Barry Ryder is one of the most knowledgeable people around on the JFK assassination. He lives in the U.K., and he excels at a lost skill - writing book reviews.
Here is the text of his review of my book:
This superb investigation of Garrison and his vindictive pursuit of Clay Shaw is required reading – not just for those who have an interest in the case – but for anybody who doubts that people who hold high, public office, could actually be mad, bad and dangerous to know.
Litwin’s investigation – and ‘On The Trail Of A Delusion’ most assuredly is an investigation, not merely ‘a book’ - finally exposes the full extent of Jim Garrison’s mania and dishonesty.
Earlier works by James & Laidlaw, Brener, Kirkwood, Epstein and Lambert all shone their own bright lights into Garrison’s dark fantasy and this stunning book finally tears away the last vestiges of pretence that Garrison was a courageous man who was onto something. Litwin proves that he was neither.
The book is replete with letters, documents, memos, official reports, press cuttings and interviews. Everything is accurately sourced and the reader can have total confidence in the author’s citations. Litwin presents the evidence for all to see. Indeed, early in his introduction, the author tells of his first impressions as he began collating and examining the material. He writes, “The more I read, the more it confirmed the fact that Jim Garrison had nothing.”
There are numerous examples of Garrison’s paranoia and a memo that he wrote to Bill Boxley on June, 12, 1967 is quite staggering. Fred Litwin can barely disguise his incredulity when writing about it. He says, “I now have hundreds of these sorts of memos, and while one could find them endlessly amusing, they are actually nothing of the sort.” Indeed they’re not. They’re proof positive that Garrison was a lunatic.
Many of Garrison's empty boasts are included in the book, such as, “There will be arrests. Charges will be filed and on the basis of these charges, convictions will be obtained.” And, “My staff and I solved the case weeks ago. I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t have evidence beyond the shadow of a doubt. We know the key individuals, the cities involved and how it was done.” These were two of Garrisons most bloated claims and, of course, he never convicted anybody at all for the assassination of President Kennedy.
Fred Litwin revisits all of the characters that were drawn into Garrison’s ‘theatre of the absurd’. Some people rushed to be part of the production whilst others, less fortunate, were mired it its ever expanding swamp of tragicomedy. Most of the characters will be familiar to readers of the subject; Dean Andrews, Jack Martin, Vernon Bundy all wobble and falter across the pages. The hare-brained Perry Russo and his ‘objectifying sessions’ make for chilling reading. Fred Litwin has dug deep and uncovered others whose names and experiences will be new to many. Garrison cut a swathe of destruction that was far wider than many people realise.
The staggeringly ridiculous ‘Oswald/Ruby code’ that Garrison thought was concealed in Oswald’s address book is discussed by Litwin and any reader who still believes that Garrison was sane after reading it, is probably as mad as Garrison was.
Chapter nine deals with Shaw’s trial. Litwin embraces and expands on the earlier works of Kirkwood, Brener and Lambert. Of special interest here is the issue of ‘the Clinton witnesses’. Whatever the reader chooses to believe about this episode, one thing is clear; the jury didn’t believe that it happened.
Other State witnesses come and go and – in view of the not guilty verdict – none were believed. Spiesel, Bundy, Hardiman, Mrs Parker and Mr & Mrs Tadin all floundered badly on the stand. The jury had only to believe the testimony of one of these people in order to convict Shaw. They didn’t believe any of them.
The author highlights Judge Christenberry’s post-trial ruling against Garrison which became necessary after he continued to pursue Shaw for alleged perjury. Christenberry’s judgement was scathing of the DA’s methods, witnesses and motivation. Litwin captures the moment perfectly and, when read, there is a sense that, at last, the madness is over.
As the book moves on, regular themes emerge: Garrison’s credulity and paranoia are constant factors; his innate suspicion of gay men is ever present in his thoughts and deeds; his obsession with ‘propinquity’ is always available to help underpin his ‘theories’. Jim Garrison was worse than eccentric, he was mentally ill. There were many people who were sure of it. Carlos Quiroga, Kerry Thornley and Edgar Eugene Bradley were three and Litwin gives voice to them all in this excellent expose.
By chapter 17, the author brings the story up to 1975 and the famous Geraldo showing of the Zapruder film – or rather a showing of an inferior, pirated copy that the nutty Robert Groden had ‘acquired’. Thereafter, Litwin retraces the sequence events that led to the formation of the House Selected Committee on Assassinations. Garrison’s statements to the Committee showed that he was still utterly obsessed with Z ‘a conspiracy’ but, he’d begun to make changes to it. Many of his original certainties were now not quite so certain and they were being replaced by new certainties.
This outstanding book moves to its close as it arrives in the 1980’s and the eventual publication of Garrison’s sour-grapes book ‘On The Trail Of The Assassins’. He tried hard to excuse and explain ‘what-really-happened’ back in ‘69, but the book made little impact. That changed in the early 1990’s when Oliver Stone decided to make a film about the case. ‘JFK’ hit the screens and a generation bought into Kevin Costner’s sanitised depiction of the nut-case Garrison.
Litwin writes extensively and scathingly about the film. Virtually every scene was pure invention – with concocted dialogue to help things along. Litwin also draws attention to the fact that the film has a distinct homophobic element. Gratuitous scenes – which feature invented characters – lean heavily on Clay Shaw’s gay orientation. Garrison repeatedly insisted that JFK was killed by a group of gay men in a “..homosexual thrill killing..” Despite there not being one iota of evidence to support the notion that Oswald was a gay man in league with other gay men, Stone chose to appeal to the basest nature of his audience by accepting and presenting Garrisons prejudice as being true. It wasn’t.
Litwin gives the entire film a much-deserved hammering. I particularly enjoyed this segment and I think that many readers will, too.
‘On The Trail Of A Delusion’ runs to its conclusion with some more outstanding, in-depth research by its author. Shaw’s ‘relationship’ with (variously) the CIA and/or Permindex/CMC is examined. It has long been known that the original ‘story’ which was featured in ‘Paese Sera’ was a communist plant. Litwin follows the paper trail and presents his inescapable conclusion that the whole allegation was baseless.
The book finishes as Litwin casts a critical eye over the few, remaining ‘defenders’ of Jim Garrison. (All historical tyrants have defenders, of course.) These acolytes are simply disciples of a false god, peddling false gospels. They inhabit internet forums and occasionally get books published. What they never do, of course, is take their ‘evidence’ to their Congressman.
When it comes to investigative skill and determination, Fred Litwin leaves these people in his wake. Indeed, if Garrison had been half as smart as Fred Litwin, the entire New Orleans debacle would never have happened. Shaw would have been able to live out his life doing the things that he loved; Restoring parts of the French Quarter and writing plays.
This is a stunning book. It picks up the baton from James & Wardlaw, Kirkwood, Brener, Epstein and Lambert. Fred Litwin has done Clay Shaw’s memory and history a great service.