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Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders

4.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1560852001
ISBN-10: 1560852003
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Mark Hofmann, 32, pled guilty to two bombing murders in Salt Lake City in 1985, a case that made national headlines. Apparently a successful rare documents collector and church-going family man, Hofmann was really a skillful forger and con artist. A third bomb accidentally exploded in his car, sending Hofmann to the hospital and his undoing. Many of his forgeries cast doubt on traditional views of early Mormonism and were potentially embarrassing to church leaders who purchased them. The leaders were in contact with Hofmann just prior to the murders, which were an attempt to prevent discovery and financial ruin. Hofmann killed an associate andto divert suspiciona stranger. Both books about this complex and fascinating case are well researched. The Mormon Murders is scathing in its criticism of the Mormon hierarchy for trying to cover up its involvement with Hofmann. The authors, both attorneys, believe that the prosecutor, a Mormon, was pressured to plea bargain in order to avoid a trial. Salamander, published in Salt Lake City by writers familiar with Mormon society, is a more matter-of-fact report, and while it is less dramatic, it is detailed and intelligent. The Mormom Murders may attract more readers, but both books can be recommended. Gregor A. Preston, Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

 Linda Sillitoe is a graduate of the University of Utah. As a Deseret News staff reporter, news features editor for Utah Holiday magazine, and a New York Times correspondent, she garnered awards from the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Associated Press. Her non-fiction includes Banking on the Hemingways: Three Generations of Banking in Utah and Idaho, Friendly Fire: The ACLU in Utah, and Welcoming the World: A History of Salt Lake County. She is also the author of a collection of poetry, a collection of short stories, and a novel and has contributed to several anthologies of poetry and short stories. She has taught journalism on several college campuses. She co-produced the PBS-affiliated documentary, “Navajo and American.” She lives in Mesa, Arizona.

Allen Dale Roberts is an award-winning architect (Cooper-Roberts Architects) specializing in historical restoration. He is the co-founder of Sunstone magazine, co-editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and is a contributing author to Religion, Feminism, and Freedom of Conscience: A Mormon/Humanist Dialogue. He has been published in the Utah Historical Quarterly and elsewhere and is the recipient of a Best Article Award from the Mormon History Association. He is a board member of the Utah Endowment for the Humanities and is the Utah Advisor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

George J. Throckmorton, an expert in document authentication, was the first to expose Mark Hofmann’s forgeries. His analysis is included as an appendix to Salamander. A member of the SLCPD, he serves on the board of directors of the Southwest Association of Forensic Document Examiners and is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 570 pages
  • Publisher: Signature Books (April 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560852003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560852001
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,270,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the story of the greatest document forger in history. The LDS Church is only one of many victims of Mark Hoffman. While it primarily involved Mormon historical documents, it also involved the poetry of Emily Dickenson and other historical American documents, especially the Oath of a Freeman.
The book is well written and the story captivating. While some have described Salamander as "Mormon friendly" I would not call it "faith promoting". It provides some insights into Utah culture, politics and religion which in fact overlap quite a bit. What is most extraordinary is that, despite two cold blooded murders, no one, except the police, seemed to want this case to go to trial!
I also read The Mormon Murders : A True Story of Greed, Forgery, Deceit, and Death by Gregory W. Smith, Steven W. Naifeh after Salamander. A shame that it is out of print. It takes you deeper into the story and fills in many things missing from Salamander. I would recommend reading Salamander first and then The Mormon Murders.
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"Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders" is a very fine analysis of one of the most bizarre stories in Mormon history. It tells the story of the Salt Lake City bombings on 15 and 16 October 1985 that killed Steven F. Christensen and Kathleen B. Sheets and seriously injured Mark W. Hofmann.

One of the scenarios developed during the period immediately following the deaths of Christensen and Sheets on 15 October, associated the bombings with high finance and the crumbling business empire of J. Gary Sheets, husband of Kathleen and former associate of Christensen. Sheets' business, CFS Financial Corporation, was in a well-publicized nose-dive. His investors and creditors were clamoring for repayment and Sheets was considering bankruptcy. Christensen had left CFS a few months earlier unhappy with the direction Sheets had charted for the company. Could Sheets have planted the bombs to collect insurance money on the victims or to keep them from talking about illicit business dealings? Could disgruntled investors have placed the bombs? No one knew.

If this were true, it bore no relationship to the Mormon church. The monkey-wrench in this scenario was what appeared to be the attempted murder of Hofmann on the morning of 16 October. He was not associated with CFS in any way, but he had a business relationship with Christensen revolving around the discovery and sale of Mormon historical documents. Christensen had purchased from Hofmann the so-called "Salamander Letter" of Martin Harris to W.W. Phelps, which had been unveiled in a circus-like meeting of the Mormon History Association in May 1985. After Hofmann's bombing most of the speculation suggested that the murders were linked to that document and the study of Mormon origins.
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This is the most reliable book about Mark Hoffman, his forgeries and his murders. It was written by two veteran Utah journalists with intimate knowledge of the Mormon church and Utah culture. They bend over backwards to be fair and objective (two words which have fallen into disuse in the media) but are not afraid to draw the appropriate conclusions. This is one of the most amazing crime stories in American history, and yet it remains little understood and only haphazardly known. Hoffman's forgeries still turn up at auctions of rare documents (most recently, some supposedly lost writings of Emily Dickinson.) Sillitoe and Roberts lucidly lead you through the maze of Hoffman's deception and establish the truth as it is currently understood (although who knows what mind-boggling facts will come to light in the future--Hoffman is on ice in Utah State Prison, still refusing to give up the last details of his crimes.) Not anti-Mormon like "The Mormon Murders" nor a mere parroting of the official church version of events, this is an invaluable work about how Utah and the LDS church really works.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders by Linda Sillitoe & Allen Roberts

October 15, 1995 saw Salt Lake City the scene of tragedy. A bomber killed Steven Christensen at his office door. A second bomb killed Kathy Sheets on the sidewalk outside her garage. This bomb was intended for her husband Gary Sheets, but sadly killed his wife instead.

Then there came a third blast. Mark Hofmann was horribly wounded by a bomb that went off in his car, but survived. Someone had it out for document dealers, as all three men mention were in the business of trading in old documents. But whom?

Slowly the police put the case together. It was their belief that Hofmann himself was the bomber. But what kind of motive would he have to kill people associated with him in the document trade?

Hofmann had made several discoveries of old documents which put the Mormon Church in a less favorable light. The Church wanted the documents to place in their highly guarded library, and Hofmann was quite willing to sell. Then he discovered other documents, that while not harming church doctrine would rewrite church history. Again the document sold.

Now Hoffman promised a find of a lifetime that he called the McLellin collection, and hinted about the fabled lost 116 pages of the book of Mormon. But now came a problem. Hofmann kept putting off the purchase of the documents, and he owed a lot of money. A sale he thought rock solid had fallen through. People began to demand documents and/or money.

It was latter proven that the majority if not all of the documents Mark Hoffmann sold were forgeries created by himself. They had passed expert examination, but upon closer study 21 documents proved forgeries.
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