Book Review ~ GOING UNDER

Going Under: Kidnapping, Murder, and a Life Undercover

by John Madinger

SYNOPSIS – “I just want to make sure I’ve got this right. You hanged all three of them? …” That’s how it began, a case where the cops are crooks and the crooks are cops, a kidnapping where the victim is the bad guy, and the good guys must cross some lines to get him back. Welcome to the upside down and backward world of the undercover agent, where nothing is as it seems, and people – including the undercover – may not be what they appear.? GOING UNDER: Kidnapping, Murder, and A Life Undercover by former undercover agent John Madinger takes you into that world, and closer to the truth of the undercover experience than any other law enforcement memoir has ever gone. “”What is it like to work undercover?”” You’re a sheepdog in wolf’s clothing, running with the pack, and Madinger ran with the wolves for almost two decades. Now he shares his story to give you a unique look at American crime and the “”War on Drugs”” from the perspective of both cops and criminals. You’ll go with the undercover cops to meetings with street-corner hustlers and rip-off artists and into the lives of the America’s biggest rock stars, the world’s richest man, an Academy Award-winning actor, the marijuana traffickers conspiring to assassinate a federal judge, and the President of the United States. It’s an amazing ride, and there has never been another story like it.

MY THOUGHTS – I really liked this book about a cop who did undercover work in Oklahoma. He shares several different cases he worked on throughout his long career using both gravity and humor. There are plenty of surprises to keep it interesting. It’s action-packed with some really wild stuff.


PUBLISHER – WildBlue Press – 280 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Sep 13th, 2022


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – John is a retired law enforcement officer and author of textbooks, history, and crime fiction. Based in Honolulu, Hawaii, he still works providing training on money laundering, financial crime, and terrorism financing to police agencies around the world for the US Treasury Department. His book, Money Laundering: A guide for criminal investigators, 3rd edition, from CRC Press is a standard textbook for government agencies and universities. His first novel, Death on Diamond Head, was a bestseller in Hawaii and his second, Pipe Dreams: The dark secret behind Hawaii’s most infamous crime, will be coming from Watermark Publishing in July 2020. The Opium Kings of Old Hawaii: America’s first drug traffickers, will be published by The History Press in the Fall of 2020.

Book Review ~ BLOOD AND INK

Blood & Ink: The Scandalous Jazz Age Double Murder That Hooked America on True Crime

by Joe Pompeo

SYNOPSIS – Vanity Fairs Joe Pompeo investigates the notorious 1922 double murder of a high-society minister and his secret mistress, a Jazz Age mega-crime that propelled tabloid news in the 20th century.

On September 16, 1922, the bodies of Reverend Edward Hall and Eleanor Mills were found beneath a crabapple tree on an abandoned farm outside of New Brunswick, New Jersey. The killer had arranged the bodies in a pose conveying intimacy.

The murder of Hall, a prominent clergyman whose wife, Frances Hall, was a proud heiress with illustrious ancestors and ties to the Johnson & Johnson dynasty, would have made headlines on its own. But when authorities identified Eleanor Mills as a choir singer from his church married to the church sexton, the story shocked locals and sent the scandal ricocheting around the country, fueling the nascent tabloid industry. This provincial double murder on a lonely lover’s lane would soon become one of the most famous killings in American history—a veritable crime of the century.

 The bumbling local authorities failed to secure any indictments, however, and it took a swashbuckling crusade by the editor of a circulation-hungry Hearst tabloid to revive the case and bring it to trial at last.

Blood & Ink freshly chronicles what remains one of the most electrifying but forgotten murder mysteries in U.S. history. It also traces the birth of American tabloid journalism, pandering to the masses with sordid tales of love, sex, money, and murder. 

MY THOUGHTS – This is an interesting look at the Hall-Mills murders from way back in 1922. There is much intrigue involved in the case, as both parties were married, and Hall was a well-known minister. It also delves into the area newspapers, and how this case become nationwide news because it was so notorious for the times.


