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Barry Ryder "Barry Ryder" (London)

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R.F.K. Must Die
R.F.K. Must Die
Price: £1.58

5.0 out of 5 stars A 'true-crime' classic, 3 April 2016
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This review is from: R.F.K. Must Die (Kindle Edition)
This book is a partially re-written and re-edited version of the late Bob Kaiser's 1970 classic. There are also some additions and deletions of the original text.

The author has taken the opportunity to include his later thoughts on the RFK murder in this 2008 edition and the thirty-eight year interval between publications has given Kaiser ample time to formulate new ideas. If anybody is entitled to ponder on the case - and Sirhan in particular - Bob Kaiser is.

The bulk of the original text has remained intact and the reader is afforded a picture of Sirhan that is quite remarkable and very revealing.
The author spent a lot of time with Sirhan, members of his family and his defence team. His reportage is of the highest quality and fidelity.
Kaiser began his involvement in the case for the purposes of writing a book about Sirhan. The defence effort needed money and Kaiser's credentials as a writer offered a good prospect of much needed funds. As he spent more and more time with Sirhan and his legal team, Kaiser began to offer useful input and soon became more than a mere observer. Eventually, he was co-opted onto the team and was pro-actively working as a researcher for the accused.

All that follows is fascinating stuff.

For readers who want to know just how Cooper, Parsons and Berman (Sirhan's lawyers) set out to defend their client, this fine book is all they will need.

The involvement of hypnotists and psychiatrists takes the story into the 'twilight zone' of Sirhan's mind. Or does it? Was he faking? Was his amnesia real? Whether the reader agrees with Kaiser or not, it's a fascinating read.

What comes across so well in this book is just how unsure Sirhan's defenders really were about his mental state. Showing that he was of 'diminished capacity' was the goal of them all but, there was no consensus of exactly what was wrong with him. Sirhan wouldn't allow his team to portray him as 'crazy'; he wouldn't allow certain witnesses to be called in his defence and he raged that his notebooks shouldn't be used as evidence against him. He declared that if they were, then he'd stand up in court, plead guilty and demand the death sentence. Grant Cooper had a real job on his hands.

Bob Kaiser's involvement in all of this makes for a riveting read.

As noted, this edition differs from the original. Comparisons are 'odious', we are told; perhaps they are. Sometimes, however, they're unavoidable. Readers who 'grew-up' with the original book may find this updated version a little awkward to deal with.
There are one of two newer speculations at the end of 'RFK Must Die' which seem rather odd and, very 'loose' when compared to Kaiser's original, focussed writing. Nonetheless, this remains a 'true-crime' classic.

It should be noted that Kaiser devotes very little time to the more familiar 'conspiracy theories' which grew around the case. He doesn't accept the 'second gun' idea, he has no problem with understanding the nature of RFK's wounds relative to Sirhan's proximity and positioning and he doesn't really have any problems with the 'bullets in the woodwork' . For readers who want to explore those issues in more detail, 'The Killing Of Robert F. Kennedy' by Dan Moldea and 'The Forgotten Terrorist' by Mel Ayton both cover these matters in very persuasive detail.

'RFK Must Die' is required reading for anyone who has an interest in the case. Such close access to an accused (and later convicted) man is rarely captured by a writer. Bob Kaiser managed it and we can all benefit from his efforts.

*This review is for the paperback edition of the book and not the Kindle version that is 'verified by amazon' at the head of the page.*


Prayer Man: Out of the Shadows and Into the Light
Prayer Man: Out of the Shadows and Into the Light
Price: £5.91

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a prayer, man., 29 Nov. 2015
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After more than half-a-century of agonising over Oswald's guilt, the 'LHO Fan Club' may have finally reached the bottom of its mucky barrel. 'Prayer Man' by Stan Dane is little more than a compilation of internet forum exchanges interspersed with photographs, press-cuttings and the usual 'carefully selected' quotes and statements from the WC. The object of Dane's admiration is an on-line contributor named Sean Murphy.

'Prayer Man' begins to wobble and shake as early as page seven. Writing his 'advance praise' for the book, Ed Le Doux states; "Sean Murphy used a scientific method and had his work "peer" reviewed. Not one person could show prayer man is anyone but Lee Harvey Oswald".
Le Doux neglects to explain exactly what Murphy's 'scientific method' actually was. He fails to state just who Murphy's 'peers' were. We are not told which part of Murphy's 'work' was reviewed. Was it his punctuation and grammar? We don't know. His last sentence is the classic 'circular reasoning fallacy'. Nobody knows who PM is, so it is assumed that it 'must be' Oswald. That isn't logic. Just because something doesn't seem to be 'X' or 'Y' does not prove that it's 'Z'. It's not the job of anybody to establish who else PM might have been. It's Murphy's job to prove that it was Oswald. He fails to do so. This kind of 'research' may be good enough for internet debate forums, but in the real world, it cuts no ice.

The purpose of this vacuous book is to provide Oswald with an alibi for the shooting, namely; he was in the doorway of the TSBD throughout the assassination and hence, he could not have been on the sixth floor discharging the rifle.

