Survivor

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That was Geoffrey Page. He was a survivor.

Aviation came early to Geoffrey Page’s life. His family was the Page of Handley-Page, and aircraft were always in his life. Coming of age in the 1930s was an experience little matched. The Great War was still fresh in memory. Heroes of the air had been created and they were all around. Aviation was coming of age at the same time. It’s natural a spirited youth would seek out a piece of this adventure.

Page enjoyed a broken home, a protective mother and a distant and demanding father. All forbid this precarious quest. How the world would be different today if yesterday’s youth had been embraced obedience.

My mother was of little help. Besides having no more than a pittance from an ungenerous husband she refused to let her darling boy risk life and limb in “one of those terrible flying machines.” And yet, she would have robbed to give me anything else I might have set my heart on.

With opposition like that, I reluctantly capitulated and joined London University. My father was pleased, of course.

But it never occurred to him that I might have inherited facets of his own determined character, nor that Hitler’s Germany was causing aviation to encroach upon traditional institutions of learning. At Imperial College I discovered that free R.A.F. flying training was available to anyone who could pass the rigorous medical examination for admission to the University Air Squadron. I also saw that its exclusive standing among university clubs was the pretext I needed to persuade my mother to sign the parental authority required to allow me to fly.

From then on, whenever the weather permitted, I abandoned my books and headed for Northolt airport. By the end of my second year at London University I had become a very competent pilot –but I had failed my Inter-B.Sc. exams!

Faced with a parental ultimatum – to continue my studies without the distractions of flying, or to leave the university to make my own way in the world – the summer of 1939 was a bewildering one. Happily for me, or so I thought, Hitler overstepped himself.

Page, Geoffrey (2011-06-29). Shot Down in Flames: A World War II Fighter Pilot’s Remarkable Tale of Survival (Kindle Locations 96-107). Grub Street Publishing. Kindle Edition.

It was a dire situation for England. The rise of Nazi power and aggression were evident to all who would look. Many did, but few pushed for action. One who did was British statesman and Member of Parliament Winston Churchill:

Out of office and politically “in the wilderness” during the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany and in campaigning for rearmament. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister. His steadfast refusal to consider surrender helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult early days of the war when the British Commonwealth and Empire stood alone in its active opposition to Adolf Hitler. Churchill was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts, which helped inspire the British people. He led Britain as Prime Minister until victory over Nazi Germany had been secured.

He later wrote on this in his series of books The Second World War:

I called upon Mr. Baldwin, as the man who possessed the power, for action. His was the power, and his the responsibility.

In the course of his reply Mr. Baldwin said:

If all our efforts for an agreement fail, and if it is not possible to obtain this equality in such matters as I have indicated, then any Government of this country— a National Government more than any, and this Government— will see to it that in air strength and air power this country shall no longer be in a position inferior to any country within striking distance of its shores.

Here was a most solemn and definite pledge, given at a time when it could almost certainly have been made good by vigorous action on a large scale.

Churchill, Winston (2010-06-30). The Gathering Storm: The Second World War, Volume 1 (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 1743-1749). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Britain had neither the planes nor the pilots to wage war on the Third Reich. It was a race to see whether the Royal Air Force could be brought up to strength in time to meet the task. As it turned out the critical element was to be trained pilots. For the defense of the British Isles fighter pilots were needed desperately, and there was not enough time.

The Wehrmacht brought matters to a head by defeating all resistance on the continent in the spring of 1940 and knocking France out of the war. Disaster was mitigated by a heroic evacuation of British and French forces trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, a few miles from the British coast. At this point the remaining belligerents, Great Britain and Germany, faced each other across the narrow English Channel. It was the summer of 1940. By now Churchill was Prime Minister, and unlike those before him and unlike other world leaders, he did not blink at Hitler’s challenge to call the whole thing off. The Battle of Britain had begun, and newly-minted pilot Geoffrey Page was in the thick of it.

Geoffrey Page (second from left), briefing pilots before the first operational sortie into Germany. (From the book)

Geoffrey Page (second from left), briefing pilots before the first operational sortie into Germany. (From the book)

The German plan, obvious to all, was to threaten and if possible carry out a cross-channel assault. But first the RAF needed to be defeated. German fighters and bombers crossed the Channel in staggering numbers and were met by the “the few.” Clashes over England were typically lopsided.

Then the ground controller’s voice came to us clearly over the R/ T. The suppressed excitement in his voice was apparent as we raced skywards with everything strained. “Ninety bandits approaching from Calais. Yorker BlueLeader. Twenty plus at about Angels six, remainder Angels twelve, over.”

Jumbo’s squeaky voice acknowledged the fantastic message. “Roger, Blue Leader listening out … Yorker blue and Green, line astern – go.”

The two sections immediately formed for the attack in line astern behind their respective leaders. Positioning myself behind and beneath Jumbo’s tail, I had time only to think, “Six of us against ninety, hardly fair odds for someone going into his first fight. Why the devil don’t they send up another squadron to give us a helping hand?”

Page, Geoffrey (2011-06-29). Shot Down in Flames: A World War II Fighter Pilot’s Remarkable Tale of Survival (Kindle Locations 873-879). Grub Street Publishing. Kindle Edition.

His account of life on the front lines of the Battle of Britain is one of grim resolution and realities faced.

Hardly a day was now passing without some striking event taking place. The death of a friend or enemy provided food for a few moments of thought, before the next swirling dogfight began to distract the cogitating mind from stupid thoughts such as sadness or pity – remorse had long since died. It was the act of living that perhaps became the most exciting form of occupation. Any fool could be killed; that was being proved all the time. No, the art was to cheat the Reaper and merely blunt his Scythe a little. After all, it was only a game and he was bound to win, but it was fun while it lasted.

Simple escapes from death such as Finger’s were too commonplace to be mentioned. Something more spectacular was necessary to draw anything greater than a passing comment. It was the more sensational of these flirtations with posterity that placed milestones in our lives. Events happened with such rapidity that the day before yesterday seemed a lifetime ago, and ten seconds of close attention by an enemy fighter could also feel like a lifetime.

Page, Geoffrey (2011-06-29). Shot Down in Flames: A World War II Fighter Pilot’s Remarkable Tale of Survival (Kindle Locations 1317-1325). Grub Street Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Page’s stint in the great battle was cut short after a few weeks. On 12 August a hail of gunfire from a Do-17 bomber caught his Hurricane fighter.

Then the enemy rear gunners started firing … .

Analyzing it later I realized that the fire power of the whole group was obviously controlled by radio instructions from a gunnery officer in one of the bombers.

One moment the sky between me and the thirty Domier 215s was clear; the next it was criss-crossed with streams of white tracer from cannon shells converging on our Hurricanes.

Jumbo’s machine peeled away from the attack. The distance between the German leaders and my solitary Hurricane was down to three hundred yards. Strikes from my Brownings began to flash around the port engine of one of the Dorniers.

The mass of fire from the bomber formation closed in as I fired desperately in a race to destroy before being destroyed.

The first bang came as a shock. For an instant I couldn’t believe I’d been hit. Two more bangs followed in quick succession, and as if by magic a gaping hole suddenly appeared in my starboard wing.

Surprise quickly changed to fear, and as the instinct of self-preservation began to take over, the gas tank behind the engine blew up, and my cockpit became an inferno. Fear became blind terror, then agonized horror as the bare skin of my hands gripping the throttle and control column shrivelled up like burnt parchment under the intensity of the blast furnace temperature. Screaming at the top of my voice. I threw my head back to keep it away from the searing flames. Instinctively the tortured right hand groped for the release pin securing the restraining Sutton harness.

“Dear God, save me … save me, dear God … ” I cried imploringly. Then, as suddenly as terror had overtaken me, it vanished with the knowledge that death was no longer to be feared. My fingers kept up their blind and bloody mechanical groping. Some large mechanical dark object disappeared between my legs and cool, relieving fresh air suddenly flowed across my burning face. I tumbled. Sky, sea, sky, over and over as a clearing brain issued instructions to outflung limbs. “Pull the ripcord – right hand to the ripcord.” Watering eyes focused on an arm flung out in space with some strange meaty object attached at its end.

More tumbling – more sky and sea and sky, but with a blue clad arm forming a focal point in the foreground. “Pull the ripcord, hand,” the brain again commanded. Slowly but obediently the elbow bent and the hand came across the body to rest on the chromium ring but bounced away quickly with the agony of contact.

More tumbling but at a slower rate now. The weight of the head was beginning to tell.

Page, Geoffrey (2011-06-29). Shot Down in Flames: A World War II Fighter Pilot’s Remarkable Tale of Survival (Kindle Locations 1421-1441). Grub Street Publishing. Kindle Edition.

A British merchant vessel fished him out of the Channel, first determining that he was British.

My weak reply was gagged by a mouthful of water. The other man tried as the boat came full circle for the second time. “Are you a Jerry, mate?”