PUBLISHER – William Morrow – 352 pages

PUBLICATION DATE- Sep 13th, 2022


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Joe Pompeo is a correspondent at Vanity Fair, where he covers the media industry. He previously worked at publications including Politico and The New York Observer, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Columbia Journalism Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his family. 


The Flat Tire Murders: Unsolved Crimes of a South Florida Serial Killer

by Michael P. Burns

SYNOPSIS – South Florida in the 1970s was one of the nation’s most dangerous locations. Behind the image of sun and surf, young women were the victims of a brutal killer. In the mid-1970s, over a dozen young women were murdered and found in canals. These cases became known as the Flat Tire Murders and the Canal Murders. Only one case was ever solved. More than four decades have passed since these crimes, and no arrests were ever made.

This is the first book to explore these murders in depth, as well as a bizarre series of murders occurring in the years earlier, known as the Gold Sock Stranglings. Interviews with the detectives that originally worked to solve these cases provide an intimate view of the attempt to capture the killer that terrorized South Florida. In addition to the cases themselves, the reader is introduced to a number of suspects, including Ted Bundy, the man who is still suspected by detectives to this day of having committed the Flat Tire Murders. Detailed maps of South Florida illustrate the complex canal system that became the victims’ graveyard.

MY THOUGHTS – This appears to be a well-researched book on a series of little-known South Florida murders in the 1970s. The possible culprits are many, including Bundy for a couple of them, and even spree killer Christopher Wilder, and a possibly a dirty cop, among others. A rogue’s gallery, for sure. But no charges have ever been pressed, and many of the possible perps have since died.

PUBLISHER – McFarland & Co. Inc – 242 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Sept 30th, 2021


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Michael P. Burns is an attorney living and working in San Jose, California.


I’m Still Alive

by Roberto Saviano

SYNOPSIS – For the first time since the publication of his internationally bestselling novel, Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano shares his early-life experience with the violence of the Neapolitan Mafia and how exposing them irrevocably changed his life.

Italian journalist Roberto Saviano was twenty-six years old when he published his first book, Gomorrah, to international acclaim. The book, which has gone on to sell 10 million copies worldwide, was a detailed exposé of the Neapolitan mafia, the Camorra, whose organized crime tactics have permeated all matters of industry in Naples: government, infrastructure, high fashion, and drugs. Over fifteen years after Gomorrah’s release, Saviano’s life has been under constant threat from would be assassins who forced him to leave his native Italy and to live under constant police protection. For the first time since then, Saviano shares his deepest thoughts and experiences of early life in Naples, witnessing the power and violence of Camorra firsthand, his current existence living under guard, all the while continuing to call attention to the deeply rooted crime and corruption that plagues his home. Collaborating with award-winning cartoonist Asaf Hanuka (The Realist, The Divine), both writer and artist examine a life behind armed guard whose best recourse against oppression is through old fashioned pen and paper.

MY THOUGHTS – The author writes about his life and how it changed after writing his book Gomorrah. In it, he spoke out against the Camorra mafia clan in Italy and had to go into exile in 2006. He’s been that way ever since, and has had to learn to live like that, both in Europe and the US. A quick reading graphic novel.


PUBLISHER – Archaia – 144 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Oct 11th, 2022


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Roberto Saviano (Italian: [roˈbɛrto saˈvjano]; Naples, September 22, 1979) is an Italian journalist, writer and essayist. He is the author of international bestsellers Gomorrah and ZeroZeroZero.

In his writings, his articles, his books and his television programs, he uses literature and investigative reporting to tell of the economic reality of the territory and business of the Camorra and of organized crime more generally.

After the first death threats of 2006 made by the Casalese clan, a cartel of the Camorra, which he denounced in his exposé and in the piazza of Casal di Principe during a demonstration in defense of legality, Saviano was put under a strict security protocol. Since October 13, 2006, he has lived under police protection.