We have heard something like this before, of course. There were - and still are - many who contend that the man identified as Billy Lovelady wasn't him at all - it was Oswald, they say. Those folks were -and will forever remain - wrong. It was Lovelady. He identified himself, his position and his clothing to the WC and FBI. Other witnesses on the steps all affirmed that the man was Lovelady and nobody at all claimed to have seen Oswald on the steps during the shooting.

However, Sean Murphy contends that two photographic images capture a figure in the doorway of the TSBD who really is Oswald. On page 41 Murphy suggests that the figure of a person, deep into the recessed doorway, "..looks somewhat like Lee Oswald." Does he? No, 'he' doesn't. Actually, the 'he' might easily be a 'she'. This threshold question is rather important, of course.

Put quite simply, it doesn't matter whether the reader feels that the person in the shadows looks like Oswald or not. Why? Because Oswald himself never claimed to have been in that position during the shooting.

Oswald told his interrogators many lies; He lied about his whereabouts, his ownership of weapons and much more besides. However, if Oswald really had been outside during the shooting he would have had an unimpeachable alibi. He would not have lied about that.

Murphy twists and turns as he seeks to suggest that Oswald did tell his interrogators that he was "..outside with Bill Shelly..". This is nonsense. Oswald was lying to Bookhout (and others) about his movements after the shooting - not before or during it. Oswald sought to explain his unauthorised departure from the TSBD by suggesting that Shelly had indicated that there would be no more work done that day. Shelly refuted even seeing Oswald after the shooting. See XI H 390.

Oswald repeatedly told his interrogators that he was variously on the first and second floors of the TSBD during the murder. At no time did Oswald claim that he was 'outside'. Worse still for Murphy's 'theory' is the plain fact that when questioned by Inspector Thomas Kelly of the U. S. Secret Service, Oswald said that he did not view the parade. "I asked him [Oswald] if he had viewed the parade and he said he had not." (First interview of Lee Harvey Oswald, p2, last paragraph.) (WCR p 627). How does Murphy deal with this? Simple. He flatly declares on page 182 that Kelly's statement is, "..an almost certain interpolation..". In other words, Kelly just made it up.

As the book unfolds it becomes clear that Murphy's basic method of identifying Oswald as Prayer Man is his own process of elimination. He seeks to identify as many known people as he can in the photographs and, thus, he 'eliminates' them as candidates. Whoever remains 'unidentified' must be Oswald, he claims.
This approach is arbitrary and subjective; it has no scientific merit.

One of the most ridiculous ideas put forward by Murphy is the astonishing notion that the 2nd floor lunch-room encounter between Oswald, Truly and Baker didn't actually happen at that location. Incredibly, Murphy contends that it 'really' occurred on the first-floor, just inside the building. I read his 'evidence' repeatedly and found it easy to conclude that the whole argument is baseless. Murphy simply plays the usual shell-game of juxtaposing the earliest reports and statements of Fritz, Curry, Truly, Baker and various media sources with the later narrative that evolved when all of the true facts were known. Murphy feels that the 'evolution' of the narrative was manufactured in order to frame Oswald. It wasn't. Even Oswald acknowledged that the encounter took place. "He [Oswald] said he was on the second floor drinking a coca-cola when the officer came in". (Fritz notes, WCR, p. 600).

Murphy attributes all manner of nefarious actions to Truly and Baker and flatly accuses them of lying about where they 'really' encountered Oswald. This method is as old as the hills; everybody involved - except Oswald - was lying. Murphy actually accuses Wes Frazier of lying about Oswald's (supposed) presence in the doorway (p.171). How mad is this?

The reader might wish to consider that as Murphy spins his dark web of 'frame-up', why - if the DPD, FBI and Secret Service really were in cahoots to railroad a young, innocent twenty-four year old - did they allow him so much 'air time'? Why would all of these individuals and organisations have permitted the accused to hold a press conference? Why?? He had only to blurt out, "This is ridiculous, I was outside with the others." He never said it or anything like it. Oswald was marched along the corridor with microphones shoved up his nose. Did he tell us all that he was outside? No, he didn't. He told the world that he was "in that building" . The day following the assassination Oswald was visited by H. Louis Nichols who was the president of the Dallas Bar Association. Did Oswald tell him that this was all a big, silly mistake? No, he didn't. Did he tell him that he was outside and couldn't possibly have shot JFK? No, he didn't. He told him that he wanted to be represented by the lawyer, John Abt, who had defended prominent communists Hall & Davis in their case for violating the Mc Carran act!

Was Oswald really so utterly stupid as to not use his alibi 'trump card'? Is it remotely likely that he wouldn't have thought to tell the world's media that he couldn't have shot JFK because he was in the doorway, surrounded by fellow workers when it happened? We all remember the press question, don't we? "Did you shoot the president?"

All Oswald needed to say was, 'No, of course not. How could I? I was outside with the others'. That's not what he said though, is it? This would have been a good time to play his trump card but he didn't do it. He didn't play it because he didn't have it. Murphy has manufactured it for him fifty-two years after the fact.

Between the time of his arrest and murder, Oswald also spoke with his wife, mother and brother - as well as Ruth Paine on the telephone. Did he tell any of these people that he was outside the building? No, he didn't.

