Never Seen Again – Review

by: King, Jeanne

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Location: 175 Fifth Ave, NY,NY

Copyright: 2008

Cover: AP Images/The Tennessean, JAI/Corbis

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 2/28/2009

Summary: Wife disappears from home and never seen again. Ten years later, the husband is convicted of murder.

In 2007, Perry March filed a lawsuit against Fred Dalton Thompson of the Law & Order television series and soon-to-be presidential candidate. Author Jeanne King writes in NEVER SEEN AGAIN that the lawsuit in federal court was for “libel, slander and assault”. King also reports that March’s lawyer, John Herbison, convinced March to drop the lawsuit. Others facing the river of lawsuits streaming from Perry Avram March, convicted of second degree murder and stealing $23,000 from his former law firm, are not so fortunate.

In early August 1996, Janet Levine, wife of Perry March, disappeared from her home in Nashville, Tennessee. On August 29, the Nashville police were notified of the disappearance. Janet Levine’s body was never found. Ten years later, Perry March was put on trail for his wife’s murder and found guilty. While awaiting trial, March participated in a plot to kill the parents of his former wife. NEVER SEEN AGAIN is about what happened during those intervening ten years which lead up to his trial. It is primarily a story about lawsuits involving custody of the two children March had with Janet Levine and of March’s parade of shady deals while living in Mexico.

A little over a month after his wife’s disappearance, March moved from Tennessee to Illinois and from Illinois to Mexico. Hot on his itinerary was a lawsuit by Larry and Carolyn Levine, Janet’s parents, to try to keep the two March children in Tennessee. Author Jeanne King starts the list of March’s litigation barrage with a probate petition March filed two months after Janet disappeared. He wanted his wife’s bank accounts. These two legal arenas-child custody and Janet Levine’s estate-would see a constant stream of filings and motions right up until March is convicted of his wife’s murder. Then beyond when March would engage legal action as a convicted murderer.

In reading NEVER SEEN AGAIN one gets the feeling that the book suffers from a lack of focus on its central subject-the murder of Janet Levine. However, one can reasonably argue that the central focus is Perry March, the perpetrator. If that is the case, then the book does an adequate job of explaining the circumstances of Janet Levine’s disappearance and murder. Why did it take over seven years for the police to tie together a string of circumstantial evidence pointing to duplicity and outright lies by March in connection with his wife’s disappearance? Why did it take eight years for Davidson County prosecutors to stand before a grand jury and charge Perry March with murder? The answers are in the book but are inferential rather than stated. That’s bad.

It could be argued that March, being a lawyer, knew how to play the system. This is the knowledge is power assessment. March’s story was that his wife walked out the door on the night of August 16th leaving a list of chores for him to do and disappeared from the face of the earth. No reason. Over a year later, even the young son of the couple will say that he waved to his mother from his upstairs bedroom window on the night that she left. March stuck to the story without deviations, with elaborations.

On December 7, 2004 when the grand jury handed down the indictment for murder, nothing in Perry March’s story had changed. The police were still in possession of the same string of circumstantial evidence. All that changed of course once March was in custody, sitting in jail surrounded by like-minded mindless sociopaths. In relating the trial and tribulations of Janet’s parents, of March’s excursions into fraudulent and deceptive real-estate deals, author Jeanne King does not tell us how or why the Nashville legal machinery finally decided it was time to reign-in the flag-ship Perry Avram March. In the end, it was March himself, with his instigation or simple participation in the plot to have his in-laws killed, that finally unraveled the curtains hiding the murder of his wife.

NEVER SEEN AGAIN condenses ten years of history into 239 pages. Perhaps due to the legal wrangling involving the March children, the very evident though seemingly understated part that Arthur March, Perry March’s father played in the murder of Janet, and the seeming absence, as portrayed in this book, of a real effort by Nashville authorities to solve Janet March’s murder, the book offers little of noteworthy value. Dig a little deeper however, the reader can come away with a smigen of understanding of how March “played the system” to avoid being charged with murder for almost ten years. But then, that raises other issues not discussed in the book.

