(*The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny
Casolaro* by Kenn Thomas and Jim Keith. Portland: Feral House,
1996. ISBN: 0-922915-39-3)
In a correspondence with Kenn Thomas, co-author of this book, I
exclaimed, "It's about time someone wrote a book about it!"
"It" is the story of how high-power persons in "our" government
stole the sophisticated PROMIS (Prosecutor's Management
Information System) software from a company named Inslaw, how
journalist Danny Casolaro began investigating the case and (from
all appearances) was murdered when he got too close to hot
information, and how this whole case is a "Rosetta stone"
unlocking American "deep politics."
*The Octopus* takes its title from Casolaro's term for what he
had uncovered. Like the tentacles of that sea creature, this
case reaches far beyond just theft of software. Thomas and
Keith's book follows a labyrinthine trail, encountering dark
characters such as Michael Riconosciuto and Robert Booth Nichols,
unusual places like Area 51 and the Cabazon Indian Reservation,
and strange deaths such as that of Vincent Foster and Paul
Wilcher. All these tentacles lead back to The Octopus, an
amalgam of secret societies, Mafia families, CIA operatives,
sub-basement bureaucrats and top-floor finaglers.
In a conversation with a friend, I mentioned I was reading Thomas
and Keith's book. "How is it?" asked my friend. How is it?
*Excellent.* This book, as noted, is long overdue; there ought to
be ten books out there by now on the Inslaw case. The authors
have got the ball rolling with this effort, and hopefully more
books on this subject will be written.
And that brings me to critiques I have of *The Octopus*. My hope
that more books will be written on the Inslaw case underscores my
disappointment that Thomas and Keith's book was not longer. It
runs to more than 170 pages and covers a lot of ground therein,
but does not go into as much depth as I would have liked.
Paradoxically, this same generality of focus recommends the book
to the average reader who is only looking for an overall
acquaintance with the subject.
Other niggardly nitpicking I have on this book would be some of
the sources it cites, such as the "Com-12" document. I hate to
break it to you, Kenn and Jim, but there are certain supposed
"intellectuals" out there who look down their noses at such a
source. Of course you and I know that, in an investigation of
this nature, one *has* to utilize fringe sources: the mainstream
press is notorious for closing their eyes and refusing to
adequately cover certain stories, and that means you've got to
take what you can get where you can get it. And, too, your "Note
on Sources" *does* cover this area of possible criticism, so
forget what I just said.
Another minor point: you write that the gashes on Casolaro's
wrists "were too deep to be self-inflicted." Other facts you
point out *do* support the contention that Casolaro was murdered,
but in this detail you never explain why "too deep gashes" cannot
The only other critique I have of *The Octopus* are the chapters
taken from Casolaro's original draft of his work-in-progress.
Reading them, I at first thought, "Uh-oh. Thomas and Keith could
have used a proof-reader." But then I figured it out: "Oh yeah,
this is from Casolaro's draft, so of course there are
mis-spellings." Maybe you should have had a sentence in the
"Note on Sources" warning the reader that those chapters were
unaltered and included the original mis-spellings.
I know, I know: "Nitpicking!" You're right. This book, *The
Octopus*, has been too-long unwritten. Thomas and Keith have
performed a necessary task by getting the story, "In the
record." Let's hope that more books detailing the Inslaw case
will be written. Prospective authors are encouraged to use *The
Octopus* as their road map.