He has collaborated with numerous important Italian and international newspapers. Currently he writes for the Italian publications l’Espresso and la Repubblica. Internationally, he collaborates in the United States with The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek and Time; in Spain with El Pais; in Germany with Die Zeit and Der Spiegel; in Sweden with Expressen; and in the United Kingdom with The Times and The Guardian.

His courageous positions have provoked appeals on his behalf from many important writers and other cultural figures, such as Umberto Eco.

In 2015 he launched his own editorial project, RSO-Roberto Saviano Online.

Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by piero tasso (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.


Frank Sinatra and the Mafia Murders

by Douglas Thompson and Mike Rothmiller

SYNOPSIS – All the varieties of power – star, political, sexual, criminal and emotional – are on show in this definitive, untold story of Frank Sinatra and the Mafia.

Drawing on an enormous archive of previously unseen records held by international law agencies, the FBI, the CIA and big-city police departments, Rothmiller and Thompson reveal Sinatra’s pact with the Mob in shocking detail.

With additional evidence from decades of investigations and testimony, they expose Sinatra’s lifelong association with the Mafia, which he always denied, and its deadly collateral damage.

This revelatory showstopper is a wild dance made coherent by intelligent choreography. Sinatra may not have been an actual made man, but the Mafia certainly made him.

MY THOUGHTS – This was quite an eye opening read. I’ve learned bits and pieces of some parts of this book in other books thru the years, including Rothmiller’s. But nothing like this more detailed look behind the scenes, thanks to the release of many previously withheld documents of several law enforcement agencies. Sad to say, it just makes me feel even more hopeless for the situation our country has ended up in today, as you can see where some of it started way back. A good read for Sinatra fans, and those who enjoy revealing mob books.


PUBLISHER – Ad Lib Publishers – 259 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Sep 15th, 2022



Douglas Thompson is the author of more than twenty books. A biographer, broadcaster and international journalist, he is a regular contributor to major newspapers and magazines worldwide. His books, published in a dozen languages, include the television-based anthology Hollywood People, and best-selling biographies of Madonna, Clint Eastwood, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dudley Moore, John Travolta, Nicolas Cage and Leonardo DiCaprio. He collaborated with the billion dollar dancer Michael Flatley on his Top Ten story ‘Lord of the Dance’. His books have been serialised in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. With Christine Keeler, he wrote her revealing memoir The Truth At Last, an instant best-seller. He worked as a consultant on the tie-in television documentary on the Profumo Affair. Working with eminent psychotherapist Pauline Sutcliffe, he told the poignant story of her brother Stuart, who named and helped found the Beatles with John Lennon. His book ‘The Hustlers’, about gangsters and gambling in 1960s’ London, is being developed for film and was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary. His DVD contributions to a celebration of Clint Eastwood’s career were commemorated in a special box set of Eastwood movies. He has worked with many Hollywood stars on their memoirs. A recent success was Stephen Ward: Scapegoat , a study of the rakish charmer at the centre of the Profumo Scandal. His upcoming ‘Shall We Dance? The True Story of the Couple Who Taught the World to Dance’ tells one of the most romantic, tearful but uplifting stories of the 20th Century. He is a director of one of Britain’s leading literary festivals, and divides his time between a medieval Suffolk village and California, where he was based as a Fleet Street correspondent and columnist for more than twenty years.

Mike Rothmiller is a New York Times Bestselling Author, nominee for the Pulitzer Prize, historian, former cop and Army medic. He’s also served as a TV reporter, an award winning documentary producer and television host for ESPN, PBS and other international television markets. He’s written and produced over 25 television documentaries, numerous TV and radio ads and has authored movie scripts. His nonfiction book, “My Hero. Military Kids Write About Their Moms and Dads” (St. Martin’s Press) received international acclaim and holds the honor of being the only book in history to have forwards written by three living Presidents and General Norman Schwarzkopf. He has served on numerous non-profit boards. Additionally, he’s been a corporate President/CEO and directed three divisions of Sony Electronics EMCS-America.