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Briefer History Of Time – Review

by: Hawking, Stephen and Leonard Mlodinow

Publisher: Bantam Dell, Random House Inc, New York

Location: NY

Copyright 2005

Cover: Book Laboratory Inc & Moonrunner Design

Type: Softcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 2/25/2009

Summary: An “accessible formulation” of the key concepts from Hawking’s book, “A History of Time”.

The color illustrations in this book are excellent as is the lucid explanation of some of the more thorny issues of physics. It is intended to be a makeup version of Hawking’s 1988 best seller, A History Of Time published by the Bantam Dell Publishing Group. Though a best seller, the general opinion is that few people read the book. A BRIEFER HISTORY OF TIME is definitely readable. Since this reviewer did not purchase the first book, comments will be restricted to the second.

Paul Davies’ 1995 book, ABOUT TIME: EINSTEIN’S UNFINISHED REVOLUTION is a book specifically about time (reviewed in the TGBJ in September 2005) and offers a more direct treatment of questions related to the physics underlying our perception of time. Hawking’s A BRIEFER HISTORY OF TIME tackles the explanation of time by examining the surrounding postulates of science. Indeed, you get the feeling that this is a tutorial for the 19th century scientifically challenged. (If you are one of those, you should be aware that we are now in the 21st century). While the discussion is excellent, the illustrations are excellent, there is nothing new here, real or imagined. The book is a tutorial. A light tutorial.

The most provocative (interesting, insightful, argumentative) thread running through A BRIEFER HISTORY OF TIME Hawking sums in chapter 12, the conclusion:

“. . . But if the universe is complete self-contained, with no singularities or boundaries, and completely described by a unified theory, that has profound implications for the role of God as creator.”

Some theoretical mathematicians and physicists doing battle with the lay public ignorance of their endeavors seem caught up in this battle of God versus science. Paul Davies touches on the subject in his book, ABOUT TIME: EINSTEIN’S UNFINISHED REVOLUTION, and is less confrontational than Hawking. Of course, Davies immersed himself in the subject with his book 1983 GOD AND THE NEW PHYSICS [see the TGBRJ opinion piece for January 2, 2009, If God Were A Pina Cola. Basically, their argument is that if their theories are correct, then a god could not have created everything–the universe. Earlier in the book, Hawking poses what he sees as a paradox: can God create a stone so heavy that he can not lift it?

It is understandable why scientists would want to bring God into a discussion of their respective scientific disciplines. Religion preaches against the evils of sin (which can be translated to mean “physical life”). Science preaches against the banality of Religion. If your adversary is powerful, by inference, so too must you be powerful. Like children in a playground who have exhausted all the really fun-things to do, you engage in an ongoing argument about whose parents has the most important job. In essence, this is the God versus science debate.

How would a Religious person respond to Hawking’s paradox about the stone? A Religious person would say that (1) since God is unknowable, you, you lowly scientist, would never know whether God ever created such a stone and (2) since God creates everything, even the heaviest of stones, God is capable of moving everything, including the heaviest stone. To the scientist, this would not be an acceptable answer. It can not be tested. To the Religious person, it is a perfectly acceptable answer since it encapsulates the very foundation of religion, which is faith. However, for those mulling around the playground who are neither Religious nor scientists, the answer is incorrect and rather self-serving, explaining nothing. The correct answer is that God is the stone. End of paradox.

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Flesh Collectors – Review

by: Rosen, Fred

Publisher: Pinnacle Books, Kensington Publishing Corp, New York

Location: 850 Third Ave, NY

Copyright: 2003

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 2/20/2009

Summary: Jeremiah Rodgers, 21, and Jonathan Lawrence, 23, are charged with two murders in 1998. An improved definition of the mentally deranged.

Jon Lawrence and Jeremiah Rodgers committed two senseless, pathetic, brutal murders. Why? There are no clear, unequivocal answers. As with practically all such “anti-social” crimes, a mental defect is a catch-all that sums up the soul of the perpetrators as well as the essence of the crime itself. Fred Rosen’s FLESH COLLECTORS may add a refinement of sorts.

