To Kingdom Come: A Review

A disclaimer to begin this review. I am not an “artsy-fartsy” kinda guy. The art exhibits to which I have been were all in the company of a woman. Half a century ago a young lady was accompanied to a place in San Francisco to see an exhibit of Maxfield Parrish

prabook.com

paintings. The experience is still indelibly etched into my memory. Blue has always been my favorite color and the vibrant blue hues of his paintings were amazing. The paintings found in books seem pale in comparison to seeing the paintings up close and personal.

https://www.sfheritage.org/news/palace-hotel-announces-removal-of-treasured-maxfield-parrish-painting/

Prior to the pandemic I read something about an author, Claudia Riess, “a Vassar graduate, has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker and Holt, Rinehart and Winston, and has edited several art history monographs,” who had written about the death of World Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine,

https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/alekhine3.html

so I reached out only to learn Chess played a small role in the books she had already written, and was still writing. She sent me the first three books of a series of four books but they were misplaced during the pandemic. It was only years later the unopened package was discovered. After again contacting Claudia she sent the fourth book of the series, suggesting I review it first, as it is her latest effort in “An Art History Mystery” series. The title is, “To Kingdom Come.”

The first read was the last book of the series.

The truth is my taste in reading art books has been more along the lines of, The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft, by Ulrich Boser. Some years later I read another book concerning the heist, Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World’s Greatest Art Heist, by Stephen Kurkjian. Then came, History’s Biggest Art Heist: The largest art theft in history remains unsolved after thieves stole 13 masterpieces worth $500 million from a Boston museum. So whodunit? by Christopher Klein (https://www.history.com/news/historys-biggest-art-heist-remains-unsolved). Years later another book about the heist was published, WHITEY’S HEIST: The BREAKING of the GARDNER MUSEUM WILL an ongoing ENTERPRISE, by Jeffrey Barrett.

At Amazon one finds: “James WHITEY Bulger gave me a Gardner Museum ART HEIST interview in Waikiki, Hawaii just one month before he was arrested in California. ONLY after my death can you release this true story. Harvard orchestrated the breaking of the Isabella Stewart Gardner WILL that stipulated if anything was moved taken or sold the entire paintings and collection would be given to Harvard to be sold at their discretion. Harvard made Gardner Museum broke and in disrepair a new WILL modified deal to save it from total ruination The Gardner Family especially John Gardner gladly agreed to the new Harvard Museums/Gardner Museum Collaboration. The theft from the Blue Room of Manet’s the Chez Tortani was a key deliberate act of the Gardener Museum ensuring they were deliberately involved in the selling of that one piece of art because the thieves never entered the Blue Room that evening.”

In addition, during these years I read an article, Stéphane Breitwieser: World’s Most Notorious Art Thief (https://pursuitmag.com/stephane-breitwieser-story-worlds-notorious-art-thief/), which was so interesting I read other articles about the art thief: The Secrets of the World’s Greatest Art Thief (https://www.gq.com/story/secrets-of-the-worlds-greatest-art-thief); and, Stephane Breitwieser: The Truth About The Art Thief Who Stole $1.4 Billion (https://www.grunge.com/478873/stephane-breitwieser-the-truth-about-the-art-thief-who-stole-1-4-billion/?utm_campaign=clip).

The latest article read on the subject was: The Case of the Disputed Lucian Freud: A collector thought he had bought a painting by the celebrated British artist. How far would he go to prove it? By Sam Knight
September 19, 2022. (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/09/26/the-case-of-the-disputed-lucian-freud)

This has been fascinating reading because, The Fake Art Industry Is Booming Online: From exhibition catalogue pages marketed as original prints to brazenly fake “authorized” copies of Harings and Warhols, we’re living in a golden age of art piracy, by Chris Cobb September 28, 2022 (https://hyperallergic.com/764867/the-fake-art-industry-is-booming-online/)

Caveat Emptor. One of the things learned is that it is extremely difficult to prosecute art thieves because it is difficult to prove what was stolen was an original work. As P.T. Barnum famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

With a background like that it should be obvious why I would look forward to reading “An Art History Mystery.”

