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on 14 July 2014
Some astonishingly in depth research containing first hand accounts of Hubbard's early days and life in the Sea Org under the commodore. It's hard to understand how so many people went along with all this but if they felt auditing did them good then you can't tell them otherwise. Hubbard comes across as a sort of Oliver Hardy cum WC Fields character and in some ways likeable. The worst aspects of his character came out when he had apparently gone over the edge. Fascinating reading.
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on 3 September 2015
Absolutely, mindbogglingly brilliant book. My research tells me that it is all true but if only HALF of this were true, he was the world's most incredible liar. You must, MUST read this. L. Ron Hubbard, pulp fiction and sci-fi author, the inventor of "Dianetics" (psychiatry for the ill-informed or gullible) and I again urge you to read it. It's the story of a paranoid schizophrenic with a HUGE talent for lying, who convinces thousands of greedy and/or vulnerable mental patients that he's the messiah, kidnaps his own baby daughter, pretends he's a war hero, pretends he's a scientist, pretends he's a spy, an explorer, a polyglot, policeman, nuclear physicist..... I could go on and on. Amazing. But without doubt his crowning "glory" is his religion-from-scratch "Church of Scientology", a concept so preposterously barking mad that even the Mormons think it's barking mad, and they're Mormons! The incredible thing is how many defenceless people he fleeced and then punished and humiliated and they BELIEVED. I particularly loved the bit where his second in command takes over and really starts to put the whole rotten mess onto a lucrative business footing. It brings religious hypocrisy sharply into focus.
Like insane, murdering madman Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said, "I know people think we're a bit crazy, but have you read "Bare Faced Messiah"? That guy was NUTS I tell you."
Read. Enjoy. I'm breathless with laughter.
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on 25 November 2014
If ever there was a reason to despise a person, this book gives the evidence in a clear and concise form to say that person should be the cult leader Hubbard. It is clear from the start what Hubbard wanted and through the narrative showed just what he would do, who he would hurt and the depths he would go to reach that goal.

Was it worth it to die in virtual isolation believing that everyone, in some way, was out to get him? The answer is no, but then the fault was his.

This is a great read about a liar, thief, con artist and cult leader. May his cult die the way he did.
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on 24 July 2014
What a fascinating book! The author writes such details and never failed to grab my interest. I am old enough to remember when all this was taking place and recall how one daughter at university was warned about the cult. Sounds like Hubbard was indeed a great pulp science fiction author at the beginning but he obviously then confused his fantasies with fiction and lived his life under delusions of grandeur . Incredible how so many people were conned by him and believed in such weird things. A wonderful read and I was relieved at the end to hear that it all came out in public at long last. Great research done by author!
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VINE VOICEon 16 April 2014
L. Ron Hubbard was a much decorated war hero who was woulded in action but overcame his disabilities - including blindness - by the use of his phsychological breakthrough, Dianetics. Or did he?
The author of this book has researched his subject well. Hubbard was a lieutenant only and each time he was given a command he made a mess of it. He never saw action and received only the standard medals for serving. As time went on and scientology developed the flaws in his character became more pronounced, as did his indifference to anyone else, including his families and children.In reality Hubbard was a manic schizophrenic with paranoid traits. His organisation is little better today, nearly thirty years after his death.
If you want the truth behind the myths of the founder of this cult, this is the book to read.
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on 13 August 2014
More biographies on insane people please!
L. Ron Hubbard is the maniacal ego-maniac here.
Bought during a Kindle book sale this was a snip at 99p.
LOVED IT!

As initiates of Aleister Crowley’s black magic cult the OTO, Hubbard and Jack Parsons performed the two-man babalon ritual. This notoriously difficult ritual was predictably fouled up (Crowley described them as idiotic louts in an earlier memo), the upshot of which they both seem to have become possessed by some rather cranky demons. It was not long after that L. Ron, or whatever was operating him, came up with Dianetics and converted this into the Church of Scientology. Parsons later just blew himself up. Hell-Ron’s son under oath in court said; “you’ve got to realise that my father did not worship Satan, he thought he was Satan.”

There are many great and hilarious lines in this book detailing L. Ron’s many absurd scams and lies, here are some faves:

‘Hubbard told his friend that in a past life on another planet he had been in charge of a factory making steel humanoids which he sold to ‘Thetans’, offering hire purchase terms if they could not afford the cash price.’

‘I don’t think he ever expected me to take his war stories seriously, although I knew he had been wounded because one night he kept complaining of a pain in his side and when he stood up a little bit of shrapnel fell out from under his shirt. He said it was something that often happened – fragments of shrapnel still in his body were working their way out.’

A local on finding scientologists invading East Grinstead:
‘As if it was not bad enough having strange Americans walking round the streets [they were] wearing badges saying ‘don’t speak to me, I’m being processed’…’

fun fun fun
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on 17 May 2016
Meticulously researched and superbly written, this biography of L Ron Hubbard is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the rise and fall of a cult leader.

The cult in question, is of course, the ironically named ‘Church’ of Scientology. This isn’t a review of that particular group – there are plenty of other sources to study to get an idea of the nature of that particular beast, so I won’t talk too much about them, apart from mentioning that they attempted to prevent publication of this work by suing the publisher. Hmmm, sounds as though someone had something to hide?

Miller interviewed dozens of people who personally knew Hubbard right from childhood up until his demise in a motorhome parked on a ranch in California. So unlike the ‘official’ biographies that Hubbard had written, it is based on fact and has the documentation to back it up. Hubbard was a storyteller and invented a backstory for himself of heroic and even super-human achievements that rivals, nay surpasses anything coming out of North Korea. Everything he did, he was an expert at. Nuclear scientist, aviator, explorer, mineral surveyor, naval hero, ‘master mariner’, explorer of the human mind and spirit, photographer, artist, composer, singer (if you want a good laugh and have a strong stomach, look up ‘Thank You For Listening L Ron Hubbard’), filmmaker, philosopher, possessor of superhuman abilities and ‘mankind’s truest friend’ (yes really!) to mention a few.

