In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent’s Relentless Pursuit of the Nation’s Worst Predators by Jeffrey L. Rinek, Marilee Strong

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“To handle the horrors we must deal with on a daily basis, many in law enforcement become hardened and compartmentalize their emotions, which has its own deleterious effects. I was not able to do that, nor could I stand at a clinical distance and rely on some technique or one-sixe-fits-all theory of criminality and remain untouched by the horrors I saw.”

During his 30 year career working as a FBI agent, Jeff Rinek witnessed the most vile crimes against children from sexual abuse, torture, abduction, murder and child abuse, sometimes from their family members. I had to read this book in parts, human depravity is beyond belief at times and I had the option of putting it down until I could catch my breath, Rinek and other’s in his line of work don’t have that privilege. I have the utmost respect for the brave men and women that work in this particular field. Not many have the stomach for it, and it isn’t surprising that the work he has done has stayed with him, for how could it not?  This is the stuff of nightmares, but Rinek isn’t writing in the vein of sensationalism. This is a man who has kept every victim and their families within his heart, everything he has experienced has touched his own wife and children. Jeff shares not only the horrific cases he has helped solve, but the troubling ways it effected his family life. How could he not be overwhelming concerned for the safety of his own sons, having seen the darkness that befell so many innocent children? How could he sleep peacefully at night with the images of crime scenes floating in his mind, just as horrible the confessions of child molesters and serial killers thundering in his ears? It’s impossible to truly separate the two worlds.

Jeff Rinek had a way about him that made the criminals feel comfortable enough to confess, I think it is most evident in his dealings with Cary Stayner. Not many could keep their emotions in check enough to empathize with someone who has committed monstrous acts. I know when we label something evil or monstrous it makes it impossible to understand how someone can commit such atrocities and maybe prevent them, but it’s hard not to feel this way. Without his ability to reach into whatever humanity resides in the criminal, we may never know the truth. It is important to be able to understand the psyche of man as much as we can, whether we’re repulsed or not. It matters to the victim’s family, particularly when bodies are missing. Maybe there is truly no such thing as closure, maybe the ‘knowing’ is more horrifying than what the mind can imagine, but living without answers is to be further victimized.

In reading about these tragic, horrifying crimes, it made me think about why it is so important for people to report crimes that happen to them, or things they witness that don’t sit well within them. Nothing truly happens in a bubble, and often in abusive relationships, be they physical or sexual, often men or women go further in victimizing others, especially children (the most helpless and vulnerable of us all). The hard truth is, if someone has harmed you, you aren’t the first, nor likely to be the last. One of the most shocking realities is how often child molestation is enabled by other adults, such as wives. I’m not surprised children don’t come forward more often, the feelings of shame involved, the stigma boys in particular (especially as they become adults) are met with in coming foreward about sexual abuse is heartbreaking. I’m reading another book right now about Evil, it’s more from a  psychological standpoint, but when I read true crime books, or listen to a victim recount their harrowing experiences it is damn hard to want to understand the psyche of criminals. How do you remain removed from cases, its human nature to empathize, particuarly being a mother or father yourself. Of course seeing the body of a child that has been defiled in every way imaginable one would think of their own son or daughter, fear would be rooted inside your being. Rinek dealt with the worst of human nature, how could he not imagine the worse if a phone line home is busy, or his child doesn’t get off his bus?

The violence, ritualized sexual abuse, physical, and mental trauma, torture the children suffered under the ‘religion’ Allen Harrod (their own father) started is as hard to stomach as every story within yet it is with the tenderest of care Rinek, along with others, helped the children find their strength to seek justice and have kept watch over the children long after the case ended. The bravery of Harrod’s eldest daughter in coming forward is incredible, though shocking that it took her going through three different police agencies to get anyone to look into the matter. Without her, who knows how long Harrod and Labrecque’s crimes would have continued, under the guise of religion. Much like the people involved in seeing justice served, it’s gut wrenching to know the truth of how the children suffered, but worse to imagine being the children involved. Human depravity is boundless but it’s knowing the children (their victims) will carry not just physical evidence of their nightmare for the rest of their lives, but have to cope with PTSD, have to navigate the world without an example of healthy family relationships, and in a sense deprogram from what for them was ‘normal’  that remains with you long after reading their story. That these things happen in our so-called ‘modern times’ is worse than any fictional horror I can conjure. You don’t have to be close to the case to feel the frustration and anger at the justice system, how easy it seems for criminals to continue their abuse once captured, still victimizing everyone involved through ‘legal manipulation.’ Then there is the game of going to trial. Evidence is a peculiar thing, what is left out as to not ‘prejudice the jury against the defendant.’ Ridiculous in many cases, such as pictures of adults raping children in this situation shouldn’t it be admissible, doesn’t the victim deserve to see justice served? It’s one thing to hear it, but when there are photos to back the child’s confession, well? Statute of limitations is infuriating in and of itself, if a child comes into adulthood and finally has the ability to seek help, to expose the abuser only to find out they can’t be charged anymore, how is that just? Something is certainly broken. It’s hard not to feel like children don’t matter enough, it certainly feels like criminals often get a slap on the wrist, are released only to commit even more gruesome crimes. But I feel heartened that men and women like Rinek work hard for them, it seems to even the balance, at least a little.

Retired now, Rinek remains just as passionate about making the world a safer place for children and for us all, as he did when he was working full-time. He has remained in contact with the children victimized by Harrod and Labrecque. It is obvious his job was his life, and he is the sort of agent the world needs, someone who puts all of his being into solving crimes, and caring for the victims. It’s hard to review this type of memoir, because it comes from a deeply personal part of Rinek’s life. It’s enough to say that if you can’t even read it, because it’s our natural instinct to close our ears and eyes to terrors, imagine how the victim’s loved ones feel, how the men and women in law enforcement have to go home every night with the knowledge of such horrors branded in their minds. It’s important to be a voice for those who have been silenced, and to see those who have harmed children caught, so they can’t leave more families destroyed.

