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IF I DID IT and “THE KILLER”

Here we have the end product of one of the most bizarre sagas in publishing history. That’s appropriate, as IF I DID IT, by “The Killer,” concerns one of the most bizarre criminal cases in American history.

     That case is of course the O.J. Simpson case, the details of which I really shouldn’t need to fill you in on. Quite simply, if you were alive and alert during the mid-1990s then you know something about the case and ensuing trial. You may also know something about this book, Mr. Simpson’s apparently hypothetical confession in which he relates how the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman “might” have gone down.

     The book was supposed to be published by HarperCollins’s Judith Regan Books imprint in November of 2006. This resulted in a massive public outcry: among other things, people were upset that O.J. was receiving upwards of $1 million for his confession (the money was supposedly going to O.J.’s children, complete with a corporation set up to facilitate the transfer, but said corporation was apparently a sham).

     The outcry, in any event, was so intense that Judith Regan lost her job and IF I DID IT was suppressed by HarperCollins’ owner Rupert Murdoch. In the ensuing months the book became legendary, with copies of the unpublished manuscript selling for thousands of dollars on eBay.

     While I’m none too pleased with the idea of the one and only suspect in the murders getting a million dollars, the censoring of O.J.’s confession made my blood boil--especially after having the gory details of the crime and photos of the mutilated bodies all-but rubbed in my face throughout much of 1994 and ‘95. And let’s not forget the memoirs of the case by Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden, Johnny Cochran and a couple of bounced jurors (see THE PRIVATE DIARY OF AN O.J. JUROR by Michael Knox and MISTRIAL OF THE CENTURY by Tracy Kennedy), as well as the 1997 novel THE CONFESSIONS OF O.J. SIMPSON by David Bender. How is it that now it’s suddenly wrong to read about what happened on the night of June 12, 1994??

     Thankfully IF I DID IT was eventually published in 2007 by Beaufort Books (with the IF of the title deliberately obscured on the cover and spine). This was the result of a court challenge by the Goldman family that resulted in them getting control of the manuscript and O.J. losing out on his million dollar payday.

     The details of this court case are outlined in a long-winded epilogue by the Goldmans’ attorney. Also included is an afterword by Dominick Dunne about his friendship with the Goldmans, two lengthy introductions by the Goldman family (one added for the 2008 paperback edition, with info on O.J.’s most recent arrest), and a chapter by Pablo F. Fenjves, who ghost wrote the confessions based on extensive conversations with “The Killer” (the Goldmans’ preferred moniker for Mr. Simpson).

     It’s those confessions, of course, that occupy center stage. Running a brisk 196 pages, they’re everything you’d expect from O.J., who reportedly complimented Fenjves on accurately capturing his voice: crude, expletive-laden and littered with distracting contradictions. Much was written about the apparently extensive gore and sleaze contained within this book, but in actuality it’s quite tame. The real value of the confessions is their glimpse into the Killer’s mindset: O.J. may have been attempting to establish his innocence herein, but that’s not what comes through.

     Simpson takes us through his relationship with Nicole, which, as anyone familiar with the case well knows, was twisted and obsessive from the start. From O.J.’s point of view all the problems were Nicole’s doing, driving him to near-madness. He claims he was physically abusive to her on just one occasion, and that Nicole’s handwritten allegations against him were entirely fictional, and most likely intended for use against O.J. should their relationship disintegrate--although he acknowledges that she didn’t actually produce the allegations when the marriage did indeed fall apart.

     O.J. denies feeling any jealousy toward Nicole, yet rages about the “short skirt that would have looked inappropriate on a 16-year-old” she wore to the much-discussed piano rehearsal on the night of the murders. He further asserts that “I did not leave the recital “upset and angry” as some people would have you believe,” but two pages later admits “I was in a lousy mood after the recital.”

     Regarding the “night in question,” O.J. repeatedly claims not to have committed the killings but does concede that “Given the right circumstances, I guess anyone is capable of murder.” He admonishes us to “keep in mind, this is hypothetical,” and yet provides a wealth of telling details about his actions leading up to and following the murders, some of which didn’t even come out at the trial--including a broken latch on the security gate leading to the courtyard of Nicole’s condo and the allegation that Ron Goldman arrived on the scene before Nicole, and following a heated confrontation tried to ward off O.J. with Karate moves.

     O.J.’s description of a pal named Charlie who accompanied him that night rings entirely false (the character is never referred to anywhere else in the manuscript), although the rest of his descriptions seem quite authoritative, and jibe with the details that came out at the trial. Among other things, O.J. describes the precise route he used to drive back after the murders, ands how he made his way home via a little-known path between his property and a nearby tennis court, during which time he made a racket outside the guest house occupied by Kato Kaelin.

     From there O.J. describes his subsequent arrest and flight from justice in the back seat of that never-to-be-forgotten white Bronco (which, FYI, I actually saw go by on the 405 from the Manhattan Beach In ‘N Out parking lot), all the while proclaiming his innocence. Of course he never considers who else might have committed the murders, and generally seems far more concerned about his own mistreatment at the hands of the LAPD than the fact that his wife has been killed.

     I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with this book. As for myself, I see it as the final piece of a puzzle that includes countless books, articles and TV reportage on the killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman but nothing about the crime by its evident perpetrator…until now.

 

-- 8/15 /10

     

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