Justin Livingston and Jennifer Robinson were residents of Pensacola, Florida when they were killed in separate events in 1998. They were victims because of their proximity to Jon Lawrence and Jeremiah Rodgers. Therein lies an issue.

In the opening pages of this book, Rosen makes much of the symbiotic mental relationship between Lawrence and Rodgers. The two had been confined to the Chattahoochee mental hospital for the criminally insane. Rosen uses the word “institutionalized” which is politically correct but draws squiggly doodles around the the reality. In 1975, the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee was involved in a United States Supreme Court decision (O’Conor v. Donaldson) that comprehensively restricted the powers of government or agencies of government to impede the rights of anyone merely because the person is deemed mentally deficient. So, when Jonathan Lawrence walked out of the Florida State penal system in August 1995 , “now a functioning schizophrenic” as Rosen describes him, the only discernible change in his life was a friendship with Jeremiah Rodgers.

Lawrence had been sentenced to four years in prison after having been convicted of “criminal mischief and property damage”. One would think there was a great leap of mental disease from an act of “property damage” to murdering two people. But the act of property damage committed by the nineteen year old Lawrence was the defacing of the New Macedonia Church with hate-filled graffiti. The New Macedonia Church had a black congregation and, as Rosen points out, “Jon Lawrence really hated blacks”. Having grown up in an abusive family and experiencing the violent death of a sibling, it is conceivable that Lawrence adopted a mental stratagem of dealing with the world of reality in lucid moments of stark paranoia. Deface a church, take a human life-stop the impending prosecution. Coping skills don’t have to be moral or rational, just effective. When the only objective reality available to you is within the three pounds of gray matter sitting atop your shoulders, everything outside can become just a thing to be defaced or slaughtered.

Jeremiah Rodgers was also confined to the “mattress factory”. In May 1993, Rodgers has been arrested for grand-theft auto-the same offense he had been committing since a juvenile. After being sentenced to prison, officials” noted certain problems with his personality”. Hence his transfer to Chattahoochee. Rosen does not say what personality problem was noticed by prison officials that lead them to send Rodgers to Chattahoochee. On the face of it, the absence of a reason makes you take a second look at the 1975 O’Conor v. Donaldson United Sates Supreme Court decision. Rosen points out that Rodgers was a manipulator. Being a manipulator does not necessarily imbue one with a mental illness. There may however be a breach in the bulwark of personal integrity. This is the proposition Rosen puts forth in proposing a collective mind for Lawrence and Rodgers. When the two meet and became fast friends at Chattahoochee in 1994, their lives took a collective turn for the bad.

In April 1998, Jonathan Lawrence and Jeremiah Rodgers killed Justin Livingston, Lawrence’s twenty-year old cousin. Jeremiah Rodgers hated the Justin Livingston. Rosen recounts the gruesome and incomprehensible murder on the opening pages of FLESH COLLECTORS. A month latter Lawrence and Rodgers kill eighteen-year-old Jennifer Robinson after Rodgers had lured her into a date. Again, the murder is just incomprehensible. Perhaps even more incomprehensible than the Livingston killing. On this score, Rosen informs us that lead investigator Detective Todd Hand, then of the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, “knew from experience that to ascribe rational thoughts to a functioning schizophrenic with homicidal tendencies could be an exercise in futility”. After Lawrence and Rodgers were caught and sent to prison, Todd Hand left the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office and took a job with the Florida Department of Environmental Conservation.

There are many insights you can take away from FLESH COLLECTORS. But with events lacking a cohesive effect resulting from a rational cause, the insights themselves feel merely mushy and fluid. Rosen has done an excellent job of chronicling events and providing a supporting framework. What he did not do and what perhaps no one could do is explain why the events happened. We zero in on the murders and the seemingly, equally incomprehensible act of Jonathan Lawrence walking out of the Chattahoochee mental hospital with a prerogative to slide farther into a self-embalming mental disease. Issues. Issues such as whether he has the right to take others with him; whether his rights were so inviolable that the rights of others could be trampled upon.