He’s authored 23 books and his most recent; Secrets, Lies and Deception….And Other Amazing Pieces of History was featured on Fox News and over 40 Television News Stations across America.

Readers of his books include; three Presidents, former First Lady Laura Bush, the late Charlton Heston and Queen Elizabeth II.


The Last Jewish Gangster: The Middle Years

by David Larson

SYNOPSIS – The second installment of this saga of gangland lore follows gregarious gangster, Michael Hardy, further down his twisted criminal path. The Last Jewish Gangster, The Middle Years, starts in 1968 with Hardy sentenced to twelve years in the world’s most dangerous prison in Mexico after taking the rap for his mother’s counterfeiting scheme, hoping to have finally earned her love and respect.

Once he’s released from prison, Hardy returns to Brooklyn and tries to go straight, but drifts back into a world of crime. He gets Sammy “the Bull” Gravano to join his crew to pull major heists like kidnapping drug lords for million-dollar ransoms, and robbing cop bag men. To evade the law, he goes to Europe and ends up in Israel where he works on a Kibbutz, touching the hem of his Jewish heritage.

Hardy devolves further into a gangster’s life when he returns to Brooklyn, running a finger of the Mob’s Five-Fingers International Car Theft Ring, participating in a stolen airline ticket scam, and doing fourteen hits for the Mob, still hoping his mother will take notice. When she gets busted for the car theft ring, she turns him in to reduce her time.

Crushed by his mother’s callous self-interest, Hardy ends up cutting a deal with Rudy Giuliani to nab a dirty cop to reduce his time and negotiate his place in the witness protection program. Relocating to LA under an alias, it doesn’t take long for Hardy to land a gig as muscle for a Hollywood studio and meet his future wife, a sex worker who stole from his mother. The lines between love and revenge begin to blur.

MY THOUGHTS – I really like this type of gangster book, and this one didn’t disappoint. The second in a series of three, it’s one wild story, driven by his relationship or lack of one, with his mother. Michael Hardy goes above and beyond. He builds his cred as a mega-gangster trying to gain the unattainable. This kept me up late reading.


PUBLISHER – WildBlue Press – 369 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Aug 16th, 2022


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Over the course of two-and-a-half years, I met weekly with Michael Hardy in his Section-8 studio apartment in San Diego, up until his death. We were introduced by his therapist, Dr. El. For the first several months Michael told me what he did, the stories often unbelievable. When he gained enough trust in me, he told me why he acted with such fearlessness and committed heinous crimes. It was all done to impress his mother, Shirley, so that maybe she would love him. Shirley rejected Michael after his birth to be raised by her parents, so she could run with Bugsy Siegel and other powerful men in the Mob, rather than raise her son to be a good man.

Confined to a wheelchair most of the time we met, because he lost half of both feet to diabetes, this 325-pound aging gangster regaled his stories with such gusto, he often slipped into the present tense with his recall. I tried to capture that in his story as he trudged through decades of crime, from coast to coast, north to south, to Mexico, even Europe, and the Middle East.

The meetings with Hardy were sometimes useless, Michael wrapped around the axle of some injustice that befell him—car impounded because it had expired registration, arguments with neighbors over the use of community washing machines, Catholic Charities not coming through, Jewish Family Services late with their support, doctors not worth a damn, dentists not much better, and run-ins with local businesses who barred him after numerous infractions. His long-suffering wife was always at his side, caring for him, and loving him for the man he became. Raised Jewish, Michael discovered Christ in 1974 while in federal prison in Connecticut, then believed in Christ in 1991 when he appeared to Michael in his cell. But don’t for one minute think he was a Christian. He was a Jew who believed in Christ.`

The unpublished version of his story has been optioned three times in Hollywood over the past five years, to develop into a TV series or movie. Since I also write screenplays, I’ve developed scripts for both. They’ve been circulating slowly, the pandemic causing delays.


