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Two Visions, One Book

August 29, 1993

Robert Draper's disparaging review of Bella Stumbo's "Until the Twelfth of Never" (Book Review, Aug. 8) consists of three related assertions, to wit, that the book: (1) "suffers greatly, if not fatally, for (sic) its own lopsided sympathies," (2) "views the murderess as a victim from beginning to end, and sees the deceased as two people who virtually forced Betty Broderick to pull the trigger," and (3) "reflects both the ambition and the effort of a definitive work, however hampered it may be by prejudices of the heart." Have Draper and I read the same book?

Draper appears to have missed the point of the book entirely. Stumbo, it seems to me, has written a richly textured account of why Betty Broderick murdered her husband Dan and his second wife Linda. Stumbo's book speaks volumes, fairly and accurately, about the decline of family values, child raising, feminism, the permissiveness of no-fault divorce laws, the cynicism of the legal profession, and the subjectivity of our modern judiciary, not to mention thoughtful and trenchant profiles of La Jolla and San Diego as Southern California communities in the 1980s. As I read some passages, I was reminded of Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities."


The tale of Dan and Betty Broderick has for the last several years had me riveted to the massive media coverage which it has spawned nationwide. Therefore it was with great interest that I recently purchased a copy of "Until the Twelfth of Never."

The book consumed the better part of four days of my life . . . To call this work gripping would be an understatement. For days I felt depressed and listless, not realizing why. After I finished reading, it dawned on me that this book was more than just a compelling story, it was a descent into madness, with me as an unwitting participant along with the principals. I had lived the story, and in doing so learned from both sides how easily and unwittingly we can weave the threads of our own destruction.

Draper doesn't get it. His allegation that Stumbo "views the murderess as a victim from beginning to end" doesn't fly. Anyone who has read this book will realize that everyone involved in this tragedy was a victim. If as he alleges "one can almost see the mesmerized look in the author's eyes" why were my allegiances constantly shifting from one participant to the other and then back again until I realized the impossibility of fingering one single villain? If, as Draper seems to be suggesting, the author has constructed a paean to Betty Broderick, why have authors of the stature of John Gregory Dunne and Charles Murray used phrases like "that rare reporter who misses nothing, is never fooled and writes like a dream" and "one of the toughest, fairest journalists working" to describe the author in regards to this book?



Normally I would not write to comment on The Times' political tilt, which I have acknowledged long ago, if not accepted, but I became incredulous on reading a book review of "The Last Brother" by Joe McGinniss (Aug. 8). The reviewer, Robert Scheer, is a contributing editor.

The extended invective, slurs and downright calumny heaped upon the author read like something out of a 19th-Century political tract. Or perhaps a high-school journalism student who had gone blotto in the heat of overcommitment to slaying with words. From what I could gather, McGinniss had done a smear job on Ted Kennedy and Scheer was out to even the score. I hold no brief for McGinniss, and certainly don't intend to read his book, which I think should not have been given the prominence of a front page in the Book Review section in the first place.


I have not yet written a book, but when and if I do, should it come under the scrutiny of the Times Book Review and writer Robert Scheer, I know one thing for damn sure. I'm glad my teeth are straight.



Thank you for printing the two poems by Officer Lorne D. Gilsig in the Book Review (Aug. 1). They packed a strong emotional wallop. They are helpful in making it possible for non-law enforcement people to understand the emotional stress and frustration that those in law enforcement suffer. You did all of us a big favor.


Officer Gilsig with his poetry in the Book Review of Aug. 1 illustrates a technical fact:

The LAPD does not supply an armored vest that can shield the aching heart of a poet.



Margaret Leslie Davis's book, "Rivers in the Desert: William Mulholland and the Inventing of Los Angeles" (Book Review, July 25) makes an excellent point: "What is needed is another visionary Mulholland to genially deliver the bad news and rally support for a creative solution, for there are no more rivers to bring to the desert." Indeed.

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