The Naked City May 2 2017
PLAYING CHESSMAN
Did the legal system use him as a pawn, or was it the other way around?

Caryl Chessman and a detective named E.M. Goossen appear in the above photo made shortly after Chessman's arrest in January of 1948. Chessman had robbed several victims in the Los Angeles area, two of whom were women that he sexually assaulted. He forced one woman to perform oral sex on him, and did the same to the other in addition to anally raping her. Chessman was convicted under California's Little Lindbergh Law, named after Charles Lindbergh's infamously kidnapped and murdered son. The law specifically covered intrastate acts of abduction in which victims were physically harmed, two conditions that made the crime a potentially capital offense.

The law was intended to prevent deliberate acts of kidnapping and ransom, as had occurred in the Lindbergh case, but Chessman's prosecutors—demonstrating typical prosecutorial zeal—argued that Chessman had abducted one victim by dragging her approximately twenty-two feet, and had abducted the other woman when he placed her in his car, then drove in pursuit of the victim's boyfriend, who had fled the scene in his own vehicle. Chessman was indeed sentenced to death. The Little Lindbergh Law was revised while he was in prison so that it no longer applied to his crimes, but his execution was not stayed.

During his nearly twelve years on death row he authored four bestselling books—Trial by OrdealThe Face of JusticeThe Kid Was a Killer, and Cell 2455: Death Row, the latter of which was made into a 1955 movie. The books, many interviews, and a steady stream of articles fueled public debate about his looming execution. Among those who appealed for clemency were Aldous Huxley, the Rev. Billy Graham, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Frost. Their interest was not wholly about Chessman so much as it was about the issue of the cruelty of the death penalty, which had already been abandoned in other advanced nations.
 
In the end the campaigning was ineffective, and Chessman was finally gassed in San Quentin Prison. But even dying, he further catalyzed the death penalty debate. The question of whether a capital punishment is cruel and unusual hinges on whether it causes pain. Gas was held by its proponents to be painless. Chessman had been asked by reporters who would be observing his execution to nod his head if he was in pain. As he was gassed, he nodded his head vigorously and kept at it for several minutes. It took him nine minutes to die. That happened today in 1960.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 26 2012
CELESTIAL BRILLIANCE
Strange adventures on other worlds.

Above and below are ten covers of Planet Stories that appeared between 1948 and 1952, with beautiful, lurid, pulp art from Allen Anderson. The magazine published only interplanetary adventures, and its mix of rocket ships, swashbuckling heroes, space princesses, and hideous aliens proved extremely popular. Some of the many writers whose work graced its pages include Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Leigh Brackett, John D. McDonald, Philip K. Dick, and Clifford D. Simak. Planet Stories ran seventy-one glorious issues, from 1939 to 1955. How could you not be excited to read when this is what awaited you on the newsstands? 

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Intl. Notebook Dec 5 2008
THE PASSING OF THE ACKERMONSTER
Forrest J. Ackerman helped bring science fiction into the mainstream.

Forrest J. Ackerman, who was instrumental in the spread of science fiction and coined the term “sci-fi”, died yesterday at his home in Los Feliz, California. Ackerman is best remembered as the editor/writer of Famous Monsters of Filmland, a magazine that helped establish the literary value of science fiction, and has been cited as an inspiration by some of Hollywood’s most famous actors and directors, including George Lucas. Ackerman was also instrumental in the discovery of Ray Bradbury, who borrowed money to launch his magazine Literary Fantasia.

Ackerman published fifty stories, either alone or in collaboration with other sci-fi writers, penned pulp lesbian novels under the name Laurajean Ermayne, and wrote the origin story of Vampirella and gave the character her unforgettable name. He helped found the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, and the National Fantasy Fan Federation, and generally assumed the role of No. 1 Booster for sci-fi/horror/fantasy. But of all his accomplishments, perhaps nothing symbolized his love of—and value to—science fiction more than his 18-room home the “Ackermansion”, a veritable museum that contained more than 300,000 books and pieces of sci-fi memorabilia. Ackerman had been in failing health, which prompted several premature reports of his death. Sadly, this time the news is true.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 23
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder, Carmen Jones, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Stalag 17, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
April 22
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
April 21
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
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