The national bestselling author of Zodiac and Zodiac Umasked "will keep readers turning the pages" (Detroit Free Press) with the unsolved murder of Bob Crane, star of TV's "Hogan's Heroes." Seven years after the show's cancellation, Crane was found strangled and bludgeoned to death, his nude corpse surrounded by pornographic snapshots of himself with numerous women, homemade videotapes of the actor's S&M orgies-and few clues to the killer's identity. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (13)
Good insight....bias motives when writing.
I just read this book, as I got it in the mail the other week.I had watched the film "Auto Focus" which impressed me in production/acting and intrigued me to read up on Bob Crane.I scoured the internet and publications for information on the man, his murder and the trial of Carpenter.I then got this book in the mail.I read it...and was not impressed.I am not saying its not a bad read, it has its moments and Graysmith seems to blurt out times, dates and specifics that are really not needed but showed his extensive research into the every move of Crane.Partially.
Many things in the book seem to be left out, time periods such as his time on the "Hogan's" set are mere pages long and other things such as the background of Detective Dean of the Scottdale P.D. and even the climate of Arizona are whole chapters long, who cares about Dean's meager life or Camel Back Mountain to this extent?It's very unbalanced in that regard.One thing became very clear to me from the get-go is the author really was in the corner of the Scottdale troupe' that investigated the murder of Crane.To the point where it was blatant and sad...I rolled my eyes quite a bit reading this.
Though it is well known they handled the investigation horribly, you wouldn't know it by this book.Blame the state officials...not Scottsdale, is the tone of the book.This is a defineate spin job-where's O'Reilly?Sadly it seems Graysmith in an attempt to gain as much inside information, sold his journalistic principles for a look at the Crane evidence box and a few stag movie views.Another instance of go-to was the automatic assumption of guilt for Carpenter whom I found comically as he was so blunt about what they did.I have never heard sex called "balling" before. "Yeah we balled her." -Carpenter states matter of factly.
Reading this book Dean seems dead set on nabbing Carpenter from the start and the entire investigation had tunnel vision.No doubt assisting any other suspects in moving further and further off the radar.Its been what 35 years now...tragic.I read this thinking to myself "No wonder they never solved this, nobody is looking anywhere else".Graysmith happily shows bias writing and even contrives scenerios in a attempt to persuade the reader of Carpenters guilt without facts.Example:The day after the discovery of Crane, Dean had Carpenters car looked at. In page #181 the author writes that a small line of "possible blood" was on the toggle switch...on page #182 it is now "how bloody that toggle switch was" - "allot of blood".With Dean speculating "He wanted to get that weapon out of the vehicle" (On a side not the car had only 300 miles on it, and one other previous renter.If Carpenter had thrown out a weapon he wouldn't have went far and no less throwing a possible tripod stand out a window would have no doubt been located by now).How do you get that from that?On trial they call that leading the witness....here is just hard line speculating...pretty much out of thin air.
But that is enough for Dean and the rest of the book is about his hunt to bring down the big bad Carpenter.This book is an oxymoron of sorts.Graysmith implies Crane had trouble with the Mob for his dubious affair with a woman in Scottdale year before and feared returning, they even have witnesses whom saw him harrased in public by the woman and unknown man, and him running into his apartment while being followed by possibly the same man...yet refuse to acknowledge it possibly played any role in his murder.In true crime lore the mob are very ingrained into local authorities and word is the Pheonix area was amoung the worst...yet this idea and possiblity was never explored.For a true crime book, its an obvious possibility since the car was stationary for days and Dean and his cronies where almost overy pushy to put it on Carpenter.Maybe he wanted to see Crane's sex flicks a few more times and opted not to bring that possibility to light.
Another scenerio not incorperated in the book was Victoria Berry...the women whom found Crane and leading lady to his 2-act play he was currently hussling to make a buck.Her where-abouts before the murder were never fully explained, she had lied to authorities about a sexual relationship with Crane (why would she have wanted to hide that information?Especially in light of a murder...anyone else find that odd), in fact even after she admitted the affair Graysmith opted not to put it in this book-you have to find interviews of her for that online.A witness saw a car that matched Berry's boyfriend's in the morning of the murder by Cranes place and leave abruptly, yet he was never considered a suspect...maybe she was his alibi...who knows.In the center of the book there is a picture of Berry leaving the murder scene, she is dressed in a skimpy pair of shorts...you can see everything...and a tight braless top, if a women ever came to my place looking like that...I would know what she wanted.She was going to sex crazed Cranes pad like that...come on.Yet the idea that her boyfriend had found out a relationship was happenning and axed Crane...again never considered.
