Loud and Clear: Lake Headley & William Hoffman – True Crime With an Aftertaste

Press photo of Bolles Car after explosion
Loud and Clear is the recounting of a search for the truth behind the Don Bolles murder in 1976. The investigative reporter, who specialized in ruffling feathers of organized crime was blown up in his car while at the, then, Hotel Clarendon in Phoenix. The reporter was there to meet with an informant who never showed. The blast from the bomb did not kill Bolles immediately and in the parking lot he named his killer and the organization’s behind it, John Adamson, Emprise and the mafia.

Written by Lake Headley with William Hoffman, the book tells about Headley; who was a private investigator, taking on an assignment from a support group who believed that the convicted Phoenix contractor Max Dunlop was innocent. Included in this was James Robison a plumber who was also convicted of the bombing. The reader is taken through the paces that Headley followed to find the truth.

Finding this book on the non-fiction aisle in the local library intermingled with Pat Garrett’s The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, The Frontier World of Doc Holliday and Last Rampage meant that it obviously had to do with the Southwest. Anyone who reads the book will find a fascinating and disturbing look at the American justice system back in the 1970s and through the 1980s.

Reading about the p.i. and his search for information on who really killed the reporter is an eye opening experience. While the conclusion of the book had Dunlop out of prison and Headley, along his new girlfriend, recovering from an attempt to destroy evidence kept in their apartment that almost killed the couple, the ending of this “miscarriage” of justice was far from over.

Investigative reporter Don Devereux who was almost run down by a pickup truck early in his part of Headley’s investigation, still writes about the crime and the coverup run by police and local government officials in the state of Arizona. Once the book is finished, head over to the Internet and type in Max Dunlop and James Robison into the search bar to see the end of the story.

Or, conversely just type in Devereux’s name and this will lead you over to his blog.

Both men were railroaded by what can only be described as high-level kangaroo court where they were guilty because the prosecution wanted them to be. The book, Loud and Clear points out repeatedly that the only motive that the state wanted to pursue was the one that made the least sense. It was also the one which allowed known shady dealers and crime figures in the world of gambling to get off scot free. Not to mention a big political name who was already infamous for exploiting Native Americans.

Perhaps none of this is too surprising when one considers that Phoenix has been the haven of retired mafia figures for years as well as a stomping ground non-retired gangsters who have utilized the area for a number of reasons. If not surprising, it is at the very least terrifying to see how a few dedicated men whose pay packets obviously do not come from just the American taxpayers dollars, can usurp the legal system to allow killers to go free.

The late Lake Headley (he died in 1993) and William Hoffman present a clear case of purposeful misdirection and destruction of evidence by the people who are sworn to protect the innocent. While the book itself ends on a somewhat positive note, it was published in 1990, it is the later epilogue of event that chill.

Loud and Clear makes it seem quite dangerous to live in Arizona and reminds the reader to be very careful who they list among their friends if they do live in the “mafia” state. A real five star book for true crime readers who don’t mind that the story was not over when it was published.

Life in the Real Desert: A Typical Day

Rattlesnake on Dome Road, AZ
Yesterday in the “real” desert there was a thunderstorm that literally lasted most of the day and all night. While Skype messaging my daughter in the UK, (We had to IM versus talk as the signal is so sporadic that real conversations consist of, “Can you hear me? Are you there? You’re frozen. You’re frozen again. Am I frozen?”) I remarked that I meant to bike into town but looking at the ominous clouds and lightning it seemed a good idea to pass on the visit. Not long after, we ended the “call” and I went out to video the ominous looking clouds.

Doing my impression of a “storm chaser” on foot, I walked down the street outside the house filming sporadically. After a short period of “Oh there’s a great bit of lightning! Sh**, I missed it,” I gave up the roaming reporter rubbish and wandered back to my front garden and opted to just watch and occasionally film things that caught my eye.

Real storm chasers and those who document their exploits can rest easy in the knowledge that I am not a threat to their livelihood. My talents do not obviously lay in that area. Of course the storm threatened to break out all day and only really got interesting after dark. Once the sun went down all hell broke loose and rain came down in sheets of frenzied water that thrashed the trees almost as much as the gusts of wind.

The ferocity of the rain was such that the weather-proofing I had done weeks before was inadequate to keep the water from forcing its way into the trailer. Three leaks appeared but only after the pounding rain swept through on the third wave. The storm blew the rain in and out three times, at least that was what I counted before falling asleep waiting for the next onslaught of weather, and it was this last time that the leaks made themselves known.

Before making my nightly visit to the Land of Nod, I put out a pot for the worst leak and thankfully the other two watery intrusions were not enough to warrant pots or pans.

