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Tailspin: The Strange Case of Major Call 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0945167532
ISBN-10: 0945167539
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

James Arlon Call was a distinguished Air Force major whose life veered off course after his wife's unexpected death in 1952: he went from career military man to career criminal. Drunk, drifting from city to city, using the spoils of his crimes to cover his gambling debts, Call committed serial burglary in the suburbs of Cleveland and upstate New York that culminated two years later in a deadly shootout with police. With his temerity and survival training, Call slipped through the East Coast dragnet (a newspaper termed him "the phantom killer of the Adirondacks") and was finally captured several months later in a Reno pawnshop. But this crime spree is not the bombshell here: tracing Call's fugitive days, Conners (Dancehall), a former FBI agent, posits that Call was in fact the notorious "bushy-haired intruder" wanted in connection with the death of Marilyn Sheppard, better known as the wife of Dr. Sam Sheppard. Marilyn's murder (and her husband's avowed innocence) provided the basis for the television show The Fugitive and its spinoff film franchise, and was recently reexamined brilliantly so and toward a different conclusion in The Wrong Man by James Neff. Part of the problem with Conners's account lies in his narration, a liberal dramatization based on the facts garnished with re-created conversations. Moreover, the Sheppard theory's evidence occurs not in the narrative but in an exhausting 150-page addendum compiled of largely circumstantial evidence, and the decision as to whether Call was involved in the murders is left to the reader's discretion. The result is a two-part book whose conclusions are far from satisfactory. 150 b&w photos.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Major Call had it all: he was a war hero with a beautiful wife, a new baby, and a promising aviation career ahead of him. But when his wife died in 1954, Call's life went into a tailspin. Always a gambler and a risk taker, he went AWOL and began a crime spree that would end in the murder of a policeman in Lake Placid, NY. But novelist and former FBI agent Conners thinks that Call was involved in another murder and shows evidence that he was the "bushy-haired stranger" in the notorious Sheppard murder in Bay Village, OH. The book is split rather awkwardly into two parts, the first narrating Call's life from 1949 (when he met his wife) to his death in 1974 and the second offering circumstantial evidence that links him to Marilyn Sheppard's murder. Possibly, this should have been two books. But Call's life is interesting even without the speculation about the Sheppard case, and this should be considered for regional libraries and large true-crime collections. Deirdre Bray Root, Middletown P.L., OH
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: British American Publishing; 1st edition (May 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0945167539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0945167532
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,172,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. E. Rowland on May 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There is not much I can add to the other reviews. I couldn't put it down either and spent the whole day reading until my eyes gave out. Bernard F. Connors can really write. Major Call, the poetry loving desperado was an almost likable fellow, but as usual, "there was something about him." And God help the person who got in his way. A dedicated military and family man, he couldn't control his rages or his weakness for dangerous situations, fast cars, and stealing. He may very well have been the mysterious bushy haired stranger seen in the Bay Village neighborhood where Marilyn Sheppard was murdered in the 50's. Did he kill her? Read the book and decide for yourself. I went back and re-read parts of the story and studied the haunting photos. There are also documents and additonal photos in the back of the book. This is one you will want to own.
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Format: Hardcover
Written by a former FBI agent Bernard F. Conners who drew upon more than forty years of personal research, Tailspin: The Strange Case Of Major Call is a compelling, fact-based work offering a "literary bloodhound" solution to the still unsolved murder mystery of Major James Arlon Call. A war time hero who, after the death of his beloved wife, turned criminal. He was a man almost larger than life, flawed with a dark and ultimately lethal side when he engaged in a shootout with four police officers, wounding three of them, and one fatally. Gripping, descriptive, and persuasive in its case, Tailspin is an engaging, provocative, true crime narrative that dares to tread the border between historical fact and logical supposition.
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By A Customer on January 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in two sittings.The transformation of Major Call from a distinguished Air Force officer to a criminal is very hard to understand but well told.The story is compelling and grips your attention immediately.He was a very skilled criminal not to mention ruthless.His possible role in the murder of Dr.Sheppard's wife is fairly well established in this book.It would certainly leave you with a reasonable doubt if you were sitting on a jury.His penchant for living on the edge and taking risks makes Bond's 007 pale by comparison.
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By A Customer on April 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Tailspin is a page-turner. While the story of Major Call is indeed fascinating, what makes Tailspin phenomenal is the surprising revelation. Could Major Call have committed one of the most famous unsolved murders of the century? After reading Tailspin, I'm convinced. I couldn't put the book down. Highly recommended. Tailspin is riveting!
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Format: Paperback
The other reviewers must've read a different book than I, or perhaps ignored the author's large appendix in the back, in which the author presents all the physical evidence tying Major James Arlon Call to the murder of Marilyn Sheppard. Each item may be "circumstantial" evidence, but what are the chances that there'd be SO MUCH OF IT? Taken collectively, the evidentiary items implicating Call in the Sheppard murder are overwhelming. Bring this case to a jury with all this evidence and Call would've been put away for life.

The fact that the Sheppard break-in and murder fits Call's criminal M.O., and that he was in the area at the time of the crime is just the tip of the iceberg. Examine the "exhibits" the author includes in his lengthy appendix and we see that too many of Call's confiscated belongings match elements found at the Sheppard murder scene - too many to be mere coincidence, in my opinion. Why the press still points the finger at either Dr. Sheppard himself or the "crazy" handyman Eberling is confusing to me. Neither of those two suspects have against them even a FRACTION of the evidece against Call. I believe law enforcement and the press (particularly TruTV) should take a closer look at Call, and consider the Sheppard case CLOSED.

Yes, the bulk of the book is written in the style of Capote's "non-fiction novel," IN COLD BLOOD, and it therefore re-creates or imagines things which may not have actually happened. But that's immaterial. The case against Major Call rests not in Conners's narrative but in his 150-page appendix.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book without expectations, not even having heard of Maj Call or the events surrounding his life. Great read that moves quickly and provides the reader with a look into a persona that provided both joy and pain to all those individuals that touched his life. The evidence linking Call to the death of Mrs. Shepard is compelling and I think presenting the evidence in the latter part of the book was effective in helping to understand the mindset of Call. Guilty or not guilty was not what I took away from this book, rather it is a look at a life that spiralled downward and the tradgies that unfolded as a result. I'm not sure someone could pull this off today, but it certainly talks to the perceptions just 40-50 years ago. Great book, I also read this in two sittings.
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By A Customer on December 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Author Brian F. Conners new offering of "Tailspin" is brilliantly written about Major James Call, an US Air Force hero,who after the loss of his beautiful wife took a path of criminality, which involved murder,burglary et al. Although non-fiction the book is written with a fictional method. I received this book three days ago and immediately began reading it, unable to close the covers until my reading was completed. This fine work is a must read for those readers who pursue true murder mysteries and police technique. Conners' research is methodical and accurate. It is historical and very interesting.
The 106 Day manhuntfor Call was factual and complex. Read this book, you will enjoy Mr. Conners' written word. Sensational!!!.
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