Not Just Evil
Written by a retired detective, this true crime saga captures California's first insanity plea, given during a murder trial from the early twentieth century that rocked Hollywood with accusations. Readers of "Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood" will love "Not Just Evil." Twelve-year-old Marion Parker was kidnapped from her Los Angeles school by an unknown assailant on December 15, 1927. Her body was found days later, delivered to her father by the killer, who fled with the ransom money. When William Hickman was hunted down and charged with the killing, he admitted to all of it, in terrifying detail, but that was only the start His insanity plea was the first of its kind in the history of California, and the nature of the crime led to a media frenzy unlike any the country had seen to that point. Hickman's lawyers argued that their client lived in a fantasy world, inspired by movies, unable to tell right from wrong. The movie industry scrambled to protect its exploding popularity (and profits) from ruinous publicity. Outside of the courtroom, a country grew starved for every awful detail and a media was only too happy to feed that hunger. As scandals threatened the proceedings from moment one, the death of a young girl grew into a referendum on the state of America at the birth of mass media culture. David Wilson, a private investigator for over thirty years, captures the maelstrom of Marion Parker's death in vivid detail. From the crime itself to the manhunt that followed, from the unprecedented trial to its aftermath, Wilson draws reader in to the birth of the celebrity criminal."

Not Just Evil Details

TitleNot Just Evil
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseDec 6th, 2016
PublisherDiversion Publishing
ISBN-139781682303276
Rating
GenreCrime, True Crime, Nonfiction, Mystery, History

Not Just Evil Review

  • The Book Review Café
    January 1, 1970
    Review to follow shortly
  • Darcia Helle
    January 1, 1970
    Hickman's crime, his apparent indifference, and his attempt at using the insanity plea for the first time in California makes for an interesting read. The expansive detail about Hollywood also makes for an interesting read. But combined as they are here, the two aspects don't gel as a singular story.Before I clarify my statement, I want to say that the research appears to be impeccable. This is absolutely where the author shines. We are totally immersed in the past, with all the inhabitants of t Hickman's crime, his apparent indifference, and his attempt at using the insanity plea for the first time in California makes for an interesting read. The expansive detail about Hollywood also makes for an interesting read. But combined as they are here, the two aspects don't gel as a singular story.Before I clarify my statement, I want to say that the research appears to be impeccable. This is absolutely where the author shines. We are totally immersed in the past, with all the inhabitants of the era. The writing is straightforward, more akin to news journalism than narrative nonfiction. Hickman's crime is laid out for us, from his decision to kidnap Marion Parker, on to the murder, and throughout his trial. We also learn bits about Hickman's childhood and his crimes during early adulthood. Hickman makes for an intriguing character study in criminal behavior, during a time when psychology was in its infancy. Psychiatrists of the time had little understanding of psychopathic and narcissistic minds. Courts were only just beginning to form guidelines for what it meant to be criminally insane and therefore not legally responsible. Against this backdrop, we have a man attempting to manipulate the system to his advantage.Hickman was obsessed with movies, attending the theater daily. I think it's important to note that his obsession was a product of his aversion to real life, and that whatever mental illness he suffered from was not caused or even necessarily enhanced by the movies he watched. Because he didn't want to work, he used robbery as a way to fund his obsession. Eventually robbery wasn't enough, and his desire for a big payoff led to kidnapping for ransom. This is the thread linking the other aspect of this book, which is the story of Hollywood's rise. We learn a lot about Hollywood within these pages. The author takes us to the beginning, with silent movies, on to the emergence of sound and the conflict of dealing with this new phenomenon. We meet the major players of the era. We're given a lot of detail on rating systems, censorship, and the politics behind it all. Hollywood, like the legal system, was in a state of flux.While the Hollywood story is thorough and interesting, I thought the connection to Hickman was tenuous at best. The depth of detail about Hollywood led me to believe that Hickman's movie obsession would play heavily into his defense, but this was not the case. In fact, his movie obsession was barely a blip in his defense. Hickman's decision to murder a little girl had nothing at all to do with the content of the movies he watched, and his lawyer made no attempt at the claim. Consequently, the book winds up feeling like two distinct and separate stories. The in-depth attention to all that went on in Hollywood has the misfortune of overshadowing the legal aspect of the first true insanity plea in a criminal case.In his closing, the author attempts to equate Hickman's movie obsession with later societal influences of advertising and current influences of violent video games. This feels like way too much of a leap, particularly since Hickman's absorption in movies was never even remotely proven to have anything to do with his mental state or his choice to murder a little girl. The closing left me feeling as if the author began with an agenda, and then attempted to put the story together in a way that exposed media's impact on young and/or damaged minds. *I was provided with an advance ebook copy by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.*
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  • Eva Luna
    January 1, 1970
    Rating: 3 I fail to understand the connection the author tries to create between this murder and film censorship. As I understand a few theaters did not want to show newsreels about the murder but other than that I do not see a significant connection. The trial was not focused on movie violence so it felt a bit misplaced. I would have prefered the focus to have been solely on the trial.