What Murphy lacks in investigative ability he makes up for with an expansive, free-form imagination. On page 65 he suggests an eight-point scenario of what 'actually' happened. It's pure fantasy and has no support outside of his own imagining.

Apparently Sean Murphy's talents extend into the field of handwriting analysis too. On page 185 (and elsewhere) he ventures opinions on the notes of J. W. Fritz. He confidently pronounces, "There is a slight elevation in the position of the word "saw" with respect to the previous word: This is indicative of a new thought." Is it? Murphy doesn't claim to be a qualified and accredited questioned document examiner so why does his 'Miss Marple' opinion count for anything? It doesn't, of course.

The book's author, Stan Dane jumps into the narrative with frequent glee, applauding Murphy's "..reasoning and logic..", which he feels, "..at times borders on genius" (p. 92). He squeals with delight at "Sean Murphy's logic, intellectual curiosity, and exceptional research.." (p. 128). On page 136, Dane notes that,"Sean's like an expert plate-twirler - he's keeping lots of different parts of the story "twirling" simultaneously. " He sure is. The twirling plates seem to have beguiled and bamboozled Dane into a drooling state of sycophancy. Dane actually admits as much on page 215, "I am spellbound by Sean's reasoning and logic here." Yes, Stan, it shows. " Sean is a prophet here." (p 179). "And I say to you, Mr Murphy, what brilliance!" (p 246). It's all rather childish and yucky.

This book purports to be part of a campaign to have the Kennedy case reopened. With exclamations from Dane such as, "Yowza, yowza, yowza! (p 172), nobody is going to take it seriously. Show that to your congressman and he'll show you his door.

In sum, this is a very silly book. The bulk of its content is culled from internet debates; this isn't really 'take-it-to-the-bank' stuff. The book is silly because the 'theory' is silly. The old adage that, 'You can't polish a cow-pat' sums up the book rather well.

Reopen the Kennedy case? Nah, not a prayer, man.

Barry Ryder
*This review is for the paperback edition of the book; not the kindle as 'verified by amazon' above.*
Comment Comments (73) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2016 7:57 PM GMT


A Deeper, Darker Truth
A Deeper, Darker Truth
by Donald T Phillips
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.50

1.0 out of 5 stars A Deeper Darker Lunacy, 10 Nov. 2015
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This review is from: A Deeper, Darker Truth (Paperback)
This 2009 book by Donald T. Phillips is probably one of the most ridiculous ever published concerning the assassination of President Kennedy - and that's saying something.

Phillips chooses as his subject the late Tom Wilson whose 'amazing technology' bamboozled a few credulous dupes for a while in the late 1980's.
In a nutshell - for those who don't know - Tom Wilson claimed to have developed a method of analyzing photographic images which enabled him to 'peel-off' surface layers of a print in order to find details 'beneath' the visually discernible image.

Such an incredible accomplishment seemed to defy the basic laws of physics, optics and photography. Tom had invented every school-boy's dream; X-ray specs. Tom Wilson had, apparently, turned the field of photographic analysis on its head; or rather, inside-out.
But had he? Well, no; of course he hadn't. He was a fraud.

None of Wilson's 'work' was ever peer-reviewed and the man himself steadfastly refused to explain how his methodology worked. He never permitted anybody to field-test his equipment or method.
Moreover, no such technology exists even today, twenty-five years after Wilson claimed to have pioneered the field. What the man claimed to have done all those years ago, with relatively basic computing power and software, cannot be done in 2015 after a quarter of a century in which computers have advanced by quantum leaps.

The back-cover blurb seeks to bolster the credibility of Phillips' subject by declaring, "This accepted methodology allowed him [Wilson] to serve as a consulting technical expert in criminal law cases where his image processing was accepted as hard evidence in American courts of law."
This statement is misleading and selectively incomplete. Although Wilson and his methodology were accepted for the purposes of legal argument, they were challenged in court and shown to be worthless. His 'evidence' wasn't regarded as 'hard'
.
Martin L. Fackler, MD encountered Wilson in a courtroom in 1993. It was a murder case in which Wilson's 'expertise' was being employed by a prosecution team (Hinkle vs. The City of Clarksburg, WV.) Writing in 'Wound Ballistics Review', vol 5, issue 2, of the fall of 2001, Fackler noted:
"During the deposition, the defence lawyer pointed out the obvious inconsistencies. 1) The photographs, which Wilson interprets, were taken well after the wound was produced, and the only time anything was going in or coming out of the wound was during the millisecond during which the bullet was passing the skin. 2) Wilson presented no evidence that the shade of pixel had anything to do with energy. 3) Wilson could point to no literature supporting his thesis. 4) Wilson could not relate his thesis to the laws of physics regarding how energy could appear as a shade of gray etc."
Basically, Wilson couldn't show that his method actually worked.