A girl Crane saw named Rita, whom people thought was crazy and appeared with Crane and another lady various times in film was interviewed...and also had ties to the mob...btw...can't forget that...even though the author does after initially saying it.She said she talked to Crane all the time on the phone, nearly every day prior to death.She came and went into his place and was a regular.She also claimed to be psychic and could meditate to find the killer when she quote "went in deep"....then she said she knew who the killer was through spiritual help and that Dean had already talked to him.This...this claim...the detectives considered viable to conclude Carpenter as the killer...they actually bought her hoopla as legit...that is evidence?Some wacko chicks ramblings?Good grief.She became a viable witness to them.Ridiculous.She claimed she could re-enact the murder and would later but refused eventually...she also knew of the murder before it was announced...and told a friend...and when asked claimed it was dark intuition brought on by spirits.She requested touching the corpse for further "visions".Are you kidding me?Anyway instead of putting her on a lists of suspects...Dean and the gang consider her a viable help...seriously.But when Carpenter was "grilled" not interviewed mind you, he volunteered a polygraph, and went out of his way to answer all their questions.Yet Dean and company insisted that Carpenter wanted to toy with them, and wave in their face that he was the killer and play a cat and mouse game.Who would do that...espcially if he did kill him and tried to leave Scottdale so fast?So on one hand in the book he is called a cool calculated brilliant killer, and on the other hand they talk about all the dumb mistakes the killer made, so it really never jives the way they portray their quest for Carpenter.The author...instead of showing this bizaar manner of investigating...cheerfully pushes it as credible.The girl...Rita...the medium...well she sold her house 3 days after the murder, dropped off her kid with the Grandparents, skipped town and was never seen or heard from again.Does that sound suspicious to anyone?Not these guys.And literally that was the last she was mentioned in the book...save a line where the author claims...she might have been killed in the desert per rumor.And no one...not the author...not the Scottsdale F-Troop thought this was odd she bolted.Come on people, this is the dumbest investigation ever conducted.You will shake you head a few times like this reading this book.
For a true crime-who done it-book...where's the who done it?It's more less Crane's a sex addict with a camera and Carpenter did it.The book goes all the way up to the trial, when an phantom photo emerges of what the prosecuter believes is "brain tissue".This photo was with the evidence but nobody remembers taking it, nor seeing it before...until the mid 80's...are you serious?Its a picture...period...if you look online you can see it...it looks like a booger...on a door...only a speck.Yet Graysmith runs with it as a smoking gun.Its brain tissue...a retro camera in 1978 takes a grainy pic of a booger thing and thats your best evidence?After two days in the sun...if the photo's orgin is to be believed...and during the trial under oath the forensic team admitted they were unclear as to its orgins.
The book ends with the author trying to persuade the reader of Carpenters guilt, tweaking any movements by Carpenter as a admission of guilt...hell if its hot and his armpits are sweaty...THATS GUILT.The book ends...thankfully...smartly before the trial exposes the case against Carpenter as one thing, weak.He is aquited, as he should have been, his life ruined.I would buy this book if you want some inside into Cranes life through the eyes of a waitress, his son and some detectives in Scottsdale who asked a few people about him.I wouldn't if you wanted something fair and balanced.
Carpenter died a few years after the trial, maintaining his innocence.Saying "Why would I kill him, he was my friend".There hasn't been any evidence to prove they weren't.Sadly Crane got wacked...his kid Scotty posts his porn online...or did he might have taken it down now and nobody has any clue who killed him or why.I guess its one of those great Hollywood mysteries...save its not Hollywood.I was expecting more out of this book.Hopefully someday someone will write one that does his bizaare life and untimely death justice because this isn't it.
Not an easy read.The style of the writing didn't flow well.And the type was incredibly small.
Nice guy slain by unknown hand.
Watching re-runs of Hogan's Heroes I got to wondering about Bob Crane. I thought he was a very good actor so I bought the book on Amazon purely as a matter of historic interest. It's a good book. There's a fair amount of detail especially about his life and work after Hogan. His muderer has never been identified and caught but there are a few theories about who was responsible. Personally, I go along with one of the theories that it was a revenge killing. Bob appeared to be a real ladies man and I guess someone got very jealous when Bob enjoyed a liaison with his wife or mistress.
If you are a Bob Crane fan you will enjoy this book due to the anecdotes about Bob and the details of his life. If you've never even heard of him, you probably won't be reading this review or the book anyway. The author has had to compile this book from insufficient facts and it is padded out a bit. But there is a lot of information here and it makes it a good read for fans of Bob Crane and Hogan's Heroes. Bob comes across as a really likeable man who always has time to chat with fans and people he meets. Perhaps he spoke once too often to the wrong person.
