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Our Man in Haiti: George de Mohrenschildt and the CIA in the Nightmare Republic Paperback – October 22, 2012
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"Joan Mellen is a rare breed—a biographer who writes with the passion of a truth-seeker, the skill of an artisan, and the attention to detail of a well-trained scholar-researcher. She digs deep and she cares. I look forward to reading every book she writes." —Richard Layman, author, Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett, on A Farewell to Justice
About the Author
Joan Mellen is a professor of English and creative writing at Temple University and author of 20 books—ranging from biography and sports to film criticism—including A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK's Assassination, and the Case That Should Have Changed History. She has written articles for several publications, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She lives in Pennington, New Jersey.
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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.