Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mark David Chapman: The Man Who Killed John Lennon


Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man Who killed John Lennon by Jack Jones (Villard Books, 1992), is by far the most thorough source of information. It includes long passages in Chapman's own words, though Jones does not say which are from his interviews in Attica and which from psychiatric interviews that have been made public. Readers may find the lengthy recitation of Chapman's mental problems depressing. Index, no notes.

People Magazine, Feb. 23, March 2 and 9, 1987 (in libraries on MLA microfilm cartridges 38J 1300, 38L 0738 and 39A 0340), contains a three-part series by James R. Gaines: "The Man Who Shot Lennon," "In the Shadows, a Killer Waited" and "The Killer Takes His Fall." Gaines was the first reporter to interview Chapman at length, and also talked to his wife and mother, whom Jones was unable to interview.

Court TV, "Mugshots," Oct. 2, 2000 (repeats from time to time), is a 90-minute documentary about the Beatles' career and Lennon's life, interspersed with Chapman's voice describing the murder and his life before and after. (Chapman has refused to be photographed since his imprisonment.) The Court TV website ( has a wealth of information, including pictures, transcripts and several hours of Chapman's recorded voice. There is also a transcript of Journalist Jack Jones discussing John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman on Court TV's site.

Who Killed John Lennon? by Fenton Bresler (St. Martin's Press, 1989) argues that Chapman was programmed to assassinate Lennon by the CIA and/or FBI, a theory with considerable acceptance among conspiracy buffs. Bresler documents that the CIA had looked into the possibility of using mentally unstable people as killers, that the FBI carried on a lengthy surveillance/harassment of Lennon during the time he was fighting for his immigration "green card," that overworked New York police made no effort to look beyond the open-and-shut case that they were handed, and that there are many inconsistencies in Chapman's account. But he presents no direct evidence to back speculation implicating government agencies. Index, no notes.

The Last Days of John Lennon: A Personal Memoir by Fred Seaman, a Lennon staffer (Carol Publishing Group, 1999), is an account of Lennon and his wife in the months leading up to the slaying. Seaman was convicted of stealing Lennon's diaries and forced to turn them over to Yoko Ono. She denounced the book as full of lies.

I Read the News Today: The Social Drama of John Lennon's Death by Fred Fogo, an associate professor of communications at the University of Utah (Rowan & Littlefield, 1990), examines media treatment of Lennon's death. He concludes that "The scapegoating of Chapman may well have served to further cement feelings of communitas among the grieving'60s generation." Index, no notes but citations keyed to bibliography.

The Mourning of John Lennon by Anthony Elliott, a research fellow in the Political Science Department of the University of Melbourne, Australia (University of California Press, 1999), psychoanalyzes Lennon, his songs, the media and the Baby Boom generation.

Dakota Days: The True Story of John Lennon's Final Years by John Green (St. Martin's Press, 1983) describes the author as "among other things, a tarot card reader" and Lennon as a troubled man. Green had Lennon and Yoko as his clients from 1975 to October 1980, when, as Green describes it, Lennon told him, "The wife tells me I'm getting stronger and stronger psychiatric messages. She says the spirits are coming to me all the time now and they say that I'm an initiate. Isn't that amazing? We won't need all those psychics anymore because I will get all the messages." If his long direct quotes from John and Yoko are to believed, the author has total recall. No notes or index.


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