The authorities are always interested in the assassin's bookshelf. The Israeli police were quick to release the fact that Yigal Amir had a copy of The Day of the Jackal. Before Theodore Kaczynski, the likely 'Unabomber', had even been charged, the press had announced that one of his noms de guerre was 'Conrad' (the nom de plume of Teodor Korzeniowski) and that there was a copy of The Secret Agent on his bookshelf. In the Oklahoma bombing case, now being tried in Denver, the book in question is The Turner Diaries. The FBI, who have labelled William L. Pierce's prudently pseudonymous novel 'the bible of the racist right', didn't take long to leak the information that it accompanied Timothy McVeigh on his (alleged) bombing raid on 19 April 1995. Reference to The Turner Diaries was prominent in Rage and Betrayal, the highly prejudicial ABC programme of 12 April 1996, in which the newscaster Peter Jennings called McVeigh a 'monster' and cited passages from Pierce's book. Parallels between bomb-making in The Turner Diaries and by McVeigh were made much of in Joseph Hartzler's opening address to the jury. The only material evidence produced by the first witness for the prosecution, Charles Hanger, the state trooper who made the arrest, was the fact that, in addition to his gun and knife, McVeigh had in his yellow Mercury copies of a number of tendentious passages from The Turner Diaries (there was some conflict in press reports as to whether they were handwritten, xeroxed or merely highlighted in a copy of the book). Mention has been made of the book on virtually every day of the trial.
LRB 22 May 1997 | PDF Download