This truly is an unflinching look into the life of FBI Special Agent Jeff Rinek and how his job effected every facet of his life.

Out today!

BenBella Books

 

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Melinda Camber Porter in Conversation with Joyce Carol Oates 1987 Princeton University ISSN Volume 1, Number 6: Melinda Camber Porter Archive of Creative Works by Melinda Camber Porter and Joyce Carol Oates Blake Press

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“Certainly feminism in the past decades has been very idealistic and has definitely modified the culture, not as much and perhaps not as permanently as we would like, but it has had some alteration of consciousness.”

I snapped this up on Netgalley because Joyce Carol Oates writing is wonderful. She has a way of disturbing me, always provoking the reader to question their morality, and the world. This is an intelligent conversation, focusing on boxing (the sport) at the beginning, it’s interesting to see Carol draw parallels between boxing and smoking. The violence of a sport, the violence we do to ourselves that doesn’t even inspire a mention. I chewed on the topic of poverty, prostitution, the under-privileged and the violence that arises, such as boxing. Yet she doesn’t claim to want to abolish it, is it even possible?

There is a section, where they are discussing celebrity and the weight of their opinions. in the sense that authors aren’t really listened to here in America. Celebrity though, I wonder how much that has changed since this interview with different platforms now, outlets for their thoughts to be spread. I still don’t imagine writer’s opinions are followed as much as say… a singer or actor. I would hope we would’t vote a certain way now, based on any celebrity, sadly I am guessing some people will sway their opinion based on a celebrity, which is sad to me. Should we ever align our thoughts with a celebrity,  Donald Duck or otherwise? (Read the interview) Lord I hope not.

“America has this long tradition of anti-intellectualism.” I wonder if it’s changing now, as more praise is heaped upon our trailblazers, but it does seem people are suspicious still of intelligence. We weren’t taught to ‘think for ourselves’, mostly to just memorize, regurgitate. I agree with Oates too about putting writers, or celebrities, in the spotlight of politics then as now, because it really is about dedicating to understanding politics, it’s not just ‘opinions’ and it’s a heavy burden to ‘thrust the microphone’ at them when their understanding isn’t as strong as those in politics. How many have ‘put their foot in their mouth’, maybe meaning one thing and not seeing the bigger picture?

The topics discussed resonate today, interesting as this conversation took place in 1987. I am always curious about the writers whose work I devour, what they think about certain subjects, how it relates into the creation of their characters, what they’re trying to say about the world through fiction. Not because I have to agree with them or disagree, simply I enjoy feasting on the food of their thoughts.

Publication Date: November 15, 2017

Blake Press

David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones

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“David loved oddities, loved people who were somehow different.”

Dylan Jones has written a biography overflowing with insight and stories about David Bowie as told by his friends, lovers, rivals and so on. There was so much I had never known, and I think many of his fans grew up with a different Bowie. Growing up an 80’s kid, he will always be my Goblin King, Jareth. The only problem with writing about a person through collective thoughts and memories is you can lose the person. It steals the romance and the mystery of a celebrity. On the other hand, you sort of feel like you’re in a room with a bunch of people gossiping behind his back, or gushing about him, it is all very dizzying. I’d known nothing about his family, his upbringing and this book delves deep into all of that- and particularly David’s interest in his brother Terry, who had schizophrenia. David, I think, was someone who was always something ‘other’, beyond charm, beyond individuality- and it’s evident through every story on these pages. The rivalry between Jagger and Bowie was a bit fun to read, particularly why David Jones decided to become David Bowie, maybe this healthy competition helped keep their stars shinning for their fans.

From an early age, it seems everything influenced Bowie- from the books he read to fashion, american culture, jazz, and the beats, it all comes together and explains what nurtured such an amazing artist. His brother’s ‘madness’ seems to have been channeled through David, in his work. One wonders how much his brother had an effect the Bowie transformations through the ages. But you can’t think you understand that aspect of a person’s life, simply from stories or interviews. I felt protective of Terry and David reading what happened.

In all honesty, I most enjoyed reading all of David’s words, not everyone else’s. I can imagine he lit up a room, was his ‘most beautiful’ just around people, not just bursting with brilliance on stage. What you come away with is his genius, but also that he controlled what you are allowed to see and it should be kept that way. There is a lot of insight from people very close to Bowie and those on the periphery, the reader treks through so much information, as so many of the people who crossed paths with David get their say. I think David Bowie, even with his humor and charm, was a lot more serious than fans realized. No one says it better than Iman, his wife “I fell in love with David Jones, I did not fall in love with David Bowie.”  I think the world needs to keep Bowie and let his loved ones keep David Jones. Bowie was a beautiful creation by a hell of an intelligently talented man. I don’t think you can understand a person through everyone surrounding him, it’s too distorted because just when you think you have a grasp of who he was, another story contradicts it. Bowie remains a mist you just can’t hold. This book will feed his fans, because it covers many decades and you can get the feel that you were along for a bit of the wild ride. It’s Bowie in other’s eyes. I cringe a bit, wondering how mangled I would be if people I brushed shoulders with, alongside those who knew me best painted a picture of who I was when I am gone. What sort of Frankenstein’s monster would be created? In itself, it would just be another ‘creation’ not capturing the reality. This novel comes close to the real David with intimacy but then pushes you away, but isn’t that the celebrity way?

There are many facts, it’s a hell of a collection but I hunger for Bowie in his own words. He lived in his own world, the rest of us were just visiting.

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Crown Publishing