Anger flooded through me. Anger, not at these sailors who had every reason to let a German pilot drown, but anger at the steady chain of events since the explosion that had reduced my tortured mind and body to its present state of near collapse. And anger brought with it temporary energy. “You stupid pair of fucking bastards, pull me out! !”

The boat altered course and drew alongside. Strong arms leaned down and dragged my limp body over the side and into the bottom of the boat. “The minute you swore, mate,” one of them explained, “we knew you was an R.A.F. officer.”

Page, Geoffrey (2011-06-29). Shot Down in Flames: A World War II Fighter Pilot’s Remarkable Tale of Survival (Kindle Locations 1501-1507). Grub Street Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Thus begins Geoffrey’s core tale. His badly burned face and hands, especially his hands, required two years of painful recovery through the dedicated surgery of Archie McIndoe, doing pioneer work in the field of reconstruction. A return to flight status was problematic, and a return to combat was vanishingly distant. It’s a measure of the author that he pressed forward and found himself back in the seat of a P-51 Mustang fighter and racking up kills against the Luftwaffe and later in command of a squadron flying Spitfires. Death was never far away.

By now my left leg was numb and useless.

For the first few seconds of the dive I was elated to see that no telltale streaks of tracer were whipping past. Could I have thrown them off, I wondered, or was some swine of a Hun sitting fifty yards behind my tail and settling down to take comfortable aim? The tracer commenced as I got down to an altitude of two thousand feet.

Kicking desperately at the rudder bar with my one good leg, at the same time climbing and diving for fractional intervals, I tried to take as much evasive action as my condition would permit.

The actions were effective and although the tracer continued to flash past in bursts, no strikes registered. Getting to within a few feet of the ground, I once again pulled my aircraft into a tight turn. Looking back, I was relieved to see that only a solitary Messerschmitt appeared to be dogging me. Hatred brought with it new strength. “I’ll get you if it kills me, you bastard,” I thought.

Pulling harder on the stick I kept the Spitfire juddering on the edge of a stalled condition in my attempt to get around onto the 109’ s tail.

The German pilot sensed that it was becoming a duel to the death and knew that his own airplane was no match for the Spitfire in trying to out-turn it. Still having me ahead of him, he pulled his nose back sharply to get enough deflection on his target, fired his guns, and killed himself.

The Messerschmitt was just on the edge of a stall when its pilot fired the guns: the recoil slowed the airplane sufficiently to flick over and strike the trees twenty feet below. Circling the funeral pyre I watched the black column of smoke rising with morbid fascination.

It might easily have been the wreckage of a Spitfire burning in the wood below.

Page, Geoffrey (2011-06-29). Shot Down in Flames: A World War II Fighter Pilot’s Remarkable Tale of Survival (Kindle Locations 2906-2919). Grub Street Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The war ended for Page with a botched landing at a forward field in Europe while supporting the failed Market-Garden campaign in September 1944. Again hospitalized and recovered, he was sent to the United States on recovery to promote relationships between the two countries. At the Hollywood home of British actor Nigel Bruce he met Bruce’s attractive daughter Pauline, and they were married in 1946.

The original book was Tale of a Guinea Pig which I had in paperback for several years. This book is an expansion based on his adventures as an executive in the aviation industry. The new part is all fun and human interest, with scandalous stories of his encounters involving aviation notorieties such as Howard Hughes and Aristotle Onassis. Yes, Onassis had an airline. A big project his was the Battle of Britain Memorial, which was dedicated in 1993.

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Here is an interesting photo from the book. The man in the cap is Page’s famous father-in-law. If you don’t recognize the others, then you need to subscribe to my movie reviews.

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Here is quite an unusual photo. The passengers are Douglas Bader in the front and Adolf Galland in the back on the left followed by Bob Stanford Tuck and then Page—fighter pilots all. If you don’t know any of these, then you need to follow my series of posts on World War Two.

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Bad Movie of the Week

More’s the pity I did not have a DVD copy of this. Images are screen shots from a DVD I made from a so-so quality VHS tape. I’ve watched movies from this series on Turner Classic Movies, and the cinematography, while not front line, has always been better than this.

It’s Dressed to Kill out of Universal Studios in 1946 and starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, respectively. Please disregard what Wikipedia has to say about the inspiration for the plot. It has nothing to do with Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Dancing Men. What it does have to do with is a thief in Dartmoor Prison who has to get word out to his confederates.

We first see the thief (Cyril Delevanti), working away in a prison shop. He’s making cheap little music boxes, which are destined for sale at an auction house for the benefit of the prison. We next see two people at said auction, purchasing two of the music boxes. One is a friend of Dr. Watson, a Mr. “Stinky” Emery (Edmund Breon), and the other is the proprietor of a local gift shop, a Miss Evelyn Clifford, (Patricia Cameron). A Scotsman is there with his young daughter, but he’s too frugal to bid on the first two boxes.

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Later “Stinky” shows up at the lodgings of Holmes and Watson, 221B Baker Street in London. He has an injury to his head. Somebody has attempted to burgle his residence and has koshed him in the noggin in the process. Holmes is interested. Watson and Holmes join “Stinky” to view his music box collection. Holmes is fascinated that the thief only took a cheap box, much like the one “Stinky” just purchased, shown here.

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And that’s the end of poor “Stinky.” Serves him right for having such a humiliating school nickname. Soon after Holmes and Watson leave “Stinky” receives a phone call. It’s from Mrs. Hilda Courtney (Patricia Morison), whom “Stinky” has met previously at a perfectly boring party. For some reason she needs to come over this very night and have a look at his marvelous music box collection. The grinning “Stinky” invites her over, whereupon she latches immediately upon the simple music box that the thief did not steal. We note that Mrs. Courtney is dressed to the nines, as she is throughout the movie. Hence the title.

Here’s a problem. The convict’s gang were suppose to show up at the auction and purchase all three music boxes. Being the highly-profession criminals they are, they get word of the auction too late, and others purchase the boxes instead. Makes for a plot.

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Then it’s goodbye, “Stinky,” as an assassin slips stealthily into the room and kills him with a well-placed knife throw. Mrs. Courtney and the assassin slip away, taking the pilfered music box with them and leaving the dead body on the floor.

Naturally Sherlock Holmes is called into the case. The music box is now gone, but Holmes has already memorized every note of its quaint little tune. The next stop for Holmes and Watson is the home of the Scotsman who purchased the third music box. At the door they are met by the charwoman, just leaving. She invites them to stay while she does her shopping. Too late, they discover the “charwoman” is really Mrs. Courtney in one of her disguises. The title Dressed to Kill is becoming more appropriate. Holmes and Watson find the young daughter trussed up in the closet and the music box gone.

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Mrs. Courtney pays a visit to the gift shop in a vain attempt to purchase the remaining music box. Too late, Holmes has beat her to it. And he has left his business card for Mrs. Courtney in the event she shows up to get the music box. The well-dressed Mrs. Courtney is not amused.

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Now Holmes has two of the three tunes. He next visits one of the darkest dives in all of London to pay a visit on ace musician Joe Cisto (Wallace Scott), a man with a criminal past. Joe knows every note of every tune you can imagine, and he quickly identifies the tune from the music box. Only there are two versions of the tune, one from each that Holmes has heard. Joe points out where the notes differ from the original tune, which is The Swagman. Holmes takes this information with him, not knowing what to do with it.

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Back at their flat, Holmes and Watson discover they’ve been burglarized. Nothing was taken. The music box from the toy store is still safe inside the biscuit jar (cookie jar) where Holmes hid it. But a cigarette butt left at the scene is a clue. Holmes follows up on the clue—he’s an expert on tobacco variants—right into Mrs. Courtney’s trap. She is immaculately dressed.

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The crooks need to get rid of the body. What else but to take Holmes in handcuffs to a garage and suspend him from a hook and leave with poison gas escaping into the closed space. Fortunately Holmes has managed to pick the pocket of one of the killers, and he now has the handcuff key.

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Using some gymnastics he unhooks himself from the rafters and then unlocks the handcuffs.

Meanwhile Watson is bamboozled by the nattily attired Mrs. Courtney. She pretends to be a client when she presents herself to Watson at the flat. Liar! She knows that at the very moment Holmes is hung up by his handcuffs and dead from poison gas in a closed garage. She sets off a smoke bomb in the flat, and observes that Watson goes first for the cookie jar. She then sends Watson to look for a fire extinguisher and filches the music box from the jar, leaving Watson bewildered when he returns. The crooks now have all three music boxes.

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But why? Watson solves it. The notes are numbered. Holmes strings the changed notes together, all except for the missing part and derives an alphabet code from the numbers. Watson to the rescue again. He mentions a quote from Samuel Johnson. That’s the place and the last piece of the three-part puzzle. It’s the home of English writer Samuel Johnson.

The crooks join in a tour of the Johnson house and go to the bookshelf, there to retrieve stolen plates for printing British five-pound notes. The convict at Dartmoor has secreted them in the bookshelf minutes after stealing them and equally minutes before being arrested.