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V: The Second Generation – Review

by: Johnson, Kenneth

Publisher: TOR Book, Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, New York

Location: 175 Fifth Ave, NY

Copyright: 2008

Cover: Stephan Martiniere

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 2/16/2009

 

Summary: Reptilian race of intelligent beings have taken over the earth and a dedicated resistance group attempts to overthrow them. Not to be confused with the brilliant 2006 movie, “V For Vendetta” or the equally brilliant May 1983 TV miniseries, “V”.

 

Okay, so this reviewer is not joining the chorus.

If you were a reasonably mature individual in 1983 when V was broadcast as a mini-series on NBC television, chances are you liked the story-the plot, the characters, the action. If you were a youngster watching the original series, you might have found the critter swallowing, Nazi storm-trooper aliens, fascinatingly alien and fascinatingly entertaining.

After 1983, there came a forgettable sequel to V and then the equally forgettable and forgotten V, the series.

In February 2008, the author of V let loose with V: The Second Generation as a novel.

Problem One: V: The Second Generation is written for another medium. You can get mental whiplash just ruminating about the previous “scene” you just read trying to connect it to the one you are currently reading. This, least it sound innovative or new, is in keeping with the genre of kaleidoscopic imaging characteristic of the age of disco and strobe lights. (Spend as less time as possible in the moment, otherwise, it could turn really, really ugly–as in a slice or reality).

Problem Two: The original V series was elevated to an exposition of historical significance by both the author and some reviewers by comparing the plot of aliens invading earth to the Nazis invading Europe in the 1940s. In watching the original series, this reviewer missed the connection. The Nazis were not alien. Not even close. They were a cultural continuum rooted in 19th century German culture. V, the original series, was science fiction: good science fiction at the time that went beyond the cow-boys and Indians shoot-’em ups of Star Wars and Battle Star Galactica.

Problem Three: The original V mini-series was a culmination of a number of societal and political ticks and twitches that would play themselves out with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989. No, the reptilian critters of V were not stand-ins for the communist masters of eastern Europe and Russia. But the apparatchiks of the 1980s Soviet Russia were only the tip of an enormous iceberg of “resistance” fighters like the then underground Solidarity movement of Poland. In the opposite stream of social awareness, Roswell, New Mexico and the question of alien visitation to earth started as a spark in 1979 and was to explode into an amusing national past time in the 1980s. Resistance fighters, visitors from outer-space–a perfect political, cultural cloud for the descent of V upon the national consciousness in the 1980s.

V: The Second Generation is cowboys and Indians after the Model-T has left a cloud of dust on the horizon and the guys in the white hats have mustered the adrenaline to take back the town from the bad guys. The story works. The story would–and probably will–work better in motion rather than confined to the monolithic edifice of the printed word. The book, unlike, say, Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump , is a made for motion script. However, even in motion, the story can not overcome a slight to moderate tailwind of absurdity. Nothing flies in this story-except twentieth century versions of souped-up motorcycles and scaled down fighter jets. Everything is crammed into an ending that is predictable and inevitable. It is inevitable because it is predictable. Key moments are revelations forced upon the main characters. The resistance fighters have been warring against the aliens for twenty years and suddenly, on a lurk from the author, they discover that the aliens are storing millions of humans in individual isolation pods on the mother ships and feeding them “commands” from a central messaging system.

The problem with V: The Second Generation is not the story or the implausible events depicted. Rather, the execution of relating the story is the problem. There is no focus–except that inevitable ending. All the pathos and bathos between ALIENS INVADE EARTH and ALIENS EXPELLED FROM EARTH is mere filler. The reader gets the feeling–a little self-centered pathos–that they are being manipulated. Julie, the original heroine resistance fighter is reduced to a mere prop. Mr. Donovan, the male counterpart of Julie, is even more of a prop and has been replaced by a younger, more impetuous non-conformist. The one bright spot in the story are the three Zedti characters. Though they are merely reluctant side-kicks of the guys and girls in the white hats, the Zedti are a NOVEL idea. As for the rest of the 445 page story-wait for the TV mini-series where all that filler stuff might be supplemented with some entertaining commercials.