American Mother: The True Story of a Troubled Family, Motherhood, and the Cyanide Murders That Shook the World

by Gregg Olsen

SYNOPSIS – From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of If You Tell comes the absolutely unputdownable and chilling true-crime story of Stella Nickell—a mother and wife who did the unthinkable… and the unforgivable.

At 5.02 pm on June 5, 1986, an emergency call came into the local sheriff’s office in the small town of Auburn, Washington State. A distressed housewife, Stella Nickell, said her husband Bruce was having a seizure. Officers rushed to the Nickell’s mobile home, to find Stella standing frozen at the door… Bruce was on the floor fighting for his life.

As Stella became the beneficiary of over $175,000 in a life insurance pay-out, forensics discovered that Bruce had consumed painkillers laced with cyanide.

A week later, fifteen-year-old Hayley was getting ready for another school day. Her mom, Sue, called out ‘I love you’ before heading into the bathroom and moments later collapsed on the floor. Sue never regained consciousness, and the autopsy revealed she had been poisoned by cyanide-tainted headache pills. Just like Bruce.

While a daughter grieved the sudden and devastating loss of her mother, a young woman, Cindy, was thinking about her own mom Stella. She thought about the years of neglect and abuse, the tangled web of secrets Stella had shared with her, and Cindy contemplated turning her mom into the FBI…

Gripping and heart-breaking, Gregg Olsen uncovers the shocking true story of a troubled family. He delves into a complex mother-daughter relationship rooted in mistrust and deception, and the journey of the sweet curly-haired little girl from Oregon whose fierce ambition to live the American Dream led her to make the ultimate betrayal.

A sensational real-life mystery, American Mother will hook those fascinated by The Staircase and Making of a Murderer.

This book was originally published as Bitter Almonds.

MY THOUGHTS – I read this book long ago under its original title. Much of it was like reading a new book for me, as my memory isn’t what it used to be. I would have preferred a new true crime story from this author. I’ve read and liked many of his other non-fiction crime reads through the years, but it seems like he’s been into crime fiction more in recent years. This remains a good read for this genre, about a case so many remember.


PUBLISHER – Thread Books – 540 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Nov 8th, 2022

MY RATING – 4/5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – A #1 New York Times bestselling true-crime writer, Gregg Olsen is praised for his ability to create a detailed narrative that offers readers fascinating insights into the lives of real people and fictional characters caught in extraordinary circumstances.  He has authored ten nonfiction books, over twenty novels, a novella, and a short story, which appeared in a collection edited by Lee Child.  In addition to television and radio appearances, he has been featured in RedbookUSA TodayPeopleSalon magazine, Seattle TimesLos Angeles Times and the New York Post.  He is a native of Seattle and currently lives in rural Washington state. 


Deadly Triangle: The Famous Architect, His Wife, Their Chauffeur, and Murder Most Foul

by Susan Goldenberg

SYNOPSIS – The 1935 murder of architect Francis Rattenbury, designer of the iconic Parliament Buildings in Victoria, British Columbia, and the arrest and lurid trial of his wife, Alma Rattenbury, and George Stoner, their chauffeur (also her lover and half her age), became one of the twentieth century’s most sensational cases.

MY THOUGHTS – At first, I thought that this was a book I read long ago about an American architect and murder, until I took a closer look. When I got further into it, the setting is British Columbia, Canada and later on England. Architect Rattenbury became successful in Victoria, British Columbia, despite his shady business dealings and many enemies made along the way. The story of a married man and a twice previously married woman who start an affair in the 1930s. They did nothing to keep it a secret, and became openly despised and ostracized. The repercussions cost them everything, home, business, and friends. They throw in the towel and move to England to start over. This is where the 3rd part of the triangle comes into the picture. Good true crime that caused a big stir from nearly 90 years ago.