It's worth noting here that despite the copious illustrations in the book, Wilson never 'processed' any original, first-generation images. Although he did view materials at the National Archive, he was not permitted to copy any - much less to take them away for scanning into his computer. Quite simply, he confined his 'research' to multi-generational copies and photographic plates in books and pictures in magazines (p.18)! That's right; Tom's first foray into the JFK miasma began when he, "..obtained a hard copy of the Mary Moorman photograph from a book, and began examining the image." (page 13).
This isn't good. Sensible people know that if you are going to analyse a photograph, film or X-ray, you need to actually have it. A reproduction in a book or magazine is no good. (On page 13 Phillips states that the Moorman image was "..from a book.." but, on page 18 he quotes Wilson telling his wife that the image was, ".. from a magazine..". Ooops.)

So, by page 13, it's clear that Wilson was a flake and that Phillips' support of him is, at the very least, misguided. At this point the reader could, justifiably put the book down and lament the money wasted on it.
However, 'Deeper Darker' contains so many of Wilson's outrageous 'claims' and 'discoveries' that a small sampling of them should alert the potential buyer to the sheer nonsense that awaits.

Staying with the famous Moorman polaroid that Wilson got from a book - he never examined the original, remember - here are some of the incredible things that he thought that he could see in it.

Not only can he see 'badgeman', he can actually "..focus specifically on the badge." (p. 14) By the following page, Tom has twiddled his dials, clicked his mouse and can now see, "..a left-facing eagle's head with wings just above it." "Makes sense," he muses. Sense to him, possibly, but not to people who live in the real world.
The 'screen-shots' of the 'badge' are featured on page 19. These two pixelated images do not indicate a badge or anything like one. Tom can see a badge AND a "..left-facing eagle.."!

As if this quackery were not silly enough, the ridiculous Tom Wilson probes even deeper into the image on his VDU. On page 17 we read that after further 'enlargements', Tom can see, "..coarse dark hair parted on the left side, and the man's left ear and eye. In a second enlargement, the eye became more distinct, revealing the iris and even the pupil. There also seemed to be a mole or pox mark on his upper left cheek, just below the eye."
The reader need only bear in mind that in Moorman's original polaroid print (the one that Wilson didn't have so couldn't examine), the 'badgeman' head is a microscopic 1/69th of an inch wide! Yet Tom Wilson claimed that he could detect an iris, a pupil and a mole on the cheek of this 'head'!
A modern, top-of-the-range digital camera might be able to photograph a mole on a face in shadow 126 feet away, but Mary Moorman's Polaroid Highlander Model 80A with its low lens resolution and bog-standard, Polaroid Series 30 film stock?? Nah, not a chance.

And if Moorman didn't capture it at the time, no amount of jiggery-pokery on an Apple/Mac will ever reveal it. Neither 'badgeman' nor his 'mole' made it onto the silver halides which coated Mary's film; therefore Tom didn't find them. They weren't there to be found. Simple.

Ok. That's chapter one.

Beyond this point the book degenerates into an unintelligible cacophony of conspiracy-buff whining, pseudo-science, pixelated and meaningless screen-shots and an array of hand-drawn pictures that would shame a seven-year-old.

Wilson suggests that virtually every photograph, film and X-ray pertaining to the assassination and its subsequent investigation has been falsified
The chapters which deal with the Z-film, the autopsy materials and the 'backyard' photographs are utterly inane. Wilson simply scans an image, sweeps a few colour contrasts over it, magnifies it until it's pixelated beyond comprehension and then declares that it reveals something sinister; an extra bullet hole (or two), evidence of post-mortem alterations and on and on. Wilson obviously had no ability to analyse photographs, but there was nothing wrong with his imagination.

On pages 107-9 Wilson gives full reign to his boundless imaginings . On these pages the reader will find Tom's impression of a 'military man' who - he feels - can be discerned in the sniper's nest window. (Tom is scrutinizing a multi-generational copy of the Powell photograph here.)
This is how he describes the man (pp 107-8), "He is wearing a military-type beret that has a large spread eagle sewn on it. The eagle is made of cloth and its colour is white or very light tan. He is wearing a military-type oval earphone made out of rubber and plastic. The headphone set has a small microphone attached to the headband that goes under the beret. Wires are seen going from the microphone to the earpiece and up the headset headband. He has a very large bulb-type nose (similar to the actor/comedian W. C. Fields) ... His left eyelashes are very long. His left cheek is slightly puffy. He has a tattoo or sticker patch on his left cheek. The tattoo is: 'F9' with a smaller 's' below. The '9' is about two-thirds the size of the 'F' and the smaller 's' is at an angle (perhaps italicized)."

So, Tom's magic box can also differentiate between cloth, rubber and plastic. Amazing, eh? it can detect sewn stitches at a distance of more than 100 feet. As for the eyelashes, well, what can you say??

As the pages roll by the conspiracy musings of Donald Phillips himself begin to take up more and more page space. It's all of the usual guff and is utterly tedious to read. At times Phillips ties himself in knots. He flips and flops with his stream-of-consciousness theorising and ends up making a fool of himself within just a few sentences.
For example: (pp. 217-8), "However, it is believed that Tippit was shaken by the murder of President Kennedy and refused to kill Oswald, which then necessitated his own murder by the conspirators.
It may be that J. D. Tippit was one of the two shooters behind the picket fence, just as has been suggested by various researchers. [..] That policeman, who was described as not wearing a hat, may very well have been Tippit. Furthermore, J. D. Tippit fit the description of the left shooter on the grassy knoll behind the picket fence.
[...] He had brown eyes, course dark hair parted on the left side, and would obviously have been wearing a police uniform complete with badge. And finally, a photograph of Tippit reveals he had a pox mark below his left eye in the same location as the shooter behind the picket fence."