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  • Linda Strong
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 StarsMarion Parker was 12-years-old when kidnapped and later murdered and dismembered by William Edward Hickman on December 15, 1927. He asked for $1500 ransom which was delivered by the child's father. The killer left only Marion's torso for her father ... her arms, legs and internal organs were delivered to the police at a later date. When arrested and charged, Hickman freely admitted that he had killed Marion Parker.Hickman's lawyers absolutely were against the death penalty. The best the 3.5 StarsMarion Parker was 12-years-old when kidnapped and later murdered and dismembered by William Edward Hickman on December 15, 1927. He asked for $1500 ransom which was delivered by the child's father. The killer left only Marion's torso for her father ... her arms, legs and internal organs were delivered to the police at a later date. When arrested and charged, Hickman freely admitted that he had killed Marion Parker.Hickman's lawyers absolutely were against the death penalty. The best they could hope for would be something never tried before .. an insanity defense. Their argument was that he was so involved in watching theater movies, he was living in a fantasy world and did not know right from wrong.There are several parts to this book. The reader learns a little about Hickman, hears his own words about why he felt compelled to kill. We also hear about his aversion to real life .. his fantasy world in the movie theaters was his 'real world'.At the same time, there was a war on censorship in the entertainment field. Movie makers, theater owners were at loggerheads over who would set the standards of decency. This had all started when theaters were showing pictures of Marion Parker after she was killed. Several movie moguls were concerned that the HIckman case and his link to movies would kill the industry.During Hickman's trial, both defense and prosecuting attorneys were looking for psychiatrists who would testify the way they wanted. Psychiatrists weren't much respected or believed in the 1920s and there was no clear definition of insanity.The end of the book consists of what happened to all the players after ....This was an interesting read, but I would have liked to see more information concerning HIckman's early years and maybe not so much about Hollywood.Many thanks to the author / Diversion Books / Diversion Publicity / Netgalley who provided an ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    This is a nice, concise book on an unjustly forgotten and horrific crime from 1927. It came at the juxtaposition of a number of issues of the time, the question of should there be censorship of the movie industry, the definition of what constitutes insanity in legal doctrine, and how can we trust our law enforcement officials and make improvements to the ethics of prosecutors.I especially appreciated excerpts from the psychiatrists' notes, from newspaper accounts, and from the trial. They helped This is a nice, concise book on an unjustly forgotten and horrific crime from 1927. It came at the juxtaposition of a number of issues of the time, the question of should there be censorship of the movie industry, the definition of what constitutes insanity in legal doctrine, and how can we trust our law enforcement officials and make improvements to the ethics of prosecutors.I especially appreciated excerpts from the psychiatrists' notes, from newspaper accounts, and from the trial. They helped so much to give the flavor of the times to the story. If there is one thing I would have liked to have seen, it would be the reaction of Marion's twin, Marjorie. It may simply be that there is no account of her. But I could not help but wonder how it would feel to be the twin of a sister who was not only slain, but mutilated. And surely it was impossible to shield her from the barrage of newspaper stories. Perhaps I will never know.
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  • David Akeroyd
    January 1, 1970
    This book is 216 pages and half of it is huge sections of trial testimony and letters quotes in whole sometimes running for pages at a time. Often it feels less like the author is providing important information and more that he's either showing off the research he did or that he's filling space. A large part of the book is dedicated to film censorship and the murder's connection but aside from the fact a small number of theaters didn't want to show newsreels about the murder the author failed t This book is 216 pages and half of it is huge sections of trial testimony and letters quotes in whole sometimes running for pages at a time. Often it feels less like the author is providing important information and more that he's either showing off the research he did or that he's filling space. A large part of the book is dedicated to film censorship and the murder's connection but aside from the fact a small number of theaters didn't want to show newsreels about the murder the author failed to show any really significant connection and he absolutely showed no real connection to the idea that movies/tv influence violence nor was that a theme of the trial.
