Olsson's Book Bits

by Greta Olsson

To Love, Honor, and Kill by Lee Butcher
Copyright 2OO8
477 pages
ISBN: 13: 978-O-786O-19O8-3

Justin and April Barber both came from good upper class families and seemed to have the perfect marriage. April made 75,000 a year, Justin over $100,000. However when they took a romantic midnight stroll at the beach, Justin said a stranger approached them and opened fire. He put four bullet holes into Justin and killed April. He stole nothing. There did not seem to be a motive for the murder. As investigators discovered more and more about the Barbers, they became convinced that Justin killed his wife for the two million insurance money to get himself out of debt.

The book is a very long, detailed account of the trial and conviction of Justin. I would not recommend this book unless you really need to know everything about a murder trial. The author told me far more than I wanted to know. I began skipping pages. Too much repetition. The jacket says that this case was seen on Dateline and 48 Hours. I'd be willing to take a look at this story on TV.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Riverhead books
Paperback: 371 pages
First hardcover edition: June 2OO3
First paperback: May 2OO4
Paperback ISBN: 1-59448-OOO-1
Hardcover ISBN: 1-57322-245-3

San Francisco called this book the first novel of the year. I would call it the first novel of the century. I think it's the most powerful book that I've ever read. I believe that if you read this book, you will never ever forget it.

Afghanistan had balloon contests. I assumed the runner referred to someone running to get his balloon into the air. Not so. If there are 1OO balloons, their "strings" are made of glass, and the object of the game is to cut the other players' strings in order to take them out of the game. The last balloon flying is the winner.

Amir, from an upper middle class family, believes that if he can finally win, his father will show him more affection than he has in the past. Hassan was a boy of almost the same age as Amir, who lived in his home, and who showed Amir very great love and loyalty, but who came from a lower caste.

Although Amir played constantly with Hassan, he did not do so when other upper class boys were about. Hassan was one of the best kite runners in their group. His job was to chase after balloons that fell to the ground and collect them for Amir.

As close as their friendship was, it would meet an insurmountable block. For a first book, this story is beyond belief. I envy you reading it for the first time. I cannot recommend it more highly.

Mafia Son
The Scarpa Mob Family, the FBI, and a story of betrayal
by Sandra Harmon
254 paqes, paperback.
Copyriqht 2OO9
ISBN: 13-978-O-312-37O24-4

It's most unusual to see a woman with the courage to write about a Mafia family, especially one that was a dynasty. Greg Sr. lived a double role - Mafia boss and FBI informer. When he betrayed criminals, Greg was absolutely straight, giving very accurate reports. The most shocking note is that both he and his son gave our government information that had they respected what they got, they could have averted the 9/11 disaster. Both Vincent Bugliosi, who wrote The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, another great book, and Phil Carlo highly recommend this book. I do too!

The second shocking note is that when Greg was arrested, he asked his son to take the fall for him. The young man left his wife and children to say yes, knowing how often Mafia lords had enough connections to avoid long prison terms. The boy was betrayed by his own father, is serving a very long term, and expects to be murdered in ADMAX, a prison in Colorado considered to be the toughest in our country, housing the worst men anyone one would dread meeting.

The author testified at a Mafia trial.

The Niqht Sta1ker, The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez by Philip Carlo
1996, paperback, 592 pages
ISBN O-786O-181O-O

Philip Carlo spent three years researching this work and 1OO hours interviewing Richard in prison. One must be impressed with the amount of work Carlo did on this book, and yet I did not like it as well as his accounts of the Mafia. Possibly there is too much detail. Possibly because Richard was too vicious in his attacks on helpless older women, people who had no chance against him.

With his good looks, height, high cheek bones, and full lips, Richard received more attention from young women than any other prisoner in a U.S. prison. One juror fell in love with him, moved to where he was imprisoned, and changed jobs so that she could help him in his appeal to have his verdict overturned. Another - Doreen - believed in Ramirez's innocence to the extent she became selfless in trying to help him. It's beyond my understanding that she could listen to all the testimony against him during a fourteen month trial, listen to witness after witness identify him as the killer, and still think of him as innocent. A third woman as far away as Denmark begged Richard to let her visit him.

Carlo interviewed some of Richard's groupies and asked Richard himself what he thought of all the mail and nude photographs that he received. Richard used his head and married Doreen who was 1OO% behind him. Carlo attended the wedding in jail. He was amazed that hardened prisoners who had visitors in the cafeteria where the marriage took place maintained an almost holy silence and respect for the ceremony.

I found this last bit one of the most interesting parts of the story. Ramirez got life, but both he and Doreen hope that he will eventually get out. Especially for Doreen's sake, I hope that never happens. Doreen is a virgin, well-educated, well dressed, very conservative woman who worked as a writer for a magazine. A fourth woman claimed that she found Ramirez so exciting because of his being so dangerous, and yet she could get close to him as long as he was behind bars. Many women came across as mental cases - truly beyond belief. Richard always felt Satan would protect and help him. One woman, also a Satanist, really out did Richard in what she fancied they could do together.

Doreen asked Carlo what he thought of Richard and her chances of being happy. Carlo was diplomatic beyond words. If she could deny 39 witnesses and 537 pieces of evidence, Carlo knew she could never take the truth from him. He wished her luck. No woman would need it more if Richard ever got out and she learned the truth.

Do you know what caught Richard? His shoes. Only 1354 pairs of Avia Aerobic shoes had been made and only six pairs had found their way to Los Angeles, and only one pair was a size 11 and a half, Richard's size. He left prints everywhere, and Doreen kept writing articles about Richard's innocence! Oh, help!!!

Correction: Due to an error in editing, Greta's article in the Dec/Jan issue stated that Dr. Graham had performed 450 operations when he has actually performed 4500. This correction should have appeared in the Feb/Mar issue but due to another error...

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