So - according to Phillips - Tippit shot JFK but was so 'shaken' by it that he 'refused' to kill Oswald. This is utter dross.

As a final thought, I'd like to return to Wilson and Dr Fackler's article about him (referenced earlier). He wrote:

It is obvious that Wilson's "peeling-off of layers" violates objective reality as much as his previous "energy in - energy out" thesis. Was he on TV because somebody took his theories seriously? Or was it because the JFK conspiracy theorists have become an entertainment cult, which nobody takes seriously; but listens to them for humour - actually lampooning them because their theses are fallacious to the point of comedy?"

I think the good doctor nails it with his second assessment.

Wilson's images are bogus and they don't serve to advance any understanding of President Kennedy's death. However, they do serve as a useful Rorschach test .
Wilson's screen-shots and diagrams are visual gibberish. They fail all scientific thresholds and protocols. None of Wilson's 'discoveries' have ever been verified by peer-review or confirmed by other, professionally administered tests.
Ultimately this Rorschach test reveals much about the minds of those who think they can see something in the images rather than what is actually there.

If you read the book you'll be able to 'see through' Tom Wilson; you won't need to peel-off any layers to reveal the deeper, darker lunacy.

Barry Ryder
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2015 6:50 PM GMT


A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination
A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination
by Philip Shenon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written & engrossing, 26 Sept. 2015
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For readers who have an interest in the much-maligned Warren Commission and its work, Philip Shenon's 'A Cruel And Shocking Act', is a recommended read.

The author has used the documentary record and interviews with many men who worked on the President's commission to flesh-out the back-story of the investigation into the deaths of JFK, Tippit and Oswald. Other writers have dealt with this subject before of course; Gerald Ford wrote of his involvment way back in 1966. Shenon has much to say about Ford's motives and modus operandi.

Earl Warren himself devoted a chapter of his autobiography to the Commission. Here again, Shenon digs deep into the record and provides some insights into the man and how he dealt with key areas of the investigation.

Willens, Specter and Belin all fall under the author's microscope. Thier contributions to the Commission were pivotal and thier later writings will be known to many, I'm sure.

'A Cruel And Shocking Act' breaks new ground with its examination of men such as Leibeler, Redlich, Slawson, Rankin, Hubert and Griffin. Shenon's access to surviving members of the lawyer's team provides some interesting insights into the personal dynamics that pushed the investigation forward - as well as pulled it backwards and wrenched it sideways. These were all real people and thier interactions, allegiancies and animosities make for fascinating reading.

All in all, Shenon's examination of the Commission is a reliable and welcome addition to the literature. It's very well-written and I found it engrossing from begining to end.

In the final chapter - 'Aftermath' - the author goes where angels fear to tread - Mexico City.
Readers of the assassination will know what a hornet's-nest this area of enquiry was - and still is.
Whether the author has presented anything new or important will be for the reader to decide. It's my view that 'Cruel and Shocking' doesn't really clarify or advance our understanding of Oswald's time in Mexico. The whole issue is fraught with complications and it has defied satisfactory resolution up till the present day. That said, I would thank and applaud Philip Shenon for giving this area of enquiry his best shot, however.

For readers who are looking for a detailed analysis of the actual murders - ballistics, medical and witness evidence etc - this book isn't the one to get. Shenon devotes little time to discussing these matters. They have been done-to-death for half-a-century by legions of other writers, good and bad. It is clear, however, that the author accepts Oswald's culpability in the killings of JFK and Tippit.

'Cruel And Shocking' does a fine job in highlighting the work and members of the WC 'junior staff'. It's a very good book.

Barry Ryder


Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Price: £12.39

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the unreasonable doubters, 8 May 2015
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`Beyond Reasonable Doubt' is co-authored by two of my favourite assassination writers/commentators. For me, Ayton and Von Pein are a dream-ticket. Ayton is studious and measured whilst Von Pein is battle-hardened and caustic. Ayton's academic credentials, allied with Von Pein's years of ferocious, on-line exchanges with the baying masses of the Lee Harvey Oswald fan-club, have come together in this outstanding book. This meeting-of-minds is the iron fist inside the velvet glove of assassination writing.

For readers who are looking for a no-nonsense introduction to a case that has been mangled and misrepresented by legions of cynics and paranoiacs for half-a-century, `Beyond Reasonable Doubt' is an ideal starting point.

The authors begin by discussing the two, main investigations into the case; the Warren Commission and the HSCA. As is to be expected, both writers give praise and criticism where it is due. There's no ducking of issues here. Mistakes were made by both investigations and there's no attempt to whitewash the errors. Ayton and Von Pein call it like it is. A pat on the back here and a kick up the rear there.