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By

Devil’s Right Hand Man, The – Review

by: MicHaud, Stephen G. and Debbie M. Price

Publisher: Penguin Group, Berkley Publishing Group, 375 Hudson St

Location: NY, NY 10014

Copyright: 2007

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 2/2/2009

Summary: Raising the conscience of “America’s most prolific” serial killer, Robert Charles Browne. Traces cold case detectives seeking justice for relatives of the killer’s victims.

Lou Smith, Scott Fischer and Charlie Hess were volunteer members of the El Paso [Colorado] County sheriff’s department. They comprised the cold case squad whose efforts lead to the indictment, trial and July 2006 conviction of Robert Charles Browne for the murder of Rocio Sperry. Fifteen year old Rocio Sperry had disappeared from her Colorado Springs, Colorado home in November 1987. Brown, who had been convicted eleven years earlier for the 1991 murder of Heather Dawn Church, was serving life in prison at the time of the second conviction.

THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND MAN is not so much about the path of destruction Browne left in the wake of his self-centered life as much as it is about the law enforcement and legal system designed to protect the social, political and economic fabric of society. The book is not overly ambitious here. In fact, the exposition is understated. The authors devote chapters to exposing the crimes Browne is suspected of committing; chapters to explaining the investigative efforts devoted to unravelling the crimes, including the mind games Browne attempts to play to get what he wants in exchange for a confession; and finally, the authors explain just enough of the administrative and legal machinations behind the scenes to show how the story of Robert Charles Browne becomes an almost forty-year saga.

Left out of this book is an explanation of why Robert Charles Browne murdered. Given everything else provided, the explanation is of little consequence. There are hints however and the explanation points to greed propelled by, as the authors say, “multiple paraphilias, or perversions”. Among the list are “placing obscene phone calls, flashing, picquerism (sexual gratification through rapid, repeated stabbing), necrophilia, and voyeurism”. Whether Browne did suffer from one or more of the abnormalities is not specifically answered. Bu a man who murders must, by default, suffers from some deficit of mind or soul or both.

Browne was a little different than most serial killers. He was in the military for instance, from October 1969 to July 1976. The relevancy of this? The majority of serial killers can not make it pass the socialization pressures exerted in a “team work” atmosphere. They can’t cope. Browne apparently did though the authors point out that he may have committed his first murder in 1970 or 1971-a fellow GI in South Korea. Though he marries and divorces four times by the time of the Heather Dawn Church murder, Browne had the appearance of a normal “Joe” with a few wrinkles such as a year spent in a California prison.

The real story of THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND MAN is how the retired Colorado Spring Police Department detective Lou Smit, form CIA employee Charlie Hess, and former corporate manager Scott Fischer went about solving the murder of Rico Sperry. A July 28, 2006 article in the Denver Post [] by staff writer Erin Emery details the events.

The authors of THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND MAN quote investigator Lou Smit as saying that “cold case investigations are 95 percent paperwork”. Among the papers in the Browne case was a letter he wrote to the “‘Office of the District Attorney'” in Colorado Springs.

Two years before the trio zeroed in on Browne uncovering his involvement in the Sperry murder, Browne himself wrote a letter to the Colorado Springs district attorney’s office. The district attorney’s office passed the letter on to Mark A. Finley, the lead detective for the case in the sheriff’s office. In the letter, Browne hinted at his commission of as many as forty-eight murders in nine states. On June 11, 2002, Charlie Hess began a correspondence with Browne that eventually lead to the July 2006 conviction of Browne for the Rocio Sperry murder.

In both the Denver Post article about Browne and in this book, mention is made of the fact that men (invariably, men) accused of serial murders have a tendency to confess to a greater number of murders than the actual number which they are accused of committing. The rational for this is rather simple on the face of it. They are vying for title of the most infamous serial killer. The more victims they have, the more likely they will receive the crown Most Infamous. You have to think about that for a moment to realize that there is something fundamentally flawed with a societal engine that rewards anti-social and social accomplishments with the same brush of recognition. For want of murdering two innocent young girls, Browne would have remained the nobody that he was. But having murdered, he got himself a platform. THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND MAN is one result of Browne’s ascendancy above the crowd. But to what end?

The direction and insights provided by authors MicHaud and Price makes THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND MAN worth reading.

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