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  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    Questions ...1. How can one drive the 1,135 miles between LA and Seattle in 12 hours? (Even with today's interstate highways it would take at least **LEAST ** 18 hours and that is if there is no traffic but in 1927? A model T can hit 35-40 MPH at most according to my research.2. Why weren't gold certificates traceable? Why would he not just ask for $150o in cash? 3. If it seemed to the court that the jury was not listening to the 12-page rant or all the expert witnesses, did he receive a fair tr Questions ...1. How can one drive the 1,135 miles between LA and Seattle in 12 hours? (Even with today's interstate highways it would take at least **LEAST ** 18 hours and that is if there is no traffic but in 1927? A model T can hit 35-40 MPH at most according to my research.2. Why weren't gold certificates traceable? Why would he not just ask for $150o in cash? 3. If it seemed to the court that the jury was not listening to the 12-page rant or all the expert witnesses, did he receive a fair trial?
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  • SavageGrace
    January 1, 1970
    [I was able to obtain a first read via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]A very well written and informative book about one of the most shocking crimes in California history. I highly recommend any true crime fan read this book!
  • Cassie Gutman (happybooklovers)
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting case I didn't know about. The tie-ins to Hollywood felt a little forced and not completely relevant, I was more interested in the case and investigation and trial.
  • Ren
    January 1, 1970
    Shortly before Christmas in 1927, a twelve-year-old girl was kidnapped from her school in Los Angeles. After a ransom was arranged with her father, Marion Parker’s horrifically mutilated body was returned. Her killer, a young man named William Hickman, was quickly apprehended following a media frenzy and public outcry.Hickman was a strange guy, a Kansas transplant who came to L.A. not for dreams of movie stardom like so many have done, but simply to be closer to where the magic was being made. H Shortly before Christmas in 1927, a twelve-year-old girl was kidnapped from her school in Los Angeles. After a ransom was arranged with her father, Marion Parker’s horrifically mutilated body was returned. Her killer, a young man named William Hickman, was quickly apprehended following a media frenzy and public outcry.Hickman was a strange guy, a Kansas transplant who came to L.A. not for dreams of movie stardom like so many have done, but simply to be closer to where the magic was being made. He was obsessed with cinema, and his primary enjoyment in life was losing himself in a dark movie theater.Also brewing at the time of Hickman’s crime and trial was a sense of uneasiness over the direction that the burgeoning film industry was heading. As technology enabled sound to be added to films, some worried that Hollywood would become more bold, scandalous, or sexual. It was very much a “Please, think of the children!” outcry. And in a very public trial, Hickman uses a new defense – claiming he was insane when he committed the crime, thus not fully responsible for his actions and unable to face capital punishment. His lawyers used his complete absorption into the fantasy world of film and cinematic escape to argue that he wasn’t aware of reality.One particularly interesting section laid out how difficult such an argument is, a Catch-22. In order to be insane and use that as your argument for an action, you have to be sane enough to understand and appreciate the difference between these two mental states, thus negating your original claim of insanity.Insanity is a strange, peculiar thing. I don’t know how to define it. It is like many other workings of the mind, it is difficult to define, because the organ that attempts to define it is the one that is also attempting to define its own condition; so it makes it an extremely difficult thing to do; but there is a type of insanity…that we have attempted to establish here, a type of insanity that I think we are absolutely justified in advancing here, and that is the type of delusional insanity…That’s Richard Cantillon, one of Hickman’s defense lawyers, trying to explain what would become a difficult defense by reason of insanity.But it feels like there’s more to the story, or that the connection intended to be proven just didn’t exist. Pieces of Hickman’s past are there, but I didn’t see the link between his committing crimes to pay for movie tickets and the violent effect or influence of those movies on his thinking. He didn’t want to hold a normal job, he didn’t want to live in reality, he used entertainment as escapism to an extreme and committed crimes to pay for this hobby that became his life.More intriguing than the thin connection between movies and violence was that his self-interest and lack of concern for others was very inspiring to Ayn Rand. She brought up his case and personality as examples of her world view in her writing and talked favorably about him often to those in her circle, much to their consternation. A weird but fascinating detail, I thought.Long passages are taken verbatim from courtroom arguments and judge’s statements, and although several of the attorneys have a dramatic flair for words (see above), I think it’s only interesting for readers with a specific interest in legal nonfiction, and less for those like me who prefer compelling general narrative nonfiction.But it’s an interesting look at the origin of the problems America has faced in terms of media’s effects and influences on the general population, or as this book seems to show, those who already have a mental predisposition towards being susceptibly influenced.“The core issue is whether or not over-indulgence in electronically based forms of stimulation diminishes a child’s ability to effectively engage in critical self-evaluation, or if it creates a tendency to live in a delusional world created by fantasy.”As Wilson points out, the blame widened from concerns over film in the 1920s to include television, and most recently, the glamorization of violence in computer and video games. He doesn’t offer much of his own analysis on the topic, rather the book functions as a sort of case study of what might have been the starting point for this famous line of defense.I received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher for review.