PUBLISHER – Dundurn Press -288 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Nov 8th, 2022


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Susan Goldenberg is the author of nine books and has won both a Canadian Author’s Award and a Canadian Business Press Editors’ Award. She has written for the Sunday New York Times, the Financial Post, and the Financial Times of Canada, and currently pens articles for Canada’s History magazine. She also writes a heritage column on the district of Toronto where she lives.

Book Review ~ BAD CITY

Bad City: Peril and Power in the City of Angels

by Paul Pringle

SYNOPSIS – For fans of Spotlight and Catch and Kill comes a nonfiction thriller about corruption and betrayal radiating across Los Angeles from one of the region’s most powerful institutions, a riveting tale from a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who investigated the shocking events and helped bring justice in the face of formidable odds.

On a cool, overcast afternoon in April 2016, a salacious tip arrived at the L.A. Times that reporter Paul Pringle thought should have taken, at most, a few weeks to check out: a drug overdose at a fancy hotel involving one of the University of Southern California’s shiniest stars―Dr. Carmen Puliafito, the head of the prestigious medical school. Pringle, who’d long done battle with USC and its almost impenetrable culture of silence, knew reporting the story wouldn’t be a walk in the park. USC is one of the biggest employers in L.A., and it casts a long shadow.

But what he couldn’t have foreseen was that this tip would lead to the unveiling of not one major scandal at USC but two, wrapped in a web of crimes and cover-ups. The rot rooted out by Pringle and his colleagues at The Times would creep closer to home than they could have imagined―spilling into their own newsroom.

Packed with details never before disclosed, Pringle goes behind the scenes to reveal how he and his fellow reporters triumphed over the city’s debased institutions, in a narrative that reads like L.A. noir. This is L.A. at its darkest and investigative journalism at its brightest.

MY THOUGHTS – I wasn’t sure if this was my type of read or not, but it turned out to be a page turner. A reporter starts checking into a tip and it tuns into a wild investigation. He uncovers some pretty shocking information that keeps growing. The problem is all of the places involved seem to be intertwined and shutting him out or covering up for them. Even his own newspaper was interfering, shutting the story down totally at one point. Bizarre but true story.


PUBLISHER – Celadon Books – 274 pages



ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Paul Pringle is a Los Angeles Times reporter who specializes in investigating corruption. In 2019, he and two colleagues won the Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting for their work uncovering the widespread sexual abuse by Dr. George Tyndall at the University of Southern California, an inquiry that grew out of their reporting the year before on Dr. Carmen Puliafito, dean of USC’s medical school. Pringle was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2009 and a member of reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2004 and 2011. Pringle won the George Polk Award in 2008, the same year the Society of Professional Journalists of Greater Los Angeles honored him as a distinguished journalist. Along with several colleagues, he shared in Harvard University’s 2011 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Reporting. Pringle and a Times colleague won the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Freedom of Information Award in 2014 and the University of Florida’s Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award in 2015. Pringle lives in Glendale, California.


The Tuskegee Strangler: The Nicest Serial Killer They Ever Met

by Linda Lou Long

SYNOPSIS – Every serial killer is a “nice guy”—until he’s found out. The shocking, true account of a Southern charmer who left a trail of victims in his wake.

Jerry Marcus fooled them all. He was “a nice guy,” always helped at home, did well in school, an athlete, and always employed. When things went wrong, he was the first to help clean up the mess. He was the last person anyone suspected of being a serial killer.

After Marcus was caught and sentenced to life in prison in the late ’70s, author Linda Lou Long spent years corresponding with him. The Tuskegee Strangler gives an inside look into the workings of a man who is not your typical serial killer.

MY THOUGHTS – Good research by a writer who corresponded with this little known serial killer for years. He was a very mobile killer who was unique in that he became involved with the women before murdering them. He also had a 13 year cooling off period between kills. Delves into all of his known killings before he was arrested and imprisoned. Good true crime.


PUBLISHER – WildBlue Press – 214 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Aug 2nd, 2022


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – This is apparently the first book by Linda Lou Long.