Holmes is waiting, pistol in hand, when the crooks, including the fashionable Mrs. Courtney, retrieve the plates. Here they are, all three caught red handed with the stolen plates.

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And that’s the whole story. The thief stole the plates. He was about to be caught. He stashed them in the bookshelf in the Johnson home. He was caught. He refused to tell what he did with the plates. He took his prison sentence, waiting for the time when he would get out, retrieve the plates and reap his reward.

Only he couldn’t wait. Scheduled remodeling of the Johnson home was about to reveal the plates. He had to get word to his cohorts so they could get the plates. He couldn’t just send a note to Mrs. Courtney and the others, “The plates are in the Samuel Johnson home behind some books on the third shelf.” Police would have intercepted the message and stopped by to pick up the plates.

Instead, the thief had to get a message out of Dartmoor, the deepest and darkest prison in all of England. But how? By encoding a message in the tune of some music boxes he was making in the prison shop. Simplicity itself.

What a lot of bull!

The thief has the location in his head and only in his head. He needs to get the information out to his gang. How does he do it? He cleverly encodes directions for finding the plates in the three variations of The Swagman. His friends are going to stop by the auction and purchase all three music boxes, decode the tunes, and go by the Samuel Johnson house and pick up the plates.

Really?

How do the others know they are supposed to glom onto the music boxes? How do they know the location will be encoded in the tune variations? The convict must have told them somehow. While he was telling them about the music boxes and the code, why didn’t he also tell them where the plates were? This may be the crown prince of plot absurdities.

The dashing Mrs. Courtney has led famous detective Sherlock Holmes into a trap. Now she needs to kill him. How does she plan to do it? A knife in the back, as with the unfortunate “Stinky?” Nah. Too messy. I know what would work best. Handcuff him, put him into a car. Drive the car some distance to where a closed garage is handy. Hang him by his handcuffs on a hook from the rafters. Activate a poison gas bomb and drive away after shutting the garage up tight. So he can escape and get on with the plot.

So much for improbable plot devices ruining the story. This movie has the hole-in-one that’s allowed in any plot. Watson’s friend “Stinky,” whom Watson has not seen in years, happens to drop by for a visit just an hour or so before he is murdered. He brings with him the prang on his head and his tale of the purloined music box. All of which gets Holmes and Watson involved in the case. Else there would not have been a movie. But wait. There’s more.

“Stinky” has recently met Mrs. Courtney. She now discovers he has purchased one of the critical music boxes. How do you better spell “coincidence.” That’s two holes-in-one in a single plot. One more than allowed.

Getting past all of that…

This was the last of the Sherlock Holmes movies featuring these two actors. The series with Rathbone and Bruce were the best interpretations of Doyle’s creation. For years it was impossible of me to think of Holmes without thinking of Rathbone. Nigel Bruce was something besides. His Watson is a bumbling, nearly incompetent, side kick. The Doyle character is an astute ex-military man who is completely fearless and handy with weapons. He is not as astute as Holmes where criminology is concerned, but he does have a way with the women. He woos and marries twice and is widowed once. Whenever Holmes needs backup in a tough situation Watson is always his first choice.

We have seen Basil Rathbone in a slew of British films, cutting a dashing figure. Nigel Bruce was a steady and successful character actor in England and in Hollywood. His bumbling character is a natural for “Beaky” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion. We weep when it’s learned he has died near the end. Bruce shows up in real life in Geoffrey Page’s Shot Down in Flames, the story of his exploits as a British fighter pilot:

The dawn broke over Beverly Hills, California as I let myself into a home on North Alpine Drive. Nigel Bruce, my screen actor host, was famous for his jovial and warm-hearted portrayals of Sherlock Holmes’s partner, Doctor Watson. I tiptoed into the hall and took off my shoes to climb the stairs to the guest-room. Within no time the four family dachshunds had roused the household and as I reached the landing, Nigel’s wife, Bunny, appeared inquiring into the rumpus.

Page, Geoffrey (2011-06-29). Shot Down in Flames: A World War II Fighter Pilot’s Remarkable Tale of Survival (Kindle Locations 49-52). Grub Street Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Nigel Bruce had two daughters. One was hare-brained and irresponsible. The other was very sensible and very glamorous. Page, who had gotten on the wrong side of a German bomber over the English Channel, was horribly burned, and recuperating in the United States. He met and married the sensible daughter. I previously had a copy of an earlier edition under the title of Tale of a Guinea Pig. I will review the new edition in the coming weeks. Keep reading.

ACLU Joke

 

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From a Facebook news feed I picked up the following. Please read. I will explain later:

A liberal muslim homosexual ACLU lawyer professor and abortion doctor was teaching a class on Karl Marx, known atheist

 ”Before the class begins, you must get on your knees and worship Marx and accept that he was the most highly-evolved being the world has ever known, even greater than Jesus Christ!”

 At this moment, a brave, patriotic, pro-life Navy SEAL champion who had served 1500 tours of duty and understood the necessity of war and fully supported all military decision made by the United States stood up and held up a rock.

 ”How old is this rock, pinhead?”

 The arrogant professor smirked quite Jewishly and smugly replied “4.6 billion years, you stupid Christian”

 ”Wrong. It’s been 5,000 years since God created it. If it was 4.6 billion years old and evolution, as you say, is real… then it should be an animal now”

 The professor was visibly shaken, and dropped his chalk and copy of Origin of the Species. He stormed out of the room crying those liberal crocodile tears. The same tears liberals cry for the “poor” (who today live in such luxury that most own refrigerators) when they jealously try to claw justly earned wealth from the deserving job creators. There is no doubt that at this point our professor, DeShawn Washington, wished he had pulled himself up by his bootstraps and become more than a sophist liberal professor. He wished so much that he had a gun to shoot himself from embarrassment, but he himself had petitioned against them!

 The students applauded and all registered Republican that day and accepted Jesus as their lord and savior. An eagle named “Small Government” flew into the room and perched atop the American Flag and shed a tear on the chalk. The pledge of allegiance was read several times, and God himself showed up and enacted a flat tax rate across the country.

 The professor lost his tenure and was fired the next day. He died of the gay plague AIDS and was tossed into the lake of fire for all eternity.

 Semper Fi.
 p.s. close the borders

That was that. My natural impulse was to consider this a bit of satire. I mean, make a joke about people who attempt to make jokes about the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) by concocting a parody. Then a horrible feeling came to me. Is it possible this is somebody’s serious attempt at an ACLU parody? Some examination is in order. Some Skeptical Analysis.

Start with the first line. “A liberal muslim homosexual ACLU lawyer professor and abortion doctor was teaching a class on Karl Marx, known atheist” The original didn’t have a period at the end, and I did not add one. The formal noun Muslim was not capitalized, either. This was composed by somebody struggling with our language. The author is described as an ACLU lawyer. He’s also a professor teaching maybe a college course. Let’s go further. He also has to be an abortion doctor, and he has to be teaching about Karl Marx, who, by the way, was a known atheist. That’s a big load for one person to carry. But added on is that the lawyer is also liberal and is Muslim. Could have been a liberal Jew or a Liberal Christian. The logic is not clear.

Nah! My conclusion: this is a parody of a parody. Somebody is poking fun at Tea Party rhetoric. Unfortunately that is never necessary. For parodies of Tea Party rhetoric we only need to quote Sarah Palin:

“All of ’em, any of ’em that have been in front of me over all these years.” –Sarah Palin, unable to name a single newspaper or magazine she reads, interview with Katie Couric, CBS News, Oct. 1, 2008 (Watch video clip)

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

This is another in a series:

Do I appreciate Rebecca’s innocence regarding varied sex acts? I do, as do we all. “Sodomite mayor?” Does Rebecca know the definition of sodomy? Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker is an acknowledged lesbian. The sex acts that lesbians indulge do not involve sodomy.

That was so yesterday. This is recent:

During a press conference at a local hotel in Islamabad, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman asked the Pakistani armed forces to launch a military operation against women wearing jeans all over Pakistan.

According to him, the immodesty of women is the cause behind earthquakes, inflation and other kinds of disasters.

Fazlur Rehman went on to say that a woman who is not covered like a ‘sack of flour’ is a mobile weapon of mass destruction for her state and that Pakistan has multitude of such nuclear missiles in all its major cities.

Rehman then blamed ‘immodest women’ for the Baluchistan crisis, lack of energy supply and the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan.

I hate to sound so agreeable, but he could be right.

From Google Images

From Google Images

I definitely detect an earthquake coming on.

And a note to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, keep your eyes to yourself, and you’re going to avoid a whole lot of trouble.

The Black Sheep

I read this book over 40 years ago, even before the TV series starring Robert Conrad. The series was titled Baa Baa Black Sheep, and it was loosely based on the exploits of Marine Squadron 214 in the Southwest Pacific in World War Two.

