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BOOK REVIEW: "Caught in the Crossfire" by Adam Gorightly

"Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation" by Adam Gorightly
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BOOK REVIEW: Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation by Adam Gorightly (Feral House) 2014

The prolific conspiracy writer Adam Gorightly is a busy man. And he has no shortage of fascinating topics to research and write about. 

Just two months after we reviewed his last book, Historia Discordia – The Origins of the Discordian Society, and it’s co-founder Kerry Thornley, Gorightly (you can’t go wrong with Gorightly!) once again explores the strange life of a cutting edge and engaging counterculture figure who mystifies many to this day.

Gorightly first explored Thornley’s life in The Prankster and the Conspiracy and has since dug deeper in this analysis of Thornley’s puzzling links to alleged John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and the seedy underworld that swirled around many of the key figures believed to have been involved in that “killing of the king” in November 1963.

The Whittier, Calif. native thought a freewheeling stint with a  frat at USC made sense, but he discovered this was a turn off and thought his best chance at adventure, seeing the world and pursuing a writing career would start with him joining the U.S. Marines.

Whether it was fate, synchronicity or just bad luck, Thornley would cross paths with Oswald while the two were stationed at El Toro Marine Base near Irvine, California.

And while Thornley described Oswald as the “outfit eight ball” who subscribed to communist newspapers, cracked jokes with an exaggerated Russian accents and called his fellow jarheads “comrades.” But, Thornley and Oswald hit it off, to a certain degree, talking politics, particularly about Marxist-Leninism and the state of the world. Though never “friends,” the two remained acquaintances – until a misunderstood joke led Oswald to discontinue his intellectual relationship with Thornley.

Ever the seeker, Thornley would convert to Marxism and then do an about-face and embrace Randian Objectivism and libertarian thought. He also continued on his writing career, and completed a book titled The Idle Warriors. and earned the “historical distinction” of being the first writer to write about Oswald before JFK was assassinated.

“The Idle Warriors, a novel about a young Marine’s disillusionment as a result of overseas duty,” writes Gorightly. “The protagonist of this work in progress, Johnny Shellburn, was a composite character based on Kerry and other Marines he had known, one of whom was Oswald.”

As he had been writing The Idle Warriors, Oswald famously defected to the Soviet Union, a turn of events that helped Thornley complete the book about his sometime acquaintance who would become infamous.

By this time, Thornley was living in New Orleans, working as a waiter and hanging out in the French Quarter and already hanging out with the likes of mysterious characters like Nazi thug Gary Kirstein (possibly E. Howard Hunt?) and Slim Brooks. He recalls anti-Castro “private detective” Guy Banister being interested in his writings and talking to David Ferrie (another right-winger) at a party. Reading the accounts of Thornley’s life is almost too unbelievable, in the light of JFK lore and Oliver Stone’s controversial 1991 film JFK.

It’s from this point forward where Gorightly takes readers deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole that is the JFK assassination.

Thornley lets the feds know he was “friends” with Oswald and that they served together in the Marine Corps. And then there was The Idle Warriors book. He would (suspiciously) move to Arlington, Virginia (heavy CIA presence) “to increase the likelihood of appearing before the Warren Commission, which had formed shortly after the assassination.” He claimed it was to better market The Idle Warriors book. He would testify in 1964 and the commission kept a copy of The Idle Warriors. A later book, in 1965, titled Oswald, largely goes along with the Warren Commission findings of a lone gunman, although his views would alter over the years, particularly as he fell deeper into paranoia.

With New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison having launched his probe into the assassination – due to many links right there in New Orleans – Thornley would find himself going from witness to suspect in the eyes of Garrison and his team. After all, Garrison thought “a cabal of intelligence agents had masterminded JFK’s assassination” with its base of operations right there in Guy Banister’s Detective Agency.

In a later chapter titled “A Homosexual Thrill-Kill?” Gorightly notes that some have looked at the gay angle of the assassination in the sense that many of the players in New Orleans were part of the New Orleans gay community, including Oswald, David Ferrie and Clay “Queen Bee” Shaw. Up in Dallas, Jack Ruby would be included in this gay underground and that Garrison subscribed to it, saying “it was a homosexual thrill-killing, plus the excitement of getting away with a perfect crime. John Kennedy was everything that David Ferrie was not – a successful, handsome, popular, wealthy, virile man. You can just picture the charge Ferrie got out of plotting his death.”

Later in the chapter, Gorightly offers a somewhat different theory, one we have addressed here at Red Dirt Report, where Ardmore, Okla. native James Shelby Downard’s “King Kill 33” has considered the “twilight language” of the “Killing of the King” fertility rite, conducted in Freemasonic fashion along the 33rd degree latitude, which is where Dallas, Texas is located.

Garrison, we should note, was a bit of a villain in Thornley’s eyes. Not the heroic figure as played by Kevin Costner in JFK. As a libertarian, Thornley was quite put-off by Garrison’s willingness to violate the rights of American citizens in hopes of solving the crime of the century. Thornley wanted no part of it.

But back to Kerry Thornley … after the tough years being pursued by Inquisitor Garrison, Thornley’s unusual life (Hail Eris!) through the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s – and up to his death from cardiac arrest in 1998 – are haunted by his link to Lee Harvey Oswald and the dark cloud of the JFK assassination. Gorightly’s book paints a picture of an intelligent, curious and somewhat troubled man, caught up in the currents of conspiracy while also bearing the heavy burden of history. And now that Kerry Thornley is dead, there are probably details of what really happened that JFK assassination researchers – and the public – will likely never know.

Caught in the Crossfire is a terrific read. Gorightly’s writing style is easy to follow and almost conversational. Red Dirt Report always looks forward to a new Adam Gorightly book and Caught in the Crossfire did not disappoint in the least. 

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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