First off, the bad - there are way too many people to keep track of, and no 'Dramatis Personæ' to aid one in sorting them out when one forgets who is...moreFirst off, the bad - there are way too many people to keep track of, and no 'Dramatis Personæ' to aid one in sorting them out when one forgets who is who. Thus, a star was deducted.
This is not a biography of To Mega Therion, but instead uses his life to support its central thesis - that Crowley was a British secret agent. While the documentation is lacking (naturally), absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and its absence, given how notorious Crowley was, is certainly something to be noted.
There were simply too many odd coincidences, Crowley simply knew too many actual Agents, for it all to simply be a hallucination by the author. Crowley himself drops repeated hints to this aspect of his life in his own writing, which Spence amply documents.
An intriguing look at a more political, less magical Crowley.(less)
Generally, the people who discuss this book are either conspiracy nuts who believe the government is spying on them through their cereal or something...moreGenerally, the people who discuss this book are either conspiracy nuts who believe the government is spying on them through their cereal or something equally crazy, fundamentalist Christians who are eager to prove that Satan is out to get everyone or professional skeptics who have an axe to grind against the former two and a desire to look very smart and very clever on top of it.
I had read this book back in my high school days, but only remembered some bits and pieces from it (crazy death cults and serial killers are two subjects I'm very interested in).
What surprised me is that, despite the ensuing years of seeing the above three groups fighting over this book, Terry's book is actually very lucid and down-to-earth for the most part.
While his knowledge of 'the occult' is lacking (he's one of those people who doesn't really grok that there are plenty of benign groups out there that use Tarot cards and like Crowley and the OTO, despite the fact that there are also a bunch of weirdos and cranks) his study of the Son of Sam case is, in my opinion, a perfect example of the ineptness of the police department at digging deeper than just surface level (something that has happened time and again, including within this book, repeatedly). The public was terrorized by the ".44 Caliber Killer," and once they caught Berkowitz (who admitted to being the ".44 Caliber Killer"/"Son of Sam," that was enough for them. As long as they had someone to blame it on - and as long as the streets were quiet again - they didn't really care if it went any deeper (although to be fair, many cops DID... but the brass tended to squelch them).
Admittedly, Berkowitz was behind the at least a couple of the killings. Neither Berkowitz nor Terry try to deny that - it would be foolish. However, the fact remains that the various composite images made by witnesses and surviving victims are radically different was ignored. The reports of weird cars in neighbourhoods shortly before the murders was ignored. The witness of a woman who saw Berkwotiz wandering around and driving around shortly before another shooting - thereby requiring that Berkowitz be "The Flash" in order to wander around, drive around AND get back in time to fire shots at the victim was ignored. Even the fact that the various letters from "The Son of Sam" obviously didn't come from the same person was ignored.
Terry draws a line from Berkowitz to alleged friends of his named the Carrs who were involved in some sort of cult (and were murdered shortly after the Son of Sam murders) all the way to places as far-flung as North Dakota, Los Angeles and Houston - as well as Long Island, New York.
While ordinarily, people react negatively to so-called "conspiracy theories," the men who flew the planes into the WTC were part of both a "cult" and members of a "conspiracy." "Conspiracy theory" has been degraded to simply being a buzzword, associated with people who believe that UFOs killed JFK and similar stuff, despite the fact that any theory that links three or more people together, is quite frankly, a "conspiracy theory."
Despite the bad rap the book gets from the skeptics - and the embracing of it by crazy fundies and crazy tin-foil hatters alike - Terry doesn't really focus hugely on so-called cults. While he refers to some (such as the notorious Process, the so-called Chingons, a cult centered around Yonkers, etc.) the book is more about dope than the Devil and if any cult is truly involved, it would appear to involve Scientology moreso than Satan.
Drug deals gone bad, kinky homosexual murders, crazy cults, porn-and-dope addicted vaudeville producers, music celebrities and low-level pushers are all caught up in the net that Terry uncovers.
While it's tempting to write this off as, yes, a conspiracy theory, the fact remains that it is entirely possible that groups with stations across the country are involved in drug-smuggling and dealing and Terry suggests motives behind the Tate-Labianca murders that make far more sense than the "Beatles told me to do it" theory of Vincent Bugliosi (to be fair, Bugliosi was stressed for time and had to get a conviction on Manson - he had plenty of other theories, some of which support Terry's, but the police's refusal to look beneath the surface of a crazy story - like Burkowitz's dog - hindered much of it).
If nothing else, it's an intriguing thought. I, for one, based on personal research I've done on cults in So Cal, tend to think Terry is on to something - whether his entire hypothesis is true or false - but even if just some of it is true, a whole lot of sickos need to be headed to jail... although most of them are probably long since murdered anyway.
A lot of the book is speculative - while Terry is right to protect his sources, often his 'sources' are the only ones with any worthwhile info. It is entirely possible that they were mistaken, or lying, or any number of things, although Terry does regularly verify their claims against information that he, as an investigator, tracks down.
My biggest qualm with this book is that it was written in the mid 80s and some of the figures - such as "Manson II," aka Willie Metzner - are now safely behind bars. Unfortunately, I don't know if there is a newly updated version of this book or not. Considering everything involved, I think there should either be a sequel or a very updated version to trace what's been going on since the book finished. Internet research has shown that some people, such as John Kogut, were exonerated through DNA evidence, although of course the book, written at the time he was confessing to a rape and murder of a teenage girl, doesn't talk about this at all.(less)