Out of Focus
While the case of the murder of Bob Crane has faded from the public conscience, the plausible and implausible theories have continued to grow particularly in the advent of the internet.Robert Graysmith, best known for his books on the Zodiac killer, also has a theory on Bob Crane's murder which is included in "The Murder of Bob Crane" or the repackaged version "Auto-Focus".It is unlikely that anybody will be convicted of the murder of Bob Crane nearly 30 years after the event.So if nothing else, Graysmith has outlined a collection of the facts in this book with his theory.
It is apparent in the mind of the reader who the author suspects the killer to be in this book.In the first publication, he made his case before John Carpenter ever went to trial.At times, Graysmith becomes cumbersome in his redundant recitation of the facts.The portrayal of the character of Bob Crane is thorough.Graysmith does not shy away from Graysmith's sexually promiscuous lifestyle.The background of other characters seems less clear.Little of John Carpenter is noted aside from his relationship with Crane and fellow Hogan's Heros co-star Richard Dawson.At times, Graysmith seems to suggest that Dawson may have been involved in the murder.
While this is an interesting read, the evidence is largely circumstantial and does not stack up.This may be why Graysmith chose to write such a thorough history of the show Hogan's Heros in the middle chapters.While I enjoyed Graysmith's work on "Zodiac", he seems to be writing this book with one intention.However, he failed to convict Carpenter in my mind.
Boogie Night Blues
He was the guy who played the lead role in history's strangest sitcom, a farce about Allied soldiers imprisoned by the Third Reich. A few years later, Bob Crane was a prisoner himself, of typecasting and a swinger's lifestyle that was not only miserable and unhealthy, but as Robert Goldsmith posits in his book "Auto Focus", ultimately fatal.
Crane was bludgeoned to death in a Scottsdale, Arizona bedroom one June morning in 1978. That brought into sharp focus the sordid way he lived, using the dregs of a once-flourishing career to latch on to as many willing women he could find. Suspicion quickly centered on John Carpenter, a video guy who trolled for sex with Crane, yet the case against him was circumstantial and the horizon of others with motives too vast.
"When you go out like he did, you put yourself in positions where there are very sick scenes," says Joy Claussen, an actress working with Crane at the time of his killing. "When you are that open sexually, you are that nondiscriminative in the way you pick people, you are liable to find some sick people."
Originally published in 1993 as "The Murder Of Bob Crane", which became the subtitle when adapted for the screen as "Auto Focus" in 2002, Graysmith's book is poorly constructed and occasionally repetitive, but oddly hypnotic in the way it draws you into Crane's drab yet compelling world. It's like the flip side of "Boogie Nights", showing you the sad and sordid underbelly of the hot-and-horny 1970s. Like "Auto Focus" the movie, "Auto Focus" the book is explicit in its details but hardly erotic. You might prefer a vow of celibacy than living like this guy did, even minus the brutal end.
KSG's earlier comment here about feeling the spores in the A/C was right on. Graysmith not only charts Crane's last days in hourly detail, but provides a 3-D floor plan of the apartment where he stayed and was murdered. What were Carpenter's swim trunks doing in Crane's place? What clue did the killer give to his identity by cutting a wire from an almost-inaccessible location to wrap around the already-dead Crane?
Some criticize Graysmith's unwillingness to entertain more than one suspect seriously. It's obvious he thinks Carpenter, feeling betrayed by Crane's apparent unwillingness to continue their relationship (Crane's son Bob Jr. suggests his dad was losing his taste for the "kicks" he got with Carpenter tagging along), had the motive, and it's hard to argue with the blood-smeared rental car Carpenter left as evidence. But Scottsdale police, unused to murders, left some loose ends, and there were other worthy suspects, like angry husbands, freaky girlfriends, and a future ex-wife who stood to inherit Crane's fortune.
Graysmith sucks up details like a Hoover, and doesn't synthesize well. He brings up episodes like an opening one involving a flat tire that seem to portend much but is left flapping in the breeze. Too often he seems to be paraphrasing the police report, with no commentary of his own. Yet his artless style has a certain validity in how it presents critical case facts interspersed with ephemera, leaving you to make the connections. Even his detours into the desert life of Maricopa County, and the series run of "Hogan's Heroes" years before Crane's murder, brings out aspects of the victim's life and lifestyle that resonate when you think about them.
"Detectives had enough leads for a dozen murders," Maricopa County Attorney Charles Hyder declares in deciding not to pursue a case against Carpenter. Crane left a great story behind, and a life not worth emulating. "Auto Focus" is an intriguing police procedural and a worthy morality tale.
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