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Marine pilot Greg Boyington wrote the book several years after the War. It’s the story of a war hero who wrecked his career as a Marine pilot through alcohol, gambling and general incorrigibility. He resurrected himself as a mercenary pilot for the Chinese prior to America’s entry into the war and, back in the Corps again, built his own squadron out of leftovers, going on to be coming America’s top fighter ace before being shot down and captured by the Japanese.

Boyington grew up in Idaho, and obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering before joining the Marine Corps. He began his career as a military pilot in 1938, entering light training in July. By 1941 he was in danger of being washed out due to mounting gambling debts. He had to verify on a monthly basis that he was making payments on his debts. By this time he was likely a certified alcoholic. A bad fitness report was due to block further promotions.

He resigned from the Corps on a secret agreement that would place him with a group of mercenary pilots flying against the Japanese in China. The group, the American Volunteer Group, was headed up by American general Claire Chennault, himself a cashiered Army pilot. The secret agreement was supposedly kept locked in a safe by Admiral Chester Nimitz. The horrible truth was that America and the Japanese were not at war, and this business of leasing American warriors out to the Chinese was to be officially “secret.” The secret was well-known to all, including the Japanese.

As a military pilot, Boyington was no stranger to foreign travel, but his initiation into Southeast Asia was an introduction into one of the pits of humanity at the time. After the war, despite having limited social standing and absolute no voice in foreign policy, Boyington became a public critic of SEA (Southeast Asia) relations. For this he pulled on his own observations and his own experiences in the region. His tales are sordid and filled with revulsion.

Come to think of it, a couple of spectacles I witnessed undoubtedly led me to volunteer, just to get away from the horrible place and the people in Kunming.

The first of these spectacles was a rather queer procession going by in front of our hostel. A ragged Chinese with feathers tied to his matted hair was being pushed along in front of this procession, which included an officer on horseback, a few soldiers, and some Chinese in rickshas. There were about a hundred in all, and most of these were on foot.

The procession stopped in the cemetery in front of our hostel while the officer got down from his mount and the people climbed out of the rickshas. The ragged man with the feathers was forced to kneel on the ground. These soldiers turned out to be a firing squad and in a few minutes sent a volley into the back of the poor devil kneeling on the ground. As he fell forward onto his face after the shots, the accompanying crowd broke into excited shouting, running up to kick and stab at the crushed form.

Boyington, Gregory (2013-08-07). Baa Baa Black Sheep (p. 79). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The crime that earned this unfortunate his treatment was thievery. Boyington observed that thievery was an established practice, there being a public thieves’ market, but this man had been caught before he got his booty to market.

The AVG was given an initial delivery of P-40 aircraft and supplies and no more. During the months Boyington was with the AVG the group received no replacements, in men or material.

P-40

Page 28

Somebody had seen a photo of a P-40 operating in North Africa with shark’s teeth painted on the engine cowling. That scheme was copied by the AVG, and the group became known as the Flying Tigers.

None of the Americans in the AVG had prior combat experience. Fliers from The First World War were all too old by this time. All were eager to get into the fight. Pilots’ basic salary was $665 per month, but there was a $500 bonus for each Japanese aircraft destroyed.

Going in, Boyington had been advised that they would likely come up against outdated transports and also that Japanese pilots wore thick glasses and had poor eyesight. He should not expect much from the opposition. This turned out not to be true. In his first encounter he learned the true worth of the Japanese opposition:

Soon I spotted a pair of Japs off to the side of me, so I added throttle and started to close in behind them. One of these two pulled almost straight up, going into a loop above my P-40 about the same instant I started my tracers toward the other. I knew that I had to break off firing and commence turning, or the Jap who was then above my P-40 would have me bore-sighted. Recollection of how I had been able to outturn the best of the United States Fleet pilots in peacetime practices probably gave me self-assurance. I really am not sure. The fact that I had learned to tighten my neck muscles in my intercollegiate wrestling days, retarding the blood from rushing out of my head, I had found extremely useful in simulated combat in the past. In those earlier days pilots had no squeeze suits, which were designed and worn later on for the same purpose I had been accomplishing with my neck muscles. But I soon found that little asset wouldn’t solve my problems against this much lighter Japanese aircraft. I discovered that even hauling back on my stick and turning with all my might, my neck muscles and breath locked, gave me no advantage whatsoever . As a matter of fact, I was sufficiently blacked out not to be able to see whether my burst had gotten the I-97 I had been firing on. I had pulled myself plumb woozy. All the time I was pulling this terrific “g” load, tracers were getting closer to my plane, until finally I was looking back down someone’s gun barrels. “Frig this racket,” I thought, and dove away.

Boyington, Gregory (2013-08-07). Baa Baa Black Sheep (pp. 46-47). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He came back from the mission with a 7.7-mm bullet fragment in his arm. Eventually he was to begin a series of air victories that would take him, momentarily, to the position of the top American fighter ace.

There had been no turning this time. We worked methodically from the top down. I caught my first Jap just right, and he blazed into an inferno. Shortly afterward I heard someone scream over the radio: “This is for Cokey, you son of a bitch.” My sentiments were the same.

Pulling off to one side, I saw another safe shot. As I continued a steady burst into the fighter, pieces of his fuselage ripped off at point -blank range. In a second or so this plane also went on its way earth-bound, twisting crazily and burning like a torch.

Boyington, Gregory (2013-08-07). Baa Baa Black Sheep (p. 50). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

As had been  the case in his prior Marine Corps career, Boyington eventually ran afoul of officialdom in the AVG and broke his contract, hitching a ride into India and eventually making it back to the United States. From New York City he caught a train to Washington to inquire about rejoining the Marines. He was told to wait at home. For weeks he pulled a paycheck parking cars in Seattle before finally getting drunk enough to dictate a night letter to the assistant secretary of the Navy. By January 1943 he was on a transport ship leaving San Diego for the Southwest Pacific.

The genesis of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 214 and the Black Sheep is key to Boyington’s war time story. A major by now, he was stuck under an obnoxious commanding officer, a person he refers to as “Colonel Lard.” This personality eventually carried over into the TV series 30 years later. On TV Colonel Lard provided viewers with much mirth, but for Boyington in the Southwest Pacific and wanting to get into the war he presented a very real obstacle.

By rank, Boyington should have been a squadron commander, but there were no squadrons needing a new commander. In desperation Boyington created a squadron by “borrowing” a squadron designation that had gone temporarily unused, and he picked up some Marine fliers who were sitting around for their courts martial. Being 30 years old by that time, he picked up the name “Pappy” from his much younger pilots. They also figured they were a squadron of misfits, and they needed a name and an emblem for 214. Boyington solved the name issue:

Since my childhood the noises made by trains and motors of various types had played a little jingle with my thinking upon many an occasion. My recollection of these occasions when I had been pleasantly occupied with daydreams was most enjoyable. My childhood jingle was, “Baa Baa, Blacksheep, have you any wool, yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.”

Boyington, Gregory (2013-08-07). Baa Baa Black Sheep (p. 139). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A 214 sergeant came up with the squadron shield from a cartoon.

The sergeant then handed me a worn sheet from the magazine he spoke about, and I immediately broke into laughter. The cartoon was two G.I.’ s on their hands and knees camouflaging themselves in sheepskins, and one G.I., in a black skin, was watching a ram approach the flock where the two were hiding, and the face looking out from under the head was saying: “Look, Joe, I’m not so sure I wanna go through with this or not.”

Boyington, Gregory (2013-08-07). Baa Baa Black Sheep (p. 140). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Colonel Lard notwithstanding, the Black Sheep squadron soon began to make a name for itself. And Major Boyington began to rack up a string of air victories that pushed him to the heights of glory. No longer saddled with the outdated P-40s, he and the squadron were flying Chance Vought F4U fighters.

VMA 214 earned its keep escorting bombing missions northwest along the Solomon Island chain, advancing to new forward bases as the Japanese gave up island after island. Entering action in September 1943, by the end of the year Boyington was close to tying the American air victory record of Eddie Rickenbacker from The First World War. Continually pressed by war correspondents as to when he was going to tie Rickenbacker’s 27, Boyington began to avoid interviews, even as his squadron mates pushed for campaigns that would provide him openings for an additional kill.

On 3 January 1944 Boyington not only matched Rickenbacker, but he scored an additional victory to put him on top. He didn’t return from the mission. His wingman was killed in a battle close to the water and quickly afterward Boyington’s fuel tank exploded. He only saved himself by releasing his seat harness and pitching the F4U downward with explosive force. He either ejected through the canopy or else the canopy came loose from the force of the dive, and Boyington’s parachute opened right above his plane as it hit the water.

There were some harrowing minutes as he played hide and seek with Japanese pilots strafing him in the water. After the enemy ran low on fuel or ammunition and left, Boyington salvaged his life raft and contemplated his future for several hours floating about in the Saint Georges Channel. When a ship did appear it turned out to be a Japanese sub that surfaced nearby and took him prisoner.