The chapters move through the gathered evidence - and there was a lot of it - which shows Oswald to have been the murderer of two men.

Naturally, much page space is devoted to the `issues' of the single bullet conclusion (the `magic' bullet) and the grassy-knoll. These are the two mud-holes in which the buffs have wallowed since 1963. The authors revisit each of these matters and they show how and why every investigation ever conducted got these issues right. Well, almost right. The HSCA's `fourth shot from the knoll' was shown to be wrong in 1982.

The chapters dealing with `Oswald's defenders' and the `Usual suspects' are particularly enjoyable.
Mel and David pour scorn on the charlatans who have earned big bucks by selling lies and deceptions to the public since day one.

Mark Lane and Joan Mellen are singled-out for particular criticism. They both deserve it. The list of false prophets could have included many more than are named here.

These attacks are entirely legitimate and permissible; after all, the conspiracy loons have been accusing all and sundry of murder, conspiracy, perjury and all manner of evils for half-a-century. Everyone from the President, the Chief Justice and any number of innocent men have been branded - long after their deaths - as involved in Kennedy's murder. It makes a nice change to see the boot on the other foot.

The bulk of the book is given over to re-examining issues that have long been resolved. Unfortunately these issues can't be put to rest because the amateur researchers seem to feel that they are better qualified than the professionals to conduct investigations and reach conclusions. The `Miss Marple' brigade will be with us for a long time yet, it seems. Hence the need for books like `Beyond Reasonable Doubt'.

Serious readers of the Kennedy assassination no longer dwell on Oswald's culpability in two murders; it's an established fact. He killed JFK and Tippit. However, Ayton and Von Pein do address the only remaining legitimate area of modern discussion. Oswald's motive and possible affiliations are examined here and there are some interesting points made. Within this perplexing miasma is the question of what did the CIA and FBI know about him prior to the assassination?

Chapter eight, `The-CIA-did-it-theory', tackles this vexed problem and, once again, the authors refuse to give the CIA and FBI top marks for performance. To their credit, Ayton and Von Pein are quite prepared to bang heads together. There are no sacred cows.

This is a fine book. There are some silly `typos' in the text (still!) and it could have been edited better for smoother flow. The narrative is a little `jumpy' in places.

Appendix one is a `solo' contribution from DVP and those familiar with his outstanding blogspot will recognise the man in full flow.

Appendix two features a highly detailed debunking of the `acoustic evidence' written by Michael O' Dell. It's very good and it meshes well with the analyses of the CBA, James C. Bowles and Dale Myers. There never was a grassy-knoll shot.

Do I like or love this book? I love it!
Readers who are grounded in provable facts and common-sense will love it to.

Barry Ryder

Note: This review is for the paperback edition of the book and not the Kindle version which is 'verified by amazon'.
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Jfk: The Lost Bullet [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Jfk: The Lost Bullet [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: £11.67

3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a look, 25 April 2015
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`The Lost Bullet' sets out to challenge two, long-held beliefs about the assassination of JFK.

The first is the notion that the Zapruder film captured the entire shooting sequence from beginning to end and the second is the supposition that Oswald's first shot missed its target because it was deflected by a tree.

There's nothing wrong with questioning `received wisdom', of course; such rigour ensures that we never fall into the trap of dogma. Virtue untested is no virtue at all - as the old saying goes.

So, does this National Geographic presentation convince?

Max Holland uses the FBI re-enactment films and photographs to argue the case that the missed shot may have struck the traffic-light pole or the signal suspended from it.
When Holland, De Ronja and Sturdivan examine the metallic arm which supports the signal, they find no indication of a bullet strike on it.

FBI agent John Howlett - who worked on the case in 63/4 - suggests that films and photographs seem to show a defect on the signal which is suspended from the arm at the time of the '64 re-enactment. It's a tantalising lead but it can't be pursued because the original signal has long-since gone.
The pursuit for proof that the missed shot struck the traffic signal is, thus, not found. (There is no proof that the shot struck the tree either, of course.)

The second premise that Holland advances is that the Zapruder film does not encompass the whole shooting sequence. Holland contends that the first shot occurred far sooner than most people believe. He suggests that the shot may have been fired in the very short pause which occurs early in the Z-film.

In support of this idea, witnesses Amos Euins and Tina Towner are presented in an attempt to bolster the notion of an `early shot'.

The idea is interesting but, Holland's presentation is highly selective, I feel. There is an abundance of witness testimony and analysis of that testimony, which runs contrary to Holland's argument. None of this is featured, unfortunately.
The presentation makes the valid point that the exact timing of the first shot is crucial. The first shot `starts-the-clock' and a definitive statement about it would go a long way to supporting or refuting Oswald's sole culpability in the murder.
Holland's analysis yields a time-span of eleven seconds. This is an eternity when compared to all previous estimates. Personally, I don't accept the idea. There is much to support the long-held belief that the Z-film does show the entire shooting sequence. The evidence for eight (and a bit) seconds is much stronger than Holland's presentation here.
So, for me, the two propositions that the programme sets out to establish, don't convince.

However, with that said, there are some things in `The Lost Bullet' that are very interesting indeed.

