“Part fiction, part documentary, “Rose Cherami: Gathering Fallen Petals” traces the lifelong travail of Melba Christine Youngblood Marcades later known as Rose Cherami) as she endures childhood abuse at the hands of a brutal father, and a lifelong addiction to heroin, sex and alcohol. The brilliant realism of the section on “Crit’s” two year stint at Angola, the Louisiana State Prison, is alone worth the price of admission. I’ve visited Angola myself and can testify to the credibility of its astonishing detail. Expect nightmares. Although Crit manifests little ability to comprehend the long term consequences of her lack of moral stamina, you will sympathize with her. The harrowing account of her death is new to me and probes her sad end as far as the author, her son, can take us. You may not discover anything new about the Kennedy assassination here. You will be offered a window into the life of a minor character in the swirling conspiracies, and “Rose” is given the respect and sympathy that she deserves. This book will linger with you.”
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Perhaps no president has a more ambiguous reputation than LBJ. A brilliant tactician, he maneuvered colleagues and turned bills into law better than anyone. But he was trailed by a legacy of underhanded dealings, from his “stolen” Senate election in 1948 to kickbacks he artfully concealed from deals engineered with Texas wheeler-dealer Billie Sol Estes and defense contractors like his longtime supporter Brown & Root. On the verge of investigation, Johnson was reprieved when he became president upon JFK’s assassination. Among the remaining mysteries has been LBJ’s relationship to Mac Wallace who, in 1951, shot a Texas man having an affair with LBJ’s loose-cannon sister Josefa, also Wallace’s lover. When arrested, Wallace cooly said “I work for Johnson…I need to get back to Washington.” Charged with murder, he was overnight defended by LBJ’s powerful lawyer John Cofer, and though convicted, amazingly received a suspended sentence. He then got high-security clearance from LBJ friend and defense contractor D.H. Byrd, which the Office of Naval Intelligence tried to revoke for 11 years without success.
Using crucial Life magazine and Naval Intelligence files and the unredacted FBI files on Mac Wallace, never before utilized by others, investigative writer Joan Mellen skillfully connects these two disparate Texas lives and lends stark credence to the dark side of Lyndon Johnson that has largely gone unsubstantiated.