Tales by American and other forces fighting the Japanese Empire are rife with horrible torture and summary executions. The Japanese Navy did not acquire that reputation, and consequently Boyington managed to survive the remainder of the war in captivity. With some other prisoners he was eventually transported to a prison near Yokohama. But not before surviving attempts on his life by friendly forces.

After being flown from Rabaul to Truk we landed on a field at Truk but did not merely come to a stop. It happened to be the roughest, shortest of landings, intentionally I know now, I have ever experienced or ever hope to. Immediately we were all thrown out of the plane, practically on our heads. We thought it was just some more rough stuff but, because we had edged our blindfolds, we could see that down the runway came a Navy F6F, spraying .50-calibers all through the Nip aircraft standing there in front of us. The piece of transportation we had just crawled out of went up before our eyes in flame and smoke, and so did nearly every other plane we could see around there. It was one of the best Navy Day programs I ever expect to see, the first task-force raid on the island of Truk.

Boyington, Gregory (2013-08-07). Baa Baa Black Sheep (p. 237). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A Japanese fighter pilot also landed quickly and escaped his own Zero fighter right before some American F6Fs shattered it before their eyes. The prisoners were taking cover in a slit trench, and the Japanese pilot was incensed that all the prisoners were still alive while his plane and others on the base were being destroyed. He threatened to shoot the prisoners, but another F6F interrupted him.

From January 1944 until that Christmas Boyington never another drink of alcohol. He also lost a lot of weight and was barely above 100 pounds before he obtained help from friendly prison workers in stealing food from the kitchen. He figured this was a cure his body was long overdue for. New Year 1945 was a time for celebration for the Japanese guards, and they shared some of their sake. Taking their offer, Boyington helped himself to a lot.

As a prisoner Boyington got to see different facets of the Japanese character. There were the guards who unleashed their sadism, from vicious verbal abuse to outright beatings for contrived reasons. Food was scant and of low quality, and one prisoner to Boyington’s knowledge succumbed just weeks prior to liberation.

All the while the mood of the prison guards revealed a menacing side. A history of the closing days of the war shows a militant faction that determined to continue the fight to the very last Japanese life, taking as many enemy with them as possible. That was not reflected at the lower ranks. As Japan’s situation became obvious, the guards recognized the coming doom. One explained to Boyington that he realized that the prisoner would, in a few weeks, become the jailer.

One Japanese officer showed Boyington an American magazine. In it was a photo of Boyington, along with the announcement that President Truman had awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Posthumously. Boyington was among a group of prisoners the Japanese had determined to keep off the books. They were not given P.O.W. status, and the Red Cross was not advised of their existence.

Against all orders, some of the jailers revealed world news to the prisoners. The prisoners knew when Germany threw in the towel in May 1945, and they showed the position of Allied forces nearing the Japanese mainland. Along this time the prisoners witnessed the first attacks on the main island.

After the New Year’s incident life seemed to go on much the same as before until the latter part of February 1945. Then all hell appeared to break loose over our peaceful country valley. It all started by hearing the distant wail of air-raid sirens, which we prisoners paid no attention to because we hadn’t dreamed this could be anything but a drill. But in a matter of some twenty minutes everybody in Japan came to the realization that this was no drill. Just twelve miles from our camp the large Jap naval base of Yokosuka was taking a thumping something terrific.

Dive bomber after dive bomber started down, the hills between the target area and our camp momentarily chopping each bomber from view, making it appear as though they were diving into the hills. But in a few seconds we saw them pull out about the same time we heard the ka-lumph of the exploding bomb. Even at this distance the noise from so many engines sounded much the same as a gigantic waterfalls— a steady roar. Obviously this was not a morale strike like the Doolittle raid; this was concentrated, and we knew that this carrier raid was the beginning of the end for Japan.

Boyington, Gregory (2013-08-07). Baa Baa Black Sheep (p. 289). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The prisoners began to see the B-29s. Eventually B-29 attacks began to be a near daily routine, and the impact of the vast bomb loads both terrified the prisoners and also brought them a silent joy. Then one day they heard about the atomic bomb. A guard, whose family lived in Nagasaki, told them what one bomb had done to the city. The prisoners could not believe it. One bomb? There was no doubt. The end was near.

With the end came danger. Their jailer gave the prisoners a hammer, some nails and some lumber and advised them to nail shut the door to their cage. The Japanese Empire had surrendered, and the guards were getting drunk. And looking for revenge. The extra lumber and nails held out until the guards gave up trying to break down the door and eventually passed out.

Came daylight, and Navy fighters buzzed overhead. Some prisoners obtained a quantity of Japanese tooth power and made white paint. They wrote on the roof of one building in large letters “Pappy Boyington here!” A Navy plane circled and dipped its wings. It was the first news that Boyington was still alive.

With the turn of events, the prisoners were given better rations, vitamin pills and new clothing. American aircraft flew overhead and dropped relief supplies by parachute. It turned out that some prisoners were killed by the falling supplies. An American ship anchored nearby, and soldiers arrived in a Higgins Boat. Seventy years ago the war was over for Boyington.

Back in the United States Boyington’s life began to follow the downward spiral he had set it on before the war. Pressed into giving a series of War Bond speeches, he was never far from alcohol. He could see the trajectory of his life if nobody else could.

I had finished riding up the New York streets on the back seat of a Cadillac convertible like many before me, waving, nodding, and watching torn pieces of paper come down like snow. The police were busy holding back a mob of well-wishers. A middle-aged man with a thin face and graying at the temples broke through the line and grabbed me by the arm. A policeman grabbed him and started to put him behind the line, but I said: “Wait a minute. I think he wants to tell me something.”

He did: “Enjoy it today, my boy, because they won’t give you a job cleaning up the streets tomorrow.”

Boyington, Gregory (2013-08-07). Baa Baa Black Sheep (p. 327). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Discharged as unfit for duty. He finished up his military career at a hospital in Los Angeles.

He had been a champion wrestler in college, and he was able to find employment as a referee in professional wrestling. If the fans did not recognize it, he, all the wrestlers and the management knew that professional wrestling is nothing more than entertainment. During this period he remarried. He began writing this book in 1946 and eventually finished it in 1958. He did eventually get a job as a private pilot, and he consulted on the TV series that came out in 1976, but he expressed dissatisfaction with the TV presentation of the war.

At an aviation history symposium in 2002, members of the real VMF-214 were asked about the authenticity of the TV series. Retired Colonel Henry A. McCartney said the list of errors was too long to repeat. Boyington himself referred to the series as “… inaccuracies, hogwash, and Hollywood hokum,” though he did serve as technical adviser on the show, and had a cameo appearance. A 2001 History Channel documentary depicted some of these differences in greater detail.

Boyington died of lung cancer in January 1988 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, right next to boxing legend Joe Louis.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

Two police officers responding to a domestic disturbance with shots fired arrive on scene. After discovering the wife had shot her husband for walking across her freshly mopped floor, they call their sergeant on his cell phone.

“Hello Sarge, it looks like we have a homicide here.”

“What happened?”

“A woman shot her husband for walking on the floor she had just mopped.”

“Have you placed her under arrest?”

“No sir.”

“Why not?”

“The floor is still wet!”

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Michelangelo: Adam and Eve Talking to a Snake

Michelangelo: Adam and Eve Talking to a Snake

I’ve done so many of these, I’m beginning to lose count. The joy!

Over a billion people base their faith on the Quranic text. Among that billion would be legions of scientists and other scholars who regard the motion of the Earth as a well-established fact. Bandar Al-Khaybari would not be among these.

Enough of that. Who’s next?

After claiming that a man would meet his masturbating hand “pregnant in the afterlife” and “asking for its rights,” a Muslim televangelist has set Turkish social media aflame.

Self-styled televangelist Mücahid Cihad Han dived into some delicate matters on May 24 when he answered his viewers’ questions on private television station 2000 TV, Turkish media has reported. Han initially looked puzzled when a viewer said he “kept masturbating, although he was married, and even during the Umrah,” a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims which can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Hajj.

After repeating the question a few times, Han claimed that Islam strictly prohibits masturbation as a “haram” (forbidden) act. “Moreover, one hadith states that those who have sexual intercourse with their hands will find their hands pregnant in the afterlife, complaining against them to God over its rights,” he said, referring to what he claimed to be a saying of Prophet Muhammad.

There is a temptation to bet that nothing like that exists in the Quran. I have been wrong before.

The holy scriptures aside, on what basis does Mücahid Cihad Han believe:

  • There is such a thing as “the afterlife.”
  • A part of the human body completely devoid of any reproductive function can become pregnant.
  • Given the foregoing, that masturbation can in anyway induce pregnancy.

The world wonders.

The Muslim world wonders:

“Istimna,” the Arabic term for masturbation that Han also referred to, is a controversial issue in Islam, as there have been varying opinions on its permissibility throughout history. The Quran has no clear reference to masturbation and the authenticity of many hadiths is questionable.