Holland's enhancements of the Nix and Hughes films are incredible to behold. The images are crisp, clear, bright and huge. Holland feels that Oswald can be seen at the 6th floor window in Hughes. Personally, I don't.

Some time is spent re-creating the sniper's nest and the possible positioning of Oswald within it. This is pretty good stuff.
The young marine who is tasked with replicating Oswald's assumed movements shows, to my satisfaction, that Oswald assumed two different postures and positions when firing. If Holland's reconstruction is correct - and I think that it is - two questions are resolved.

The first would be an explanation of why Oswald missed with his first shot. The miss may have had nothing to do with a deflection of the bullet.

Instead, the gunman's awkward and unstable posture shows that as he sought to achieve the steep, downward angle of the barrel which was required to acquire the target, he may have been too off-balance to discharge an accurate shot. He simply missed and his shot struck the road - just as witnesses said it did.

Unfortunately, Holland does `over-egg the pudding' with his attempt to replicate the positions of the ejected shell-cases. The imponderable permutation of locations that might be achieved by shell-cases bouncing off cardboard boxes and wooden flooring is mind-boggling. Attempting to demonstrate how three such cases came to be where they were found seems both unnecessary and unconvincing. How many `takes' were required before the final `result' was achieved? I wonder.

The second question bears upon the matter of why many of the witnesses in the Plaza reported that the first shot sounded differently to the following two.

Staying with the idea that Oswald might have been half-standing in order to view the limousine - which would have been almost directly beneath him - his position behind the window may have taken him deeper into the 6th floor. If Oswald were deeper in the building for the first shot, which seems highly likely, it would then follow that the blast from his rifle would have been muffled by the many boxes that were stacked around the window area and the 'three-quarter-closed' window itself. The acoustically absorbent boxes might well have altered the sound reaching those outside, hence the witness confusion concerning a motor-cycle back-fire.

It's a distinct possibility.

`The Lost Bullet', attempts the customary and obligatory `crime-scene re-enactment' on Elm Street. Unfortunately, like every other such attempt it was doomed to failure. In this instance the Oswald stand-in is placed on the platform of a `cherry-picker' which is outside the 6th floor window! Any effort to replicate and explain the shooting has the monumental task of accurately recreating a myriad of three-dimensional coordinates in space and time. Given the number of crucial elements required for this task to have any meaning, placing the gunman in the wrong position is a foolish waste of time.

The attempted recreation seeks to bolster the contentious single bullet conclusion. In truth, it doesn't succeed. There's too much wrong with the positioning of the gunman, vehicle and victims for me to have any confidence in the demonstration.

The single bullet conclusion - as postulated by Specter, adopted by the Warren Commission and endorsed by the HSCA - is the only credible explanation of the men's wounds and ballistic residue.

Max Holland and Larry Sturdivan's presentation in `The Lost Bullet' doesn't advance or enhance the SBC greatly. I think that others have done better in showing why and how one bullet passed through two men.

Conclusion: Max Holland is a good historian. His research and writing on the Kennedy assassination, its historical context and the subsequent investigations are first-rate. As an in-the-field investigator he's not quite so good.

Barry Ryder


Hauptmann's Ladder: A Step-by-Step Analysis of the Lindbergh Kidnapping (True Crime History)
Hauptmann's Ladder: A Step-by-Step Analysis of the Lindbergh Kidnapping (True Crime History)
by Richard T. Cahill Jr.
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.65

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accurate narrative and insightful commentary, 18 April 2015
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As with all of the `great crimes' in history, the kidnap and death of the Lindbergh infant has spawned a huge literary canon. Some of the published writing is very good and some is woefully poor. `Hauptmann's Ladder' glides comfortably into the `very good' category.

Cahill's basic narrative is accurate in detail and free of unnecessary `theorising' and `speculations'. It's very much a case of `just the fact's ma'am'.

Readers will find all of the key information about the abduction, investigation, arrest and trial presented here. The author offers citations and sources throughout and the reader can have great confidence in the veracity of the rendered account.

Cahill deals with the shameless and cruel hoax that was perpetrated by John Hughes Curtis but doesn't mention the equally reprehensible charade of Gaston Means. As the book finishes with Hauptmann's trial and execution, there's only a brief mention of Governor Hoffman and his politically-motivated showboating.

For this reader, the latter chapters of the book - which deal with the trial - show the author at his best. Cahill is well-trained and well versed in the law and his commentary and observations about the proceedings in the Hunterdon County Courthouse are insightful, informative and often shocking.

His analysis of the performances of Wilentz, Reilly, Judge Trenchard and others is excellent. Cahill doesn't merely `nit-pick' at irrelevances here; he seizes upon a whole host of things that were said and done which really might have opened the way for an appeal court to overturn the conviction. It's a sobering thought.

`Hauptmann's Ladder' compares favourably with Jim Fisher's, `The Lindbergh Case'. If readers have already read that earlier book and are wondering if this later one is worth the time and effort, I would say that it is.

