Fatal Vision

Fatal Vision - Joe McGinniss The book about Jeffrey MacDonald and the murder of his family is not without controversy and detractors. Janet Malcolm's 1990 book, The Journalist and the Murderer," accused McGinniss of acting like a confidence man, pretending friendship to gain MacDonald's trust long after McGinnis had been convinced of his guilt. As she herself posits in her book, this is part of journalism's stock and trade. I've seen it in action myself. I found myself misquoted once in a national, very famous magazine--and I had considered the writer of the article a friend. He caught me when I was upset and just blurted out how I felt, only to find it used and distorted on the page. I asked him why he made up the words he put into my mouth and his answer to me was simple: "The way I wrote it was funnier." I've been peripherally involved twice in events surrounding news stories--what I read in the newspapers and magazines bore little resemblance to the facts I personally knew. So Malcolm's accusation that McGinniss tarted up MacDonald's personality, forcing him into the profile of a narcissist to better sell the book does hit home with me. It's a serious and on the face of it a plausible charge given my own experience. However I vividly remember the 60 Minutes interview by Mike Wallace of MacDonald confronting him with passages from Fatal Vision in manuscript. His story just didn't wash, for multiple reasons you can read about in this book. I certainly have no doubts, especially after reading this book, that MacDonald is guilty beneath his glossy, charismatic surface. Those defending him try to blacken McGinniss' motives and methods, but I don't see them disputing his facts. Yes, there's something unsavory about how McGinniss got his story, just as there was with the documentary of Michael Jackson put together by Martin Bashir that put forth unsavory allegations about Jackson's relationships with young boys. Both men betrayed a trust, but that doesn't mean either story is inaccurate. One thing for sure, you can't question McGinniss got very close to his query: enough for us to get a very intimate picture of, if not a narcissist as claimed, than a man who murdered his own family. And McGinniss is a good writer. I'm not a regular imbiber of true crime books, but this book has been in print since 1983 for good reasons: it's a compelling, completely engrossing well-written book.