- Anderson Valley
- Mendocino County
by Bruce Anderson & Mark Scaramella
illustrated by Frederick Sternkopf
paperback: 342 pages
published July 4, 2009
These stories comprise volume two of the Mendocino Papers, an ongoing project whose ultimate ambition it is to serve as an informal history of Mendocino County. Many of you will groan at the surfeit of detail in some of the tellings, but that detail, I think, helps the reader understand the broader social-political functioning of the county at the time the crimes were committed. The two most detail-laden accounts begin and end the book. The Fort Bragg Fires of 1987, the first story, occurred in a virtual blizzard of cocaine whose distributors recycled their profits into legitmate businesses. That’s the short version. The long version is a complicated story of compromised bankers, crooked insurance agents, the then-corrupted local government of Fort Bragg and, at the county level, dereliction in the District Attorney’s office where the arsonists, who may also have committed murder, went unprosecuted. This story can’t be told in a page or two, and we are indebted to Roanne Withers and Mark Heimann for their help with research. The Murder of Donald Perez, the concluding story, might also be told in a few pages but, we think, profits from the many perspectives of the event offered by the killers, their lawyers, cops, investigators, friends, and parents. In between these sagas, there’s a lengthy account of Fort Bragg’s latter-day witch hunt of the Orr Sisters during the literal hysteria arising from the non-existent phenomenon of Satanist child abuse. Not that all of the stories are as unrelievedly grim as these. A few, I hope, are funny. But when bad people and civic irresponsibility coincide, as they often do here, vast Mendocino County becomes a dangerously unpredictable place.
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