Despite Han’s assertive religious stance, only a limited number of Islamic interpretations categorize masturbation as “haram,” while most of others call it a “makruh” (disliked) act. Many of the mainstream Islamic interpretations even allow it in certain conditions, like if the act could be used to avoid the temptation of an extramarital affair.

Yes, it’s not likely anybody will ever see their hand in the afterlife, much less a pregnant hand. The more real danger is your palm will grow hair. Or you will go blind.

Keep reading. And may Allah have mercy on your soul.

Absurd Redundancy

AmericanFraud

Inspiration for the title comes from the juxtaposition of “Mormonism” and “fraud” on the same page. How many different ways do you need to say the same thing to get the point across? Author Kay Burningham goes the extra mile (extra light year?) to compound the redundancy. Her book is a scathing indictment of the fraud of Mormonism. It’s An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s Case Against Mormonism. Like Mormonism needed another case against it. I bought the Kindle edition. The print edition is 556 pages, including a comprehensive list of 692 references and a bibliography.

The first section (six chapters) was a hard read for me. Burningham was born in and grew up in a Mormon family in Utah. Like so many such, hers was a fragmented family, and she lived with her mother before establishing a career for herself. The trajectory of Burningham’s personal life is painful to follow as she migrates from a talented dance performer touring South Africa as a teenager for the church into adulthood. Her previously confined world view is cracked by her exposure to the hypocrisy of Apartheid. Back home she must rebuff the marriage overtures by young Mormon men conditioned to seek submissive brides. Talented, intelligent, attractive (second place in the Miss Utah competition), she was misplaced for life as a Mormon wife. Eventually her marriage choices are ruinous and double.

Her first husband was a person conditioned by Mormon upbringing to be intolerant of a woman’s superiority at any level. It’s helpful to view the circumstances through her own language:

“Showing off again, miss smarty pants?” he said in a mimicking tone. Trent turned and left the room in disgust.

Shocked at his unexpected reaction, I stifled the tears and went on silently with my reading, thinking back to the times Mike and I had talked late into the morning hours about ethics, religion and philosophy. I had to face the fact that Trent just wasn’t interested in these types of conversations. He was put off by my attempt to share anything philosophical with him.

His presence at the door a few seconds later startled me.

“You f*** ing bitch!” he yelled, hurling a heavy cooking pot in my direction. Instinctively, I leaned to one side, barely dodging the pot which would have hit me directly in the abdomen. It grazed my hip and clanked to the ground near the bedpost.

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 1584-1590). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

Thus was Burningham’s downhill slide with men and with Mormon men in particular. A subsequent love was Catholic. He was a hunk by any standard, and the sexual attraction was overpowering. After too long she realized the relationship was all about him, and it was after she dumped him she discovered he had been double-dipping.

Another Mormon marriage ended in failure, as her disenchantment with Mormonism conflicted with his unwavering devotion to the church. Now with two children and a successful law career, she settled into diverse Park City, Utah. Here she began a program of examination of Mormonism and the roots of the Latter Day Saints Church. This occupies the second section and the remainder of the book, and it is not pretty. I will only summarize, using illustrations from the book.

To start, until the advent of the Internet, Mormons growing up lived in a cloistered society, absent outside sources and forbidden to seek other knowledge. That has changed, and Burningham foresees a downward course for this organization, based as it is, on a historically documented fable. Here are the basics.

The supposed founder of the LDS was Joseph Smith, growing up in Ontario County, New York. The Smith family was different, different in the way they employed themselves, different in the way they conducted themselves. A family industry seemed to involve scrying. This was a term that sent me scurrying to the Internet for relief:

Scrying (also called seeing or peeping) is the practice of looking into a translucent ball or other material with the belief that things can be seen, such as spiritual visions, and less often for purposes of divination or fortune-telling. The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals, stones, glass, mirrors, water, fire, or smoke. Scrying has been used in many cultures in the belief that it can divine the past, present, or future. The visions that come when one stares into the media are thought to come from one’s subconscious and imagination, though in the past they were thought to come from gods, spirits, devils, the psychic mind, depending on the culture and practice.

Particularly, there was intense interest in looking for buried treasure on Cumorah Hill close to the Smith farm. It was here the teenage Joseph stated he had uncovered golden plates written in an ancient language. A fictional depiction of these plates is on the cover of the book, shown above. I say fictional, because no reputable source ever claimed to have seen the plates, and Smith related that after he translated them they were whisked away, never to be seen again.

The manner of translation was peculiar, as well. While the non-existent plates were out of sight, perhaps even in another room, Smith placed a seer stone in his hat and peered into the hat, reading the secret writing aloud while somebody transcribed. There is little argument that this was a small hoax of Smith Junior’s that got out of hand and morphed into a criminal enterprise that, itself, morphed into a religious movement supporting said criminal enterprise. You will not get this interpretation of from the LDS. All the church’s depictions show Smith poring over actual plates.

Joseph Smith Translating Harold Kilbourn, © 1970 “You have a gift to translate the plates” (D& C 5: 4) Displayed on LDS’ Website: www.josephsmith.net

Joseph Smith Translating Harold Kilbourn, © 1970 “You have a gift to translate the plates” (D& C 5: 4) Displayed on LDS’ Website: http://www.josephsmith.net

As of July 8, 2010, the date this LDS Church-sponsored website was accessed, there were a total of five portraits by four different artists showing the translation. All five depict Smith reading or translating from plates, no seer stone in sight. The first is entitled “Joseph Smith Translating the Golden Plates,” by Harold T. Kilbourn, 1978; the second “Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon,” by Del Parson, 1996; the third, “Joseph Smith translates the Golden Plates,” by Robert Barrett, 1988; the fourth “By the Gift and Power,” (Smith has his hands on the golden plates and appears to be reading them; a scribe can be seen to his left) by Simon Dewey, 2000; the fifth is the portrait shown above, another by artist Kilbourn, circa 1970. There were no portraits showing Smith peering into a hat or using a stone in his translation. 307

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 4190-4197). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

Searching today (26 August 2015) I found the above image. The LDS has become increasingly sensitive to the fact they have been perpetrating this hoax, and they may have considered pulling back from some of their most egregious posturing. However, the site still carries the stories, accompanied by images, depicting the phony story of Joseph Smith, the gold plates, and the origin of the Book of Mormon.

More damning for the LDS may be the perpetuation of the fable (lie) concerning the Book of Mormon. Forget that the LDS refuses to acknowledge Joseph Smith concocted the translation of non-existent gold plates while peering into his hat. Consider the compounding duplicity that followed.

In 1835, traveling exhibitionist Michael Chandler happened through Kirtland and showed Smith his collection of Egyptian mummies. Perhaps in an effort to bolster Smith’s faltering reputation as a translator and prophet of God, several of the mummies were purchased by the Church for about $ 2,400.00.

As was customary in the late Egyptian period, mummified bodies of wealthy Egyptians were individually wrapped in burial papyrus. Smith claimed to translate from the hieratics inscribed on the papyrus enclosed with each mummified corpse he had purchased. The result was the Book of Abraham, claimed to have been written by the Old Testament Prophet Abraham, which included an account of his early life and an explanation of the Cosmos. The Book of Abraham, which accounts for almost a fourth of the text (and which depicts these facsimiles from the Egyptian papyri) in the Pearl of Great Price (PGP), was published in 1842 and canonized as scripture in 1880.

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 3578-3585). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

Absent existing ability at the time to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics, Smith surely felt safe his pretended translation would not be challenged. When scholars broke the code of ancient Egyptian writing, Smith’s pretension was exposed. The book exhibits a table for comparison.

AmericanFraudPapyrusTranslation

This deception is something the LDS has never acknowledged. As of this date, 27 August 2015, the following is still on the LDS site:

Introduction

By revelation to His Prophet Joseph, the Lord pronounced “just and holy laws” to guide the people “that in due time He might take them to Himself.” 1 In addition to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God to bring forth additional scriptures including theDoctrine and Covenants, 2 the Pearl of Great Price,3and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible4

In the Doctrine and Covenants is heard “the tender but firm voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking anew in the dispensation of the fulness of times.” 5 Its messages, warnings and exhortations are for all God’s children. The Pearl of Great Price, revealed through the Prophet Joseph, includes his own history, as well as selections from the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham. With divine help, Joseph translated the latter book from ancient Egyptian papyri that came into his hands. The Joseph Smith Translation restored to the Bible lost truths and a fuller understanding of hundreds of passages.

A scheme to perpetuate the myth of the golden plates was also hatched.

Smith also requested John C. Bennett, who claimed he never believed in Mormonism, but infiltrated the Religion to expose it as a fraud, to travel to New York to have gold plates made for passing off as the ancient plates he claimed he had retrieved from Hill Cumorah in 1827.