To Kingdom Come is a very well written, and researched, book that flowed, and it was a pleasure to read. I will admit it became obvious there was some difficulty in keeping the players straight in my memory. An earlier article read stated, “One early indicator of memory issues, according to Dr. Restak, is giving up on fiction. “People, when they begin to have memory difficulties, tend to switch to reading nonfiction,” he said. “Over his decades of treating patients, Dr. Restak has noticed that fiction requires active engagement with the text, starting at the beginning and working through to the end. “You have to remember what the character did on Page 3 by the time you get to Page 11,” he said. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/06/well/mind/memory-loss-prevention.html)

That sounded like me. I therefore decided to associate each different character with someone previously known, so that when they popped up again all that had to be done was to “see” the character in my mind. It worked for me…

The review will begin with what can be found at Amazon:

“Amateur sleuths, Erika Shawn-Wheatley, art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, art history professor, attend a Zoom meeting of individuals from around the globe whose common goal is to expedite the return of African art looted during the colonial era. Olivia Chatham, a math instructor at London University, has just begun speaking about her recent find, a journal penned by her great-granduncle, Andrew Barrett, an active member of the Royal Army Medical Service during England’s 1897 “punitive expedition” launched against the Kingdom of Benin.

Olivia is about to disclose what she hopes the sleuthing duo will bring to light when the proceedings are disrupted by an unusual movement in one of the squares on the grid. Frozen disbelief erupts into a frenzy of calls for help as the group, including the victim, watch in horror the enactment of a murder videotaped in real time.

It will not be the only murder or act of brutality Erika and Harrison encounter in their two-pronged effort to hunt down the source of violence and unearth a cache of African treasures alluded to in Barrett’s journal.

Much of the action takes place in London, scene of the crimes and quest for redemption.” (https://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Come-Art-History-Mystery-ebook/dp/B09Z1KFNB4/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8)

Amazon shows seven reviews of the book but only three are given, each from the United States. All three reviews are given five stars, and were written by women. The other reviews, with either four, or three stars, are from elsewhere in the world but are not shown. None of the reviews were read. To the book:

A fellow named Harrison is married to a woman, Erika, and they have a young child. Erika is the star of the book, which would have made Mother, who read all of the Perry Mason books, happy. It was obviously a man’s world ‘back in the day’ and the only woman was the secretary, Della Street. If Claudia had been writing the Perry Mason books Della would have solved the crimes.

The most disconcerting thing written in the book came out of nowhere when Harrison asks, “Erika, am I losing you?”

This was simply a non sequitur, as it came out of the blue and was totally unnecessary, other than to confirm the woman was in control and her husband nothing but ancillary. The author has turned the husband into an insecure wimp for no reason whatsoever.

“The question was an explosion, yet delivered so softly, it was as if she knew she’d been shot, but not in what part of her body.
Am I, Erika?”
She climbed back into bed and moved his laptop aside. “Where did that come from? How can you ask – how can you think that?”
“I don’t know. You have it all. Your career, our child, your breakthrough ideas, your fawning detective, lapping up your every word. What do you need me for? An occasional roll in the hay?”
She could not help laughing. Higher pitched than her usual laugh. “First of all, where did you come up with that dated expression? Second, where do you come off calling it occasional?”
“I’m serious.”
“So am I.” She was giddy, on the verge of tears. “This is coming out of nowhere. You know I love you – need you, Harrison. You fulfill me.”

Reading the above caused bile to rise up in my throat making me want to HURL!

It also caused me to wonder if that made it qualify for “Chick Lit,” which has, according to some, “fallen out of fashion with publishers while writers and critics have rejected its inherent sexism.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick_lit#cite_note-googlewordcount-1) Has it become de rigeur for the male to be included only to protect and support the female? The pendulum has swung the other way and women are graduating from college in larger numbers than men (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/11/08/whats-behind-the-growing-gap-between-men-and-women-in-college-completion/). There has been a sea change in the number of female politicians over the past few decades. When coming of age often heard was a woman saying, “It’s a man’s world.” Has it become a “woman’s world?” I do not care to read about weak, insecure men. It is difficult to imagine Perry Mason and Paul Drake playing the parts of Harrison and John, the detective, while Della Street solves the case.

But wait, there’s more, unfortunately. Erika, who if you recall, is a young mother with a young child she has left behind in New York with not a family member, but a hired “nanny,” for who knows how long while she gallivants all over the world. From what is written it would have been much better if Harrison had been left behind in New York to care for the child because Erika is no team player as she goes off alone to catch someone who has already murdered at least once. The two men have no clue where the woman is because she gave them the slip. The book strains credulity.

