Good Questions

July 2001

Who Killed John Lennon? by Fenton Bresler
Reviewed by David Cogswell

When I first saw this title I said, "No, no, no. I'm not ready for this. I still haven't come to terms with several other murder conspiracies and I don't need this one."

I was inclined to take the story of Lennon's death at face value, that which was offered by the major media at the time. I certainly did not want to think there was something more sinister behind the Lennon killing.

When I picked up the book out of curiosity I found not the ravings of a "conspiracy nut," but a very coherent and rational investigation into the murderer. It had been "an open and shut" case, so few questions were ever raised about it at the time.

But the book reminded me that some of the reports about it had made me wonder vaguely at the time. I had not pursued the questions then and believed that I was being told the truth. Like others who loved John Lennon, I was grief stricken at the time and not inclined to ask a lot of questions. When news reports described Chapman's movements the week of the murder, they said he had traveled to Hawaii, to Chicago, sold some paintings, then traveled to New York. I wondered: if this guy is such a loser as they describe, who can barely get a job, where does he get the money to travel like this and deal in art?

Bresler's book picks up that thread and examines Chapman, where he came from, how he spent his life before he entered history as another "lone assassin," and provides some interesting speculation where, indeed, he may have found the means to travel and purchase expensive works of art. The resulting picture is not pretty, does not inspire confidence in U.S. government agencies.

Without engaging in any adventurous speculation, you can find information in the book which is extremely disturbing about the activities of the FBI. Some of the FBI documents on the surveillance of Lennon, which were obtained by Bresler through the Freedom of Information Act, reflect the frightening cloak-and-dagger mindset of agents of the bureau as they watch and take notes on Lennon as he goes to the deli to buy yogurt during a recording session, or whatever else his daily routines entailed. Whatever your final conclusion, it is hard not to at least be disturbed by how these people are spending your tax money.

I wish the book were still in print.

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