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  • Stephanie Borders
    January 1, 1970
    Synopsis:Marion Parker was just 12 years old when, in 1927, a young man walked into her school and told the secretary he was sent by her sick father to pick her up. The school released Marion, and it soon become clear what an error they had made. Marion’s family soon made contact with her kidnapper, and despite their best efforts to deliver the requested ransom to him, Marion’s dismembered body was discovered.William Hickman was quickly discovered to be the perpetrator and a manhunt ensued. Afte Synopsis:Marion Parker was just 12 years old when, in 1927, a young man walked into her school and told the secretary he was sent by her sick father to pick her up. The school released Marion, and it soon become clear what an error they had made. Marion’s family soon made contact with her kidnapper, and despite their best efforts to deliver the requested ransom to him, Marion’s dismembered body was discovered.William Hickman was quickly discovered to be the perpetrator and a manhunt ensued. After his capture, Hickman ended up admitting to his grisly crime, but claimed insanity. His love for Hollywood films ensnared the film industry in his crime, which had the ability to cripple the burgeoning enterprise.An insanity defense was something completely new for the time, and the Court fumbled to try and make sure that Hickman was given a fair trial that followed the newly enacted laws.My thoughts:I have been an avid reader of true crime since I was a teenager, but I’ll admit to being a little burnt out on the subject. TC books tend to bleed together and become very formulaic. I appreciated that Not Just Evil was able to seem fresh and offer a new perspective. The “Golden Age of Hollywood” setting was very special and added a glamorous element.I also thought the birth of the insanity plea was fascinating. Reading about what we now know to be standards during a time when the court system was really just trying to navigate their way through uncharted territory brought an entirely new perspective.I don’t often get squeamish when reading about violent crimes, but this was an entirely new level for me. It was shocking what Hickman put poor Marion through and although it has been almost 90 years since her brutal murder, my heart ached for what she went through.If you’re a fan of true crime or just looking for something a little different, definitely pick this one up.
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  • Wendy Cartmell
    January 1, 1970
    Twelve-year-old Marion Parker was kidnapped from her Los Angeles school by an unknown assailant on December 15, 1927. Her body appeared days later, delivered to her father by the killer, who fled with the ransom money. When William Hickman was hunted down and charged with the killing, he admitted to all of it, in terrifying detail, but that was only the start. Hickman’s insanity plea was the first of its kind in the history of California, and the nature of the crime led to a media frenzy unlike Twelve-year-old Marion Parker was kidnapped from her Los Angeles school by an unknown assailant on December 15, 1927. Her body appeared days later, delivered to her father by the killer, who fled with the ransom money. When William Hickman was hunted down and charged with the killing, he admitted to all of it, in terrifying detail, but that was only the start. Hickman’s insanity plea was the first of its kind in the history of California, and the nature of the crime led to a media frenzy unlike any the country had seen.There are two important elements in this book. One is the account of the true crime and the second is the social aspect where the author explores the reaction to the trial by the movie makers in Hollywood, as well as the general public. Did our modern media set monsters loose among us, or merely bring them out into the open? As the author points out this is still something that we grapple with today. The latest craze being put under the microscope are the bloody and violent computer games and a large part of society blame them for the disruptive youth of today.At times the book read like a university dissertation, making it rather dry, but on the whole it was really interesting to read a well-balanced, factual account of a true crime and its effect on society.
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  • Janis
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting account of the first time an insanity defense was used in the California courts, and amazingly enough, the defense blamed it on the movies. Interesting parallels to today's electronic media and its influence over young people. However, this was a heinous crime and an evil defendant, the defense was merely trying to keep Hickman from execution.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    l found the story very informed about a evil crime and the insanity plea and the way movie are thought to influence are action if you are a true crime reader as im this is the book for you thanks to goodreads for the free book
  • Thegirlintheafternoon
    January 1, 1970
    Task: #41 - A book about a major world event (fiction or non-fiction) - 3/5 stars
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