The sun came out upon a typical day of sun, sand and critters roaming throughout the neighborhood. Woodpeckers and some sort of yellow and black bird busily stealing the hummingbird’s nectar (with me busily chasing them off, call me cruel but they knock the feeder all over the place and get nectar everywhere) and lizards exercising along the surrounding property wall.

While the entertainment value of the pushup performing lizard does not match the heart pounding excitement of the rattlesnake encountered over the weekend or the sounds and the fury of last night’s storm, it is enough to keep me amused and content. All that remains is to see what tomorrow will bring.

5 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

The Last Camel Charge: The Untold Story of America’s Desert Military Experiment by Forrest Bryant Johnson

Book cover of The Last Camel Charge
The Last Camel Charge: The Untold Story of America’s Desert Military Experiment by Forrest Bryant Johnson is a splendid recounting of the Army’s attempt to adapt dromedaries to the American desert. Johnson also features the events of the times, the Civil War, the Mormon War, the Indian Wars and the political upheaval as the young country moved resolutely westward in search of land and gold.

The author of Phantom Warrior follows the trail of the men who went to Europe in search of camels to test their suitability for the Southwest desert region. This forgotten piece of history is brought to life by Johnson’s attention to detail and his adept skill at bringing these historical characters to life.

In this narrative, readers see just how much disdain the older countries felt for the young upstart U.S.A. From the first shipment of “old diseased” creatures to the final receipt of camels which were hale, hardy and ready for the long journey to the American Southwest, Johnson reveals the personalities and men behind this little known experiment. Following the journey, The Last Camel Charge does not rely upon the “Journal of May Humphreys Stacey” as one would expect. It does deviate from existing reports and follows Lt. Beale’s trail blazing and his attachment to these foreign creatures.

Picture of camels being transported in Turkey
Camels being moved in Turkey. Photo from Fort Tejon Historical website.

Beale was not alone in his love affair with the two types of camels brought over for the Army’s use. Seemingly just about everyone who had any dealings with these creatures became lifelong fans. Even, Beale’s friend and “business” partner Samuel Bishop who lodged camels at his ranch and later, when the Army wanted the creatures back, was very reluctant to release their treasured charges. Bishop was a fan of the animals and it is he who rode the beasts, along with a few others, to attack the Mojave that were induced to misbehave in a horrific fashion against the non-Mormon settlers who were entering the area.

The book details the beginnings of the Civil War, which would ultimately cause the camel experiment to lose support, as well as the “Mormon” war. The Native American tribes of the area are also looked at as well as their affiliation with other tribes, the Mormons, new settlers, Beale, and the Army.

This is a fascinating look at all the players in the experiment, including a pretty in depth look at “Hi Jolly” whose immigration to America as a Camel Drover led to his working in many different trades and becoming a “local” legend in Arizona. The Last Camel Charge is a well researched and well written recounting of a time when the US was facing problems on all sides.

On top of the battles of “brother against brother” there were the “savages” who stood in the way of gold prospecting, settlers and expansion of young America’s “manifest destiny.” Mormon’s were another issue and the horrific massacre of innocents by this “new” religion caused an outcry to equal the Native American concern.

Published this year, the book is a fascinating read and one that any western history buff will find interesting and entertaining. A real 5 star effort from Forrest Bryant Johnson.

Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison by James W. Clarke – Death on the Road

Cover of book by James W. ClarkeQuartzsite is not just the burial place of a historical figure, Hi Jolly lays at rest there with a favorite camel to keep him company in the “Hereafter,” it is also a spot where Snowbirds flock every winter to keep warm while the rest of the country shivers in the blustery cold. This small quiet burg also has a horrific dark side. In 1978 Gary Tison, escaped from an Arizona prison and his route of meandering escape, that ran over three states, took him right through Hi Jolly territory.

Living up to his reputation as being a cold-blooded killer, Tison’s trip through the quiet Arizona town was marked with murder. In James W. Clarke’s book “Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison (Houghton Mifflin Company 1988) the second chapter of the book is devoted to the Lyon’s family murders. This wholesale slaughter took place just outside Quartzsite off I 95 on the Yuma side of town.

After Tison Sr. and Randy Greenawalt shotgunned the 24 year-old Marine Sergeant John Lyons, his wife Donnelda and their son Christopher to death, along with John’s niece Teresa Tyson, who died after the attack from her injuries, they took the family’s car and continued their wandering path to Mexico.

James W. Clark writes about the escape and his novel follows the journey and interactions of this small group of men. The author reveals that he and his young family were very near the fugitives as they fled authorities. In Colorado where Tison and his group murdered a honeymooning couple for their van, the writer and his wife spent a sleepless night. They were convinced that some unspeakable evil was watching their temporary campsite and only later did they learn that Gary Tison, Randy Greenawalt and Tison’s three sons were literally yards away.