Jim Fisher was a former FBI agent. His forte was investigation. His book focussed heavily on clues, evidence, statements and interrogations. His 1987 publication was all-the-better for his experience in the field.
Cahill is at his best in the courtroom. `Hauptmann's Ladder' - especially from the trial onwards - shows the author in his `natural habitat'.

Whether you are looking for your first book on the Lindbergh case or whether you already have a groaning bookshelf on the subject, `Hauptmann's Ladder' is a rewarding purchase and a great read.

Barry Ryder


10 Rillington Place [1970] [DVD] [1971]
10 Rillington Place [1970] [DVD] [1971]
Dvd ~ Richard Attenborough
Price: £4.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Art & history make uncomfortable bedfellows, 12 April 2015
As `art', this film is outstanding. The performances are terrific, the direction is tight and the design and costume capture post-war London and its inhabitants as they teeter between austerity and poverty with poignant accuracy.

Location shots of the original Rillington Place - by then re-named Ruston Close - add to the `authentic feel' of the film.

Judging '10 Rillington Place' on its artistic merits alone would get a five-star review from me without reservation.
Unfortunately it's not possible to judge this film purely as art. The film boldly claims that its content and story are `true'. They're not. There is much in it that isn't `true' and there is a great deal in it that is merely speculation. There is also a lot of important information that is omitted.

The film purports to be based on Ludovic Kennedy's 1961 book, `Ten Rillington Place'. In fact, the screenplay often departs from and embellished on Kennedy's writing.

All in all, the film remains a classic of its kind. It succeeds admirably as `art'. It has entertained and captivated a huge audience in the forty-five years since its release. That's good.

It has also fostered the notion the Evans was innocent of any wrong-doing. That isn't so good. The Brabin enquiry of 1966 declared that, ".. it is more probable than not that Evans killed Beryl Evans. I have come to the conclusion that it is more probable than not that Evans did not kill Geraldine."

The film gets four stars because I do 'like it'. I like it as art. It falls a long way short on historical and legal accuracy.

Barry Ryder


Hanratty - The Inconvenient Truth
Hanratty - The Inconvenient Truth
Price: £0.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting ideas, 25 Mar. 2015
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This book by Alan Razen is the first to be published on the Hanratty case since the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) announced its 2001 judgement on Hanratty's guilt.

As a result of the Court's decision, the case is now closed and Hanratty's conviction will remain upheld.
That said, the debate about his culpability will surely endure for many more years, regardless.

`The Inconvenient Truth', offers some interesting ideas and discussion in furtherance of the debate.

At the outset, the author, rightly characterises the original, 1961 trial as "..an undoubted travesty." It surely was. Razen goes on to write that, "The prosecution case was weak and depended on disputable circumstantial evidence, dubious witness testimony and a singular lack of motive;.." All of this is true and most readers of the case will readily agree with the author; I certainly do.

However, this book - because of its timing - is able to reassess many of the anomalies which have beset the case for more than fifty years, in the light of the DNA evidence which points to Hanratty's guilt. With this `trump card', Razen is able to consider the anomalies and contradictions with the ultimate (near) certainty that James Hanratty was the abductor, murderer and rapist. No previous writer had been able to do this before.

The book explores two, basic possibilities; one is that Hanratty committed the crime(s) alone and unprompted. The second explores the possibility that there may have been a conspiracy and that somehow, it went seriously wrong and the killing and rape were not part of the original plan.

For sure, this is - as the author fully accepts - only speculation. None-the-less, he does present some credible and tantalising ideas. I found it to be a very stimulating - though a little short - read.

For those who still seek to fathom this case I would recommend `The Inconvenient Truth'. It doesn't attempt to `hammer' Hanratty with the DNA findings and the author is willing to consider alternative scenarios other than the `received' one.

This book doesn't `solve' the case and nor does it claim to. To his credit, Razen acknowledges that Hanratty should never have been convicted on the available evidence and he certainly should not have hanged.

If you enjoy discussion and debate on all things `crime', then this little, inexpensive book will keep you interested for a couple of hours.

Barry Ryder
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2015 10:18 AM GMT


The Lindbergh Case
The Lindbergh Case
by Jim Fisher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Objective and reliable overview, 22 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: The Lindbergh Case (Paperback)
Published in 1987, this book still ranks as the best recounting of the Lindbergh kidnapping written in recent years.
Jim Fisher was the first criminal justice official to go into print on the subject and his professional eye captures the case and its participants brilliantly.

The book is written in a `narrative' style and is alive and vibrant from beginning to end. Readers who might have concerns about any `artistic licence' on Fisher's part need not worry. Where conversations, dialogues and exchanges are presented, the author provides original sources for his writing and his reportage can be accepted as accurate.

The entire text chronicles the case from the moment of the abduction up to Hauptmann's death. Everything is covered.
For readers who have yet to read a full account of this shocking case, then this book is probably the best volume to start with.

The author never offers any opinion or view as the developments occur; he dimply relates what the many personalities said and did. Unlike more recent publications which seek to advance a `theory', `The Lindbergh Case' doesn't. Fisher remains restrained and objective from beginning to end.

As a starting point to understanding the incredible twists and turns that this case contains, Fisher's book is as good as any ever written and it's far better that most.

Barry Ryder


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