Shortly after I located in Nauvoo, Joe proposed to me to go to New York, and get some plates engraved, and bring them to him, so that he could exhibit them as the genuine plates of the Book of Mormon, which he pretended had been taken from him, and “hid up” by an angel, and which he would profess to have recovered. He calculated upon making considerable money by this trick, as there would of course be a great anxiety to see the plates, which he intended to exhibit at twenty-five cents a sight. I mentioned this proposition to Mrs. Sarah M. Pratt, on the day the Prophet made it, and requested her to keep it in memory, as it might be of much importance.* 333

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 4391-4398). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

The Kirkland Bank was typical of the criminal enterprise at the foundation of the LDS.

Soon after his translation of the Egyptian papryi, Smith attempted to create an independent financial institution whereby he would profit from the deposits of his faithful followers. Here is where the Prophet’s outright swindling of the Saints caused the first in a long series of disaffections and apostasies.

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 3681-3683). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

The Utah Lighthouse Ministry site provides an account of this notorious swindle:

“Construction of the temple had temporarily boosted the economy of Kirtland, but after the dedication the economy declined as poor converts arrived in ever increasing numbers. The old settlers attempted to keep them out of Kirtland by economic pressures, but the Mormon population increased twentyfold while the landholdings only quadrupled. In November 1836 Joseph and other church leaders drew up articles for a bank to provide capital for investments. It was a desperate gamble. Oliver Cowdery went to Philadelphia for plates to print bank notes, and Orson Hyde went to the legislature in Columbus with a petition for a bank license. It was refused. Oliver returned with plates for the Kirtland Safety Society Bank, but Orson Hyde came back without a charter. The plates were so expensive that they printed some specie anyway, writing in “Anti” before the word “Bank” and “ing” after it. The notes read, “Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company,” and the paper passed as legal tender from a joint-stock company. At first the money circulated wildly. When merchants and businessmen who were more sophisticated than the Mormons began to redeem their notes, Joseph could see that a run would ruin the bank. After one month he and Sidney Rigdon resigned as officers but the bank failed. This affected Joseph’s status.

    People who were convinced that Joseph had intended a swindle at the outset attacked him verbally and threatened him physically. This disruption forced Joseph to leave the city frequently….

    In April 1837 Joseph went into hiding without seeing Emma before he left. (Mormon Enigma, pp. 62)

The tragedy of the handcart immigrants underscores the corruption of the founders:

Since its 1830 creation, missionaries from the Church had been preaching in Northern Europe and had achieved incredible success with the poor. Once Brigham Young assumed leadership, he continued to expand Church efforts into Europe, growing the Church’s tithing base. The Perpetual Emigration Fund (PEF) was established in 1849 to help bring European converts to Utah. Rather than continue the costly immigration to Salt Lake by ox-driven wagons, once the first Saints were settled, Young concocted a scheme whereby additional European emigrants could walk and pull their necessities in handcarts.

The Martin and Willie Companies traveled from Northern Europe by ship to New York and then to Iowa, where they were outfitted with rickety handcarts, limited to seventeen pounds of baggage and a daily ration of a pound (in the end much less) of flour each, and little else to eat. They struggled along the Mormon Trail, approximately thirteen hundred miles from Iowa City to the Salt Lake Valley. Through a series of faulty communications and the failure of appropriate oversight, these handcart companies were allowed to leave Iowa late in the summer. Thus, even with good time, the handcart pioneers would not have made it to the Salt Lake Valley before the first mountain snow.

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 2418-2426). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

Burningham writes that as many as 25% of these migrants perished. One was an English gentleman named Tenant. His story highlights the duplicity of the Mormon founders:

In the year 1854, Brigham Young and the leading Elders were most anxious to draw to Zion the converts from every part of the globe; and for this purpose the faithful were called upon to bring in freely their contributions to the Perpetual Emigration Fund. To set them an example, Brother Brigham himself stated that he would present as a free-gift his own property— a valuable city house and lot, if any purchaser could be found wealthy enough to purchase it. An English gentlemen named Tenant, a new convert, accepted the offer and advanced the money— thirty thousand dollars— and set out for Salt Lake City, expecting there to be put in possession of the property. He was one of the unfortunate Hand-Cart emigrants… and he died on the plains. His wife and children, when they arrived in the Valley, were told that the transaction was not made with them but with Mr. Tenant, and all their efforts to obtain the property, which in common justice was theirs, were unavailable. At the present moment Mr. Tenant’s wife lives in miserable poverty in Salt Lake City, while there is no one to bring the honest Prophet to account.* 481

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 5353-5361). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

The citation is from Stenhouse, Mrs. T.B.H., aka “Fanny.” (1875). Tell it All: the Story of a Life’s Experience in Mormonism. Hartford: A.D. Worthington & Co. Facsimile reproduction of original Salt Lake City: UTLM, n.d. Citations are to UTLM [Utah Lighthouse Ministry] ed.

Nothing worthy of praise seems to come from the early decades of the LDS. Reading Burningham’s account it is easy to recall a more recent episode, that of the People’s Temple, absent the Kool-Aid.

Joseph Smith’s shenanigans and those of his cohorts caught up with him in 1844. Outraged by his sexual and criminal predations, including the destruction of a local newspaper that exposed him, officials in Carthage, Illinois, raised a militia and sought his arrest. Joseph and his brother Hyrum surrendered, but a lynch mob stormed the jail and killed the two brothers.

Thus Joseph Smith became a martyr for the LDS, with responsibility for further criminal enterprises falling to his successor, Brigham Young. The relocation to the Great Basin followed, which resettlement brewed into a half century tussle with the United States government, which held title to the region, having seized it from Mexico in a previous war. In this, as in all other transactions with outside agencies the LDS employed gross deception and outright fraud.

Burningham credits the church’s self-absorbed approach with many of the ills in Mormon society and within regions where the LDS has political control. The church is politically strong in Utah, and it has used this clout in regional courts and in positions of political power to suppress actions counter to the church’s philosophy. Burningham counts church domination of Mormon social life as a major contributor to her failed marriages and to similar social ills prevalent in Mormon life. A number of examples are given.

Mormon boys are raised to insist on their position of domination in the family, and girls receive continual reinforcement to accept this status. Burningham sees this as a major factor in Utah having “the highest rate of any state for depression and psychotropic drug use.” The situation is exacerbated by the way these matters are approached in Mormon society. Mormons are trained to consult with church clergy when resolving life problems, but Mormon clergy, by design, is unqualified to deal with them. The Mormon clergy is drawn from the lay population. Mormons advance to the clergy without any formal training. There is just a jockeying for position and a striving to attain higher levels of authority in the church. Few of the clergy have education above the high school level.

In titling this I played upon the redundancy of “Mormon” and “fraud.” The LDS church stands as a highly transparent example of fraud. In truth all religions are a fraud. The LDS church has compounded the fraud by plagiarizing from the Abrahamic religions. Joseph Smith cribbed partly from the King James Version of the Bible in concocting the Book of Mormon. Unlike the Abrahamic religions, Mormonism is not even cut from whole cloth.

This is not a comprehensive review of the book. Burningham has provided extensive cases and documentation for a host of crimes laid to the LDS. A notable reference is Wife 19 by Ann Eliza Young, an ex-wife of Brigham Young. Another is Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, a biography of Joseph Smith’s first wife. Wife 19 is available for $0.99 from Amazon in the Kindle edition. I have a copy and will be doing a review in the far future.

Wife19Cover

As mentioned, this is the Kindle edition. I note only a few problems with my copy. A casual read reveals the book could have made better use of a proof reading service. Exhibit the following examples:

The Utah War didn’t change much in the State. Mormon Utah continued in their polygamy practice and flaunting of federal law.

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 2766-2767). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

Does the Mormon history of flaunting the secular legal system explain why the Brethren are unconcerned with the continued misrepresentations to Church members and potential converts?

Burningham, Kay (2011-03-13). An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism (Kindle Locations 7070-7071). Amica Veritatis. Kindle Edition.

 

Bad Movie Wednesday

I never saw this on in the theater. It came on late night TV maybe 40 years ago, and I didn’t see it again until now, when my order from Amazon arrived. It’s The Mask of Dimitrios from Warner Brothers in 1944. It stars Sydney GreenstreetZachary Scott,  and Peter Lorre. This is the order of credits, which is puzzling to me. Peter Lorre is in the movie from beginning to end, but he’s only listed fourth. Technical details are from Wikipedia, and the images are screen shots from the DVD.

It starts with a dead body washed up on the beach of the Straits of Bosporus. At a party in Istanbul mild mannered Dutch writer Cornelius Leyden (Lorre) runs into Turkish police Colonel Haki (Kurt Katch). Leyden writes crime mystery novels. Colonel Haki is a fan of Leyden’s books and tells him about Dimitrios Makropoulos (Scott), whose body has washed up on the beach. There’s an interesting story behind this character, Haki never saw him, but had been concerned with his case for 20 years. He asks Leyden if he would like to view the body.

TheMaskOfDimitrios-01

The dead man has been stabbed. There’s his ID card, and there’s his name on a label sown into his jacket. The meek Mr. Leyden can stand no further viewing of the corpse, but he does obtain information from Colonel Haki and sets off across Eastern Europe, tracking down the exploits of this ruthless criminal.

