Mark Lamendola, author
of over 6,000 articles in print or online.
Scott Turow wrote the introduction to this book. Turow is one of my favorite authors, and he's one of the few who writes both fiction and non-fiction (and keeps them separate, unlike Michael Moore and Dan Brown). Having read Turow books and having read his writings about how he changed his views on the death penalty, I trust Turow. Therefore, his name on this book made me want to read it.
This work is non-fiction, and it gives credence to the idea that "truth is stranger than fiction." Remember the bizarre OJ Simpson "trial?" I never did watch the television coverage, so I got all of my information after the melodrama had subsided. Of course, you'll find the OJ spectacle covered in this book. Interestingly, I read this book in parallel with listening to a couple of audio books on the same subject (one by two detectives on the case, another by Marcia Clark).
This book left some impressions on me:
- Rich people can be terribly cheap and petty. You would think that, with millions or billions of
dollars, a person would not be so concerned about getting more that
he or she would go to great lengths to hurt others to get it. After
all, don't we stop eating when full? But some people are just gluttons.
- People can tell the most brazen,
stupid lies. While most of the crimes are in this book are heinous,
the lies the perpetrators spin are almost humorously pathetic. Of
course, we see this all the time with the American Taliban (not
their official name), which has a 95% error rate in the notices it
sends out to terrified taxpayers.
- Not everybody views people as people
(again, we see this with the American Taliban).
- People who commit the most awful
crimes most often follow those crimes with behavior that says,
"Catch me!" OJ Simpson was a classic example. The Menendez brothers
- Horrendous crimes are interesting
because they say something about us as well as the criminals. What
really separates us from horrendous criminals, and how can we
maintain that separation?
The first thing you notice about this book is it looks like a magazine. It's the same size as three or four magazines stacked on top of each other, and it is as photo-centric as any good magazine.
The material in this book comes from the files of People Magazine, so the cases do not represent a cross section of America. They represent a cross section of People Magazine's coverage. And that coverage is primarily movie stars, notable eccentrics, and the ultra-rich.
I've read People Magazine, because you find it in waiting rooms everywhere. To me, it's eye candy and is of little value. I really don't care what various celebrities are doing. They live on a different planet with different rules, and most of them are just plain crazy. This book bears that out.
I was surprised to discover the book has less of a fluff factor than the magazine does. In fact, it's not fluff at all, but a serious treatment of the material. But all the vignettes are short enough that you never get bogged down in any particular story. And here's something you rarely hear from me: The writing is first-rate.
Will you feel uplifted after reading this book? Maybe--that depends on whether you reflect on your own situation and your own circle of friends and loved ones. Will you be more able to see through deception and you might be more aware of dangers around you? Probably.
You will certainly be aware that our "justice" system is far from perfect. But then, we're all imperfect. Whatever petty annoyances you "suffer" with your spouse or other important people in your life, it's good sometimes to put all of that in context. You read this book and you realize that those irritating habits of your friends and loved ones are not worth getting terribly flustered over.
And what about your own foibles? Unless you are future subject material for a book like this, you should take comfort in the fact that you are not as flawed as you may have thought. That's reason enough to get up and face the world each day, to take on it challenges and be satisfied that you have done about as well as anyone can expect you to. We can all strive to be better, but sometimes a look at the dark side of humanity's worst can help us realize that--even with all of our imperfections--we are not so bad after all. And neither are those to whom we express criticism, disappointment, or irritation.
After reading this book, I feel like telling various people I know how much I appreciate them after all. Sometimes contrast, as Martha Stewart (also a subject of this book) might say, is "a good thing."