After finishing the book I was left wondering… Then the page was turned and there were the “End Notes” and after reading I wondered no more as the notes brought it all together and answered the questions in my mind. The author informs the reader of how a “…reference to the Benin Bronzes sparked an idea for an art history mystery.” The author writes, “I read the reviews of books written on the Kingdom of Benin (in modern-day Nigeria!) and, more specifically, on the British “punitive expedition” of 1897, during which thousands of art and artifacts were seized from Benin City, a few in retaliation for an aggressive action that had occurred about a month earlier. Dan Hick’s The British Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution, appeared to be the most comprehensive coverage of the event and its surrounding history. I started my education with the Hicks book, and the sentence of his that most succinctly summed up the event and got my blood boiling was this:

“The sacking of Benin City in February 1897 was an attack on human life, on culture, on belief, on art, and on sovereignty.”

The author was not the only one with boiling blood. Everybody wants to rule the world. Might is right. There are untold spoils of war hidden deep in the vaults in Great Britain, and other countries, that were stolen from other countries. All of those ill-gotten gains should be returned to the countries of origin.

The Evil Empire Battles Ukraine

I usually do not comment on a knock-out type tournament, especially one so-called a “world championship,” but the final match between a Russian and a Ukrainian with the situation, Russian encroachments and troops and tanks one the border, is the closest thing the chess world has seen to the situation when American Bobby Fischer challenged the Russian Boris Spassky for the World Championship in 1972 during the Cold War. GM Kevin Spraggett wrote about Natalia Pogonina and Mariya Muzychuk, “…who I understand are friends.” (https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/pogonina-unstoppable/) That friendship may last no matter which player wins the match, but it will not last when the real war with weapons of destruction begins.

Make no mistake, if the insane Rootin’ Tootin’ Pootin’ does not back down, there will be war. The West has no choice but to call Putin’s bluff. “Let us not forget that Ukraine has been guaranteed, in 1994, the protection of its territorial integrity by the United States. Ukraine gave up nukes! Very few people remember it was the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. [Not honouring the gurantee] is very bad, not only for the United States – Bill Clinton’s signature was there. Ukraine gave up twelve hundred nuclear warheads, more than England, France and China combined, in exchange for guarantees from America and Great Britain. This will have implications way beyond Ukraine’s borders, because it destroys the credibility of the White House, it destroys the credibility of the free world, and it sends a message, let’s say to Iran, that you need nukes to protect your borders. Same can apply to Japan, South Korea, countries that are facing a rising threat from China. It will be a totally different world unless we follow the promises written on paper and signed by the leaders of the free world.” -Garry Kasparov
(http://en.chessbase.com/post/kasparov-on-putin-ukrainian-nukes-nemtsov)

The lead story in the magazine Modern War #16, March-April 2015, is Visegrad: The Coming War in Eastern Europe, by David March. (http://modernwarmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MW16-v5F-TOC.pdf)
It is also possible to play a board game before the real war begins. (http://shop.decisiongames.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=VASS19)

I have followed the games of the Muzychuk sisters because they play the Leningrad Dutch, most of which I have played over in recent years, so I would be predisposed to pulling for Mariya in this prelude to war. After reading the article, and Putin as Warlord, by Gilberto Villahermosa, in the same magazine, I believe Russia will lose World War III, just as I expect the Russian, Pogonina, to be stopped and lose the match with the Ukrainian, Mariya Muzychuk.

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Dominic “Lone Nut” Lawson

Dominic Lawson is the President of the English Chess Federation. An article he has written, “Dialogues of the deluded: Computers and the death of kibitzing,” was published in New In Chess 2014/7. He writes, “…the computer-aided kibitzing on chess websites has become increasingly ugly-and stupid.” This may, or may not be so, but what happens to the Royal game when fans lose interest and stop kibitzing?

Mr. Lawson goes on to further insult kibitzers, fans of chess, by writing, “There is an even less appealing explanation for some of the more savage online abuse of our leading grandmasters from patzers armed with large computer programs. Perhaps they are the chess equivalent of nonentities who try to assassinate great men-a grim feature of American public life over the decades. Just as the gun enables the inconsequential loner to somehow ‘equalize’ himself with, say, John Lennon or John F. Kennedy, so the computer allows the talentless to prove themselves ‘better’ than celebrated grandmasters. And via online comments they can broadcast their imaginary superiority to the world.”