Makropoulos has not been an honorable man. In 1922, desperate to leave Turkey, he teamed with another man to rob a third. Only Makropoulos didn’t tell his partner about the murder part. When his partner grabs the victim from behind, Makropoulos knifes him.

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Makropoulos exits the country post haste, leaving his partner to swing for the murder.

Another acquaintance of Makropoulos is Irana Preveza (Faye Emerson), who 15 years before befriended him, only to be left high and dry when he had to flee Bulgaria after borrowing money from her.

TheMaskOfDimitrios-03

Leyden previously met “Mr. Peters” on the train to Sofia. But Peters has been trailing Leyden due to his own interest in Makropoulos, and Leyden returns to his hotel room in Sofia to find Peters there with a pistol.

TheMaskOfDimitrios-04

Peters advises Leyden to meet with Wladislaw Grodek (Victor Francen) outside of Geneva. There Grodek recounts how he engaged Makropoulos to obtain a map of the Yugoslav mine field. Makropoulos accomplished this by compromising a minor government worker and then blackmailing him to borrow the chart. After the chart was photographed and returned to the official, along with payment, Makropoulos obtained his own payment. Then he pulled a gun and took the camera with the film.

TheMaskOfDimitrios-05

Peters had advised Leyden to go to Paris, and Grodek recommends that Leyden follow this advice. In Paris Leyden meets Peters, again with a pistol, and Peters informs him that Makropoulos is still alive and in Paris. Peters’ plan is to blackmail Makropoulos to the tune of one million French francs. Leyden is the only person present who can confirm that the body in the Istanbul morgue was not Makropoulos. Leyden can prove he saw the body in the Istanbul morgue. He can describe the knife wound, the phony ID card, and the coat with the name label.

After failing to eliminate Peters and Leyden through a hired assassin, Makropoulos pays off in cash, but then he surprises the pair with the intent to kill them both. He shoots Peters twice.

TheMaskOfDimitrios-06

Peters does not die, and Leyden breaks out of his meek character, knocking the pistol to the floor and going for Makropoulos bare-handed at the throat. Peters regains the pistol and Leyden goes for the police. There are two shots, and Peters exits to meet the police. Leyden goes back to writing his mystery novels.

It’s a good story all around. Well directed and photographed. What puts this into the Bad Movie Wednesday section is some elasticity in the plot. Where to start?

A small discrepancy: Colonel Haki says he’s been following Makropoulos’s for 20 years. It’s 1938. The robbery and murder occurred in 1922. Sixteen years is not 20.

After the opening robbery and murder, we see Makropoulos and his partner sitting in a bar drinking. If Makropoulos was in such a hurry to get out of Turkey, why is he hanging around a bar drinking while the police are looking for the murderer?

Grodek threw around large sums of money to obtain photographs of the Yugoslav mine charts. He hired Makropoulos to do all the dirty work. Whose idea was this? The hapless clerk was allowed to go back to his government office after collecting his payoff, whereupon he promptly divulged the theft, rendering the mine charts worthless. The spies didn’t consider this eventuality?

Peters considers that Makropoulos will try to have Leyden and himself killed rather than pay the blackmail. Peters is ahead of the game and executes a well-planned maneuver to give the assassin the slip. But he doesn’t consider that after the payoff Makropoulos will track them down and wait for them when they open the package of French francs? Not very smart for a such an experienced crook.

You can certainly tell that 70 years have gone by since this movie was made. Everybody is chain-smoking cigarettes like nicotine fiends. Of course the setting is 1938, so we are really seeing a time warp of 77 years. Another culture shift is shown at the party in the opening scenes. It’s in Muslim Turkey, and everybody, including the Turkish police colonel, is drinking alcohol.

Somebody told me that this is the third and final film featuring Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet together. The other two are Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. For decades I carried around the idea that it was Leyden (Peter Lorre) who killed Makropoulos. I’m straight on that now.

Deadly Dialogue

KissMeDeadly

I’m finding this hard to believe, but in all my life I had never read anything by Mickey Spillane. After reading this there may not be many to follow. It’s Kiss Me, Deadly, published in 1952.

My inspiration was viewing and reviewing the movie based on the book. I figured I needed to get the book to scope out what was driving the movie plot. It turns out that the plot outline is the only thing driving the movie. Besides the outline there is not much of the book left. About all that is retained are some essential elements:

  • Private detective Mike Hammer is driving along at night when he is forced (she runs out in front of his car) to pick up a hitchhiker. She’s blond and sexy and wearing only an raincoat.
  • Before they can get to the city they are bushwhacked by gangsters in another car and taken to a place where the woman is tortured to death.
  • Hammer and the dead woman are placed in Mike’s car, which is then nudged off a cliff. Mike comes to days later in a hospital bed.
  • Mike has been a bad boy by assisting the woman evade a police roadblock. He loses his detective’s license and his right to carry a piece. He goes on the hunt for the people who did this to him and the woman.
  • Mobsters attempt to rub out Mike with the present of a new car rigged with multiple bombs. Mike evades this plot with the help of a mechanic friend.
  • The woman had information about a mysterious package, and the mobsters desperately need to get the package.
  • Mike meets a sexy blond who was the roommate of the murdered woman. They work the case together.
  • Mike meets a gang boss and his sexy sister. The gang boss is keen to get the package.
  • There is another man who was in cahoots with the murdered woman, but he has been killed in a faked pedestrian accident.
  • The mobsters abduct Mike’s sexy assistant.
  • Mike realizes the dead woman has swallowed the key to the mystery. It’s literally a key to a lock. Mike obtains the key from the mortician in charge of the corpse.
  • Mike tracks the mystery to a crooked doctor. The doctor gets killed. Mike’s assistant gets rescued. The blond roommate of the murdered woman turns out to be an impersonator working with the doctor. She dies a horrible death.

Everything else is different. It is a workable plot. There’s all the violence, sex, intrigue, mystery to make for an interesting story, and it’s put together well. What is difficult to get by is Spillane’s over-blown prose. Some examples:

Then I knew the voice outside for what it was. Not some intangible monster after all. Not some gigantic mechanical contrivance that could act of its own accord. Not a separate living being with its own rules and decrees. Not one of those things.

Spillane, Mickey (1970-07-01). Kiss Me Deadly (Kindle Locations 710-712). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nothing had changed. The blood was still there on the floor, dried into a crusty maroon. Close to the door the air was a little foul and inside it was worse. I shoved the door open, snapped on the light and there was Al grinning at me from the corner of the room, but it was a horrible kind of grin because somebody had broken him into pieces with the whisky bottle. He wasn’t killed plain. He was killed fancy as a person could be killed. He was killed so that he couldn’t make any sound as he died and whoever did it must have had a great time laughing because Al died slow.

Spillane, Mickey (1970-07-01). Kiss Me Deadly (Kindle Locations 2659-2663). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

You want to say, “Really? Do people talk that way? Do people think that way?” In Spillane’s world they do.

Spillane employs plot devices a rational person will find hard to accept. Two mobsters snatch him and take him for a ride in the new car, the one Mike’s mechanic has removed two bombs from, including the one rigged to go off at a certain speed. To escape Mike springs this fact. At just the right time he hints that he never found the second bomb.

The gun tapped my neck. “Too bad you took the car.”

“You had a nice package under the hood for me.”

The twitch on the wheel was so slight the car never moved, but I caught the motion. For a second even the pressure against my neck stopped.

“Like it?” the driver asked.

He shouldn’t have licked his lips. They should have taught him better.

The pitch was right there in my lap and I swung on it hard. “It stunk. I figured the angle and had a mechanic pull it.”

“Yeah?”

“So I punch the starter and blooie. It stunk.”

This time his head came around and his eyes were little and black, eyes so packed with a crazy terror that they watered. His foot slammed into the brake and the tires screamed on the pavement.

It wasn’t quite the way I wanted it but it was just as good. Buster in the back seat came pitching over my shoulder and I had his throat in my hands before he could do a thing about it. I saw the driver’s gun come out as the car careened across the road and when it slapped the curbing the blast caught me in the face.

There wasn’t any sense holding the guy’s neck any more, not with the hole he had under his chin. I shoved as hard as I could, felt the driver trying to reach around the body to get at me while he spit out a string of curses that blended together in an incoherent babble.

Spillane, Mickey (1970-07-01). Kiss Me Deadly (Kindle Locations 1888-1901). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

So that’s it. Mike is being taken for a last ride by two killers, and his only chance to survive is to get the jump on them. His word play about the undiscovered bomb causes the driver to slam on the brakes, causing all kinds of mayhem, allowing Mike to get the upper hand and kill the two killers. The problem is Spillane uses trick devices far too often in one plot. It quickly becomes surreal.

I will purchase and read one more Spillane novel to get a feel for whether this was just a one-off excursion of Spillane’s. It will be interesting if any of his other plots make sense. Keep reading.