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Book Reviews, August - September 2008

Murder Gone Cold: The Mystery of the Grimes Sisters, The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (And How to Do Them), The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, and Swallow the Ocean: A Memoir

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Murder Gone Cold: The Mystery of the Grimes Sisters
by Tamara Shaffer. (Ghost Research Society Press, $14.95). At 7:15 p.m. on December 28, 1956, 15-year-old Barbara Grimes and her sister Patricia, 13, left home to see Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender at Brighton Theater in Chicago. They didn’t come home that night—or ever again. The Grimes sisters’ frozen bodies were found by Leonard Prescott along German Church Road, southwest of the city, 26 days after they disappeared. A crime that rocked and shocked Chicago, to this day, it remains unsolved. Chicago writer Tamara Shaffer pens a meticulously researched and richly detailed account of the crime and its aftermath.
—Colleen Fahy

The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (And How to Do Them) by Peter Sagal. (HarperCollins, $24.95). In his first book, Peter Sagal, the hilarious host of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me weekly news quiz, takes the opportunity to do what many a self-proclaimed geek dreams of: doing things you’re not supposed to. Here Sagal dissects seven modern vices to see if they’re all they’re cracked up to be. He hangs out at a swingers party, explores a strip club and delves into the world of porn stars. Sagal also explores the not-so-salacious vices of gambling, lying, consumption and eating. Whether it’s having a meal with a group of pornographers or working his way through a 21-course meal at Chicago’s Alinea restaurant, Sagal does it all—many times with his wife in tow—and lives to tell us about it with humor and panache. He even throws in a bit of historical background on each vice to make this breezy read feel more like an educational experience than just a travelogue on the seamier side of our culture.—Jill Jaracz

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder by Vincent Bugliosi. (Vanguard Press, $26.95). If you haven’t heard of this new provocatively entitled book, there is a reason, according to the author and former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. The book has been blacked out by the national media—a case of out of sight, out of the public mind, if you will, and no wonder. The Cliff's Notes version of the book might be: Bush lied, people died. This 21st Century version of Emile Zola’s J'accuse pulls no punches. “The book you are about to read deals with what I believe to be the most serious crime ever committed in American history—the president of this nation, George W. Bush, knowingly and deliberately taking this country to war in Iraq under false pretenses, a war that condemned over 100,000 human beings, including 4,000 young American soldiers, to horrible, violent deaths.” With that opening indictment, Bugliosi calls for America to return to the rule of law that once ruled the land. He then meticulously details why Bush and his two chief enablers, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, should be tried for murder. Using the same attention to detail he evidenced in his career at the L.A. County District Attorney's office, where Bugliosi “successfully prosecuted 105 out of 106 felony jury trials,” including his most famous trial, the Charles Manson case, Bugliosi outlines his case while answering the contrary views he imagines will be raised. The author leads the layperson through legalese and rationale for why Bush et al should be tried, why he will not be impeached and why he cannot be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as have other war criminals. Bugliosi never loses his sword-wielding belief that Bush is “criminally responsible for the thousands of American deaths in Iraq.”—Candace Drimmer

Swallow the Ocean: A Memoir by Laura M. Flynn. (Counterpoint, $23). For anyone interested in true tales of schizophrenia, family life and the ‘70s, Laura M. Flynn’s first book is a fast read. This true story takes place mainly in San Francisco, where Laura, both narrator and author, takes us inside the mysterious and painful account of her mother’s deterioration into paranoid schizophrenia. When her parents separate, Laura must battle between loyalty to her mother and a healthy longing for the more normal environment that her father can provide. With her mother, Laura and her two sisters are forced to wear odd clothing, take on the grown-up task of grocery shopping themselves and live like prisoners in their own home, protecting the strangeness of their lives from outsiders at all costs. With their father, the girls get to eat out, play Monopoly and go to the beach. As their mother’s behavior grows stranger and treatment towards her daughters worsens, the father must fight for custody as the girls fight to feign love for both the most controlling and damaging authority in their lives. Told simply and directly, the narrator comes off a little apathetic and enigmatic at times. Yet the moments in her life when she is happiest, such as private mother-daughter rendezvous through nature, elaborate doll games with her sisters and the enticing worlds of the childhood books she loves, come across greatly detailed and magical. Although the emotional abandonment of a once-loving daughter is difficult to grasp at times, the memories and family tales that intrigue Laura the most are what makes this book a worthwhile read. —Andrea Fishel


Published: August 09, 2008
Issue: Fall 2008 Politics Issue