This man, Lawson, is a citizen of Great Britain, yet he has chosen to disparage America. Need he be reminded of the assassinations that occurred in his country long before there was an America? Why the man chose to single out America when assassinations have taken place in almost every country in the world is beyond my comprehension. If that is not bad enough, Lawson has continued to promulgate the shibboleth that an “inconsequential loner,” i.e. a “lone-nut,” was responsible for the cold-blooded murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 on the streets of Dealy Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Nothing could be further from the truth. With a modicum of research Lawson would have known this fact, but he obviously did not do his due diligence, and nor did the editors of New In Chess magazine, which is published in The Netherlands.

All of these people, Lawson and everyone at New In Chess, must be unaware that “The United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was established in 1976 to investigate the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr..” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_Select_Committee_on_Assassinations)

“The Final Report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations presents the HSCA’s findings in the murders of both President John F. Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The HSCA found a “probable conspiracy” in the JFK assassination, but was unable to determine its nature or participants.” (http://www.history-matters.com/archive/contents/hsca/contents_hsca_report.htm)

It is impossible for there to be a conspiracy of one “inconsequential loner.” Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman, who rode in the front of the Presidential limousine during JFK’s assassination, describing what the Warren Commission would later describe as a single fatal shot said, “Now, in the seconds that I talked just now, a flurry of shots come into the car.” (http://history-matters.com/index.htm) Secret Service Agent Kellerman, who had taken a vow to protect the POTUS, sat in the front seat talking on the radio in lieu of thrusting himself into the back seat in order to try and save the life of his President. It has been written in many books on the assassination that Jackie Kennedy, after the assassination of her husband, was at a party and saw a picture of Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman. She then took a pen and wrote, “Killerman” on it.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a paid informant of the FBI at the time of the assassination, has been blamed for killing Kennedy. “No nitrates (contained in powders in gases when a weapon is discharged) were found on Oswald’s cheek when a paraffin test as conducted following his arrest.”
“Since the paraffin wax seeps deep down in to the pores, it is a very sensitive test,” wrote G. Paul Chambers in his scientific approach to the assassination, “Head Shot.” Even washing one’s face prior to the test will not remove all presence of nitrates. As someone who has worked extensively with ball powders, I can tell you that reacted powders have a very distinctive odor, which is difficult to get out of your skin and clothes. The presence of nitrates may indicate that he had fired a revolver, for instance (he was accused of shooting Officer Tippet on the same day as the assassination), however, nitrates could also have gotten on his hands from other sources, such as paper or ink. The absence of nitrates on his cheek is court-admissible evidence, however, that he had not fired a rifle that day.” This is taken from the book, “The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ,” by Roger Stone. This is only one of a plethora of books about the assassination of JFK by LBJ. Others are, “LBJ and the Conspiracy to Kill Kennedy,” by Joseph P. Farrell; “LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination,” by Phillip F. Nelson; “Blood, Money, & Power: How LBJ Killed JFK,” by Barr McClellan; and LBJ and the Kennedy Killing, by eyewitness James T. Tague. Are you beginning to see a pattern, Mr. Lawson?

What Dominic Lawson wrote is an insult to all questioning and reasoning, Americans. What makes it even worse is the fact that the first books printed questioning the “official version” of the assassination of JFK were written in Europe by Europeans. The fact that New In Chess has printed such erroneous information only serves to sully the once fine reputation of the magazine. By publishing such nonsense New In Chess helps those who conspired to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. There is nothing better for the guilty than for people in positions of influence to continue to facilitate the cover-up, and the lie, that some “lone nut” shot JFK.

What has been written, and published, is analogous to my writing on this blog that the Queen of England ordered the assassination of Princess Diana. I cannot write that Queen Elizabeth of England, acting as a lone nut, ordered the cold-blooded murder of Princess Diana because I have no facts to confirm that the Queen of England, Elizabeth, gave the order to eliminate Princess Diana “by any means necessary.” For all I know, Harry Pearce, of MI-5, gave the order to agent 007, James Bond. But there are, and will continue to be, rumors. A reasoning man deals in facts, Mr. Lawson.

As for the assassination of John Lennon I would suggest Mr. Lawson to read, “Rethinking John Lennon’s Assassination: The FBI’s War on Rock Stars,” by Salvador Astucia.