Clarke does a good job documenting the flight of Tison and co. He lists all the various players and does a good job with backstory on each. He also remembers to pay attention to the victims of Tison and Greenawalt. At no time does the author forget to show the cost to surviving family members of the blood-soaked journey of the fugitives.

The book also looks at the power Tison had over his family and others who came into contact with him. A picture is drawn of a charismatic and manipulative man who appears to be pure evil. Tison’s end, dying of dehydration and exposure in the Arizona desert yards away from water, is one of poetic justice and not for the faint hearted. The man suffered an incredibly painful death and one that many would feel is still inadequate for the crimes he committed.

While telling Tison’s story, Clarke also reveals the corruption that was prevalent in 1970s Arizona penal system. He touches briefly the Don Bolles murder and the connection with Tison.  While the newsman’s death was the direct result of his investigating the mafia, the corruption pointed out by Clarke had to do with the correction system and its apparent policy of hiring inept individuals to run their prisons.

Consider this: The governor of the prison where Tison escaped was given multiple warnings that Tison was planning to illegally leave the institution and did nothing.  It is amazing that the Lyons’ and Judge’s families did not take the man to court as being an accessory to the murders committed by the fleeing criminals.

This is a chilling and disturbing account of one of the most horrific murders committed in the Southwestern desert. Prepare to be upset and frightened. In a short “review” of the book, I mentioned that reading this would reveal monsters scarier than anything made-up. Gary Tison, and his accomplice Randy Greenawalt, are terrifying.

James W. Clarke has written a book that should be read in the daylight while surrounded by others. Avoid reading at night, in the desert, alone. This true tale, despite the criminals being gone now, proves that truth is stranger than fiction and much more disturbing. Just as disturbing  perhaps as the made for TV film in 1983 starring Robert Mitchum and James Spader which purports to tell the story of Tison and his sons, Killer in the Family. A movie that one can be forgiven for missing considering the real facts of Tison and his bid for freedom.

Life in the Real Desert: And Death

Death of a deer
Riding home last night after having spent hours in the Burger King making use of their wonderful Wi-Fi, I noticed a lot of buzzards in the darkening sky. Oddly, on my way to town much earlier in the day, a lone bird stood in the road just outside the estate. Standing motionless, it was seemed to be staring off into the desert at God knows what. The buzzard only moved when I stopped my bike to take a picture. Very camera shy these carrion eaters.

The first thing that sprang to mind was the scene from Wild Hogs where Woody, Doug, Bobby and Dudley (played with hilarious precision by William H. Macy) are walking their motorcycles along the desert road and a buzzard is patiently following the small group of men. I was not too perturbed as the featured creature was not paying any attention to me at all.

As I rounded a corner of the road, just before a deep wash that reeks of either dog or coyote, off to the right about 25 feet from the pavement lay a deer. Face pointed to the road, long eyelashes still as death and not a mark on him or her, at least not that I could see. It was quickly getting dark and despite the light being strong enough for my old eyes to see everything in stark detail, the iPhone 5 could not compensate for the dwindling sunlight.

I took a few pictures and then had to “tweak” them at home in order to make out the details. After remounting my bike, I started again for home. The buzzards who had been circling the deer flew down to the fresh carcass to join the one bold chappy who did not mind me taking his photo. There were roughly 10 of the birds scattered around the deer.

After a couple of strong pumps on the pedal, I was on my way. I looked the the left and broke out into gooseflesh. On two trees, mesquite I believe, there were another 30 buzzards all waiting for their turn. I know it was 30 as I stopped and counted. I was so shaken by this sight that I quite forgot to attempt a photo. It was, by now, a lot darker and most likely would not have come out.

Today on my way into town I watched for the body. I could not remember how far away the poor deceased creature lay from my house. Much further than I thought as it turned out. The huge amount of buzzards had disappeared and only around 5 to 10 were feasting on the creature’s body.

As I approached, using the video on my iPhone, the birds all took off. This enabled me to get a bit closer to inspect the “damage” done.

WARNING: This next bit is not for the squeamish.

Last evening, the deer was pretty much whole. It could have been sleeping as, from what I could see, there was no apparent cause of death. I remember wondering if it had been bitten by a rattlesnake as no wounds were visible. Today, the animal’s remains were dramatically reduced from their full state the day before. Apparently after I left the area a feeding frenzy ensued with not only buzzards eating their fill but coyotes as well?

Here is the uncut video:

I wondered, ever so briefly, whether or not this was the same deer who almost crossed in front of me back in February as I walked back to the estate after dark. It certainly had the same “lack of horn” as that one did, but it is highly unlikely. Just another reminder that the desert is not just full of life but death as well and that both rely upon the other to exist.

27 April 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

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