Unfortunately (I say unfortunately, because hey, we’d all like to believe in supermen, wouldn’t we?), most of this was simply made up. It seems that Hubbard got so wrapped up in his own stories he couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t.

What he was though, was a liar, conman, womaniser, serial adulterer, fantasist and quite possibly suffering from a severe personality disorder.

Despite his many faults, I do believe that Miller had a grudging respect for Hubbard. Certainly this book is more sympathetic to Hubbard than I think he deserves.

Anyway, no point in me blathering on, you are going to buy this book and see for yourself, right?
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on 8 May 2016
The key to understanding this fascinating and pretty exhaustive account of the life of Lafayette Ronald Hubbard is the rather laboured pun in its title - Bare-Faced Messiah = Bare-Faced Liar (geddit?). LRH seems to have emerged from the womb of his long-suffering mother with a yet to be determined genetic defect: the inability to tell the truth when a convenient lie - preferably one that added to the self-aggrandising delusions of its author - could be told in its stead. This trait served LRH well throughout his tumultuous life, but it was a double-edged sword, one that was equally able to get him into scrapes as escape them. As Miller tells it, the scrapes were almost all of LRH's making, whether marital (not only serially unfaithful, he was also a bigamist), familial (no son or daughter had a chance of equalling the fantasy feats of their delusional Dad, so all were condemned to failure), or societal (the secrecy with which he encloaked both the finances and workings of his "church" - founded as a church for tax evasion - couldn't help but evoke the suspicion of law enforcement agencies and governments.
So what's the difference between a 'church' and a 'cult'? Other websites explain the difference better than I can, but I guess that time is the great difference. The Church of Scientology - borne from the science fiction works of its founder's endlessly feverish mind - contnues, although I suspect that after the death of LRH, the farcical circumstances of which Miller details with relish, Scientology may not survive another generation, headline Scientogists such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta (not the sharpest knives in the Hollywood hamper) notwithstanding.
Slightly Fleet Street tabloid in tone, Miller's book is highly recommended for its research, readability and for conveying in its tone the rollicking life of its subject. I was left pondering at the end: Would I have liked to have met LRH? I think I would, since he does come across as a charming, entertaining liar. Certainly the righteousness of his claims would amuse me (although my scepticism would have annoyed him and put me on the scientogist's hit list) I certainly would have been well-wary of signing anything relating to my sanity, finances or anything else over to him, or them. So Tom Cruise, you're not welcome to leap over my sofa.
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on 2 December 2015
I'm about a third of the way through this book and am finding it an exciting and thoroughly fascinating read, it gets better with each chapter. It seems a very well-researched biography of an extraordinary character, who was obviously quite a genius in his own way, at least in making up stories about himself and convincing large numbers of people that they are true. It's quite amazing just how "bare-faced" Hubbard must have been when you compare the actual reality of his life as the official records show, with his own stories of his "feats of exploration" and his "wartime adventures" (the description of his activities during WW2 are hilarious!). Looking forward to the rest of the book!
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on 23 September 2014
Having read the foreword, which discusses in detail the author's alleged encounters with the Church of Scientology when researching this book, I'm almost afraid to comment. Ultimately, I suppose I'll have to accept that Tom Cruise is never going to play the protagonist in a hypothetical film adaptation of my book (even if an anthropomorphic fish from Warrington would probably be less of a stretch for 'Mapother' than Jack Reacher). This is terrific book.

Hubbard is one of the most divisive characters of the 20th century and this is a soup to nuts account of his life, preceded by a brief overview of his family history. Initially, the structure of the book is a little repetitive with most of the early chapters beginning with one of Hubbard's more outlandish autobiographical claims which Miller will then insist is fabrication. In some cases-Hubbard's university career, for example-, he's able to set out evidence to support his case; in others, though, it boils down to 'he said, she said' arguments. As evidence, these aren't particularly robust and his sources, typically disgruntled ex-scientologists or estranged friends of the Hubbards, are likely to have their own axes to grind. I found myself wanted to believe Miller, but he never quite managed to argue his position beyond reasonable doubt.

When the book came out, much of the critical revolved around the fact Miller was felt to have sat on the fence when addressing the question of whether Hubbard's endeavours were entirely for personal gain or the product of a genuine if misguided belief. Given the fact he cites no less than three separate comments from LRH regarding the potential financial arguments in favour of establishing a new religion, it's difficult to see how this perception arose. As should be obvious from the title alone, Miller doesn't pull his punches.

If there is a criticism to be levelled at this book, it's that it's weighted too heavily towards the early part of his life. As things start to get interesting, the narrative pace quickens with the result that episodes like Operation Snow White get glossed over. It could also be argued that, having left little doubt as to his beliefs regarding the genuineness of scientology, he seeks to present the organisation as rather more benign than other authors would suggest to be the case. Read this book alone, for example, and you'd get the impression that the Church punishes transgressions with little more than a change in uniform and a little light dusting. That may or may not be the case, but there was a time, about two thirds of the way through the book when I wondered if it wasn't a particularly ingenious piece of propaganda.

Bare-faced messiah is a well-written book with a compelling narrative that reads, at times, like a thriller. In focussing on Hubbard rather than the organisation he created, this necessarily only tells part of the story but it's a useful starting point.

Disclaimer: Naturally, the Church have argued that much of the book is misleading or inaccurate but the author gives the impression of having undertaken thorough research. The reader, of course, is free to decide whom he chooses to believe.

Etienne Hanratty: Don't Carp, Marley a Tiffin.
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