Carl Sifakis, Author . Checkmark Books $17.95 (262p) ISBN 978-0-8160-4421-4

Newsman Sifakis (Encyclopedia of American Crime) has put together an A-to-Z of front-page American crimes—some resolved, some cold—involving society's elite as both victims and perpetrators. We meet up with comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, child star Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, multimillionaire playboy and automobile entrepreneur John DeLorean, rapper Tupac Shakur, television pitch man Crazy Eddie, the Menendez brothers and O.J. Simpson, among others. For the most part, the entries are brief, the style formulaic and newspaperish. Some items, though, contain particularly disturbing details: the sealing shut of a rape victim's eyes with superglue, the melting of a dead woman's finger out of her wedding ring by acid. Sifakis, a veteran crime reporter with such outfits as UPI and the Buffalo Evening News, often comments on coverage of the more sensational crimes, exposing the public appetite for sex and violence. Refreshingly, he also goes out of his way to provide social context. He notes the cases that touched hot-button issues of the day, such as inequality between the sexes, a sentiment that he says pervaded the murder trial of Jean Harris, jilted mistress of Scarsdale Diet doctor Herman Tarnower. Other such issues include the proliferation of the sale of guns for self-defense in California after the random slaying in 1980 of socially prominent and talented young journalist Sarai Ribicoff; or how Hollywood of yore protected its troubled and violent stars. In all, Sifakis offers up a handy reference tool, despite some glaring omissions—mother and son grifters Sante and Kenny Kimes, Kennedy clan member and accused killer Michael Skakel, Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, to name a few. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
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