Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. This is the only book that gives a true picture of the character of John Wooden and the influence of his assistant, Jerry Norman, whose contributions Wooden  ignored and tried to bury.

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Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information. Also available on Kindle.

Kill the Messenger (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 107 minutes.

OK for children.

“Based on a true story” always raises questions about what’s “based” and what’s “true.” This is the tale of Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), an investigative reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. In 1996 Webb wrote a series of articles entitled Dark Alliance that alleged a conspiracy that the CIA was working with drug traffickers to raise money to help the Contras (people opposing the left wing Sandanista junta that controlled Nicaragua after the overthrow of Somoza in 1979). Further alleged was that the drugs were sold in minority areas, like South Central Los Angeles, resulting in lots of black people becoming addicts. The series got national attention for the paper and for Webb. Then, according to this film, the CIA launched a counter attack against Webb and his world fell apart.

Instead of telling the story in an objective way and letting the viewers make up their own minds, the film takes a definite stand in favor of Webb.

The film criticizes the Los Angeles Times (and other media) that launched a huge investigation into Webb’s articles and concluded that the content of the story did not back up its inflammatory lead. But part of investigative journalism is the ability of the investigator to withstand investigation about his journalism.

As a result, it’s probably better to watch this movie as fiction than trying to accept it as the whole truth. For instance, near the end of the movie, a guy named John Cullen (Ray Liotta) mysteriously appears in Webb’s hotel room in the middle of the night, awakening Webb, and “confesses,” (for no apparent reason) like Deep Throat, confirming everything that Webb wrote. As I can find no evidence that a CIA operative named John Cullen ever existed, it’s not unreasonable to believe that this is sheer fantasy. He tells Webb that “the people we were trying to kill, all they wanted were free elections.” Cullen’s short period onscreen serves to tell the audience that Webb was 100% right, but there’s simply no evidence this ever happened.

In fact, the junta ruled the country with an iron hand before “elections” in 1984. It was the out-of-power contras who wanted free elections and “the people” Liotta “was trying to kill” were the Sandanistas who were already in power. So this movie has it backwards. While in power (they were finally voted out of office in 1989, when Reagan was no longer President) they were socialists who “nationalized” private property and distributed it to the poor, and supported Castro and Cuba in trying to incite Communist revolutions throughout Central America, all things that were contrary to the interests of the United States.

As a minor complaint, the script is ungrammatical, unless they are trying to make the point that Webb wasn’t that well versed in the rules of grammar. We are supposed to believe that Webb is an accomplished journalist, yet twice within the same paragraph, he says “between my wife and I.”

If you aren’t concerned about whether or not what you are watching actually happened the way this film tells it, this is a pretty entertaining film. It’s absorbing fiction. Who knows the truth? But, as Robert DeNiro said in The Last Tycoon (1976), that’s the movies!