Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
Haiti Through A Glass, Darkly
on August 26, 2013
I recommend buying and reading this book. There's much good material in it, particularly the light it sheds on US ambitions in the Caribbean in the early 1960s and especially Haiti, the "best nightmare on earth" as one author called it. The strongest chapters and sections are to be found here. There is a long appendix at the end on Texas Oilman H.L. Hunt and the CIA which is quite interesting as well.
The portrait of George de Mohrenschildt, however, is unrelentingly and uniformly negative, to the point it approaches caricature. This is achieved by very careful selection of only the most damning quotes from primary sources. One must treat the words of ex-spouses, former in-laws, business rivals, etc. with a considerable grain of salt. Even in their case one could quote different portions of the very same documents and come up with a near opposite portrait. Wynne Sharples (his third wife) for example says a surprising number of kind things about her ex-husband.
As a counter-balance I suggest reading Sam Ballen's memoir Without Reservations, Priscilla Johnson Macmillan's Priscilla and Lee (just republished), and then carefully reading all of the primary source material on de Mohrenschildt available at the Mary Ferrell Foundation website, including all of the Warren Commission and HSCA documents. A complicated man with many virtues as well as flaws. There is also The Faux Baron, an 800 page biography by Nancy Weiford, that is a much more balanced portrait.
Our Man in Haiti has a fair number of minor inaccuracies regarding de Mohrenschildt. For example, he is described as making $1,600 a month as an adjunct in 1977 (p. 270). A simple adjustment for inflation would suggest he was the envy of adjuncts everywhere, making over $70,000/year in today's dollars. As he was only teaching one course in French during his final semester, he would have been lucky to have been paid that much for the entire spring semester.
De Mohrenschildt's fourth wife, Jeanne, is describe as having left her husband after their divorce in 1973 (p. 267). On the contrary George divorced her, and the two continued to live together until January of 1977, when she went to California to see if she could find work to support them. Once she found a job, George was going to join her. They were communicating by phone during this time. In the end George's daughter, Alexandra, lost her lawsuit against Jeanne contesting her father's will because under Texas law continuing to live together made them "common law" spouses.