Book review: “Uniquely Dangerous” by Carreen Maloney

410Lii83zVL._SY346_

Book Review: Uniquely Dangerous by Carreen Maloney. Published by the author.

By Malcolm J. Brenner

Every so often a non-fiction book comes along which threatens to expose the common wisdom about its subject for the misconception it really is. In my own life, I can think of only a few books that have had this profound effect on me. Growing up in the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement, one was The Autobiography of Malcolm X, co-authored by Alex Haley; another was Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver’s short but damning tale of incarceration, Soul on Ice.

I mention these two books because they come most readily to mind, not because I want to make race an issue. The subject of Uniquely Dangerous is an Anglo man, not a person of color, and a privileged Anglo man at that, who rose to wealth and renown while concealing a dark secret from everyone around him, including those he loved.

His name was Doug Spink, and if that sounds vaguely familiar, you have a long memory for the perverse and obscure. It hearkens back to a 2010 raid by a multi-agency taskforce of 30 people on a tiny cabin in Whatcom County, Washington, to bring Spink in for probation violations relating to an earlier arrest for drug smuggling.

But that wasn’t what made the headlines. What got the big, bold typeface was the announcement by authorities that they had busted a “bestiality farm” run by Spink, where clients could be serviced by dogs or horses he had on the property (including a champion show jumper). The allegations grew even weirder when local animal rescuers announced that they have saved several rats covered with petroleum jelly. One “client,” an English tourist, was arrested with Spink.

Carreen Maloney was an experienced print journalist and a supporter of the Whatcom County animal shelter that received Spink’s animals. While the headlines about bestiality repulsed her, she wondered about a lot of things. Why hadn’t any of the reporters who covered the story tried to interview Spink to get his side? Weren’t journalists supposed to be fair? What happened to the animals, especially seven dogs and the mice, that went to the county shelter? And what made a successful businessman like Spink, who worked in cutting-edge encryption technology that even puzzled the Feds, drop everything to live like a hermit and indulge a sexual orientation many people found revolting?

Thus began an eight-year odyssey for Maloney, but her toil and research has paid off in a remarkable tale that reads like a mystery story but has the ring of truth. We find out that the 2010 raid was only the beginning of Spink’s troubles with the justice system, which seemed more concerned about ending his vocal support for his alternative sexuality than about punishing him for a non-violent crime.

Maloney has accumulated a huge volume of material on Spink’s dual life, a high-tech wizard by day and a zoophile by night, and distilled it to its most essential parts. The story plunges backward and forward in time, exploring Spink’s past, his family life, and the marriage that ended in failure when he came out as a zoophile, and a gay one at that. But Maloney handles these transitions with great skill, even weaving in her own narrative, as a tragic personal loss sets her on the road to telling Spink’s story.

Along the way, Maloney also takes sidetracks into other elements of the hidden zoo culture, showing us how it covertly appears in art, advertising, entertainment, religion, as an enduring theme of a group that’s uncomfortable with its own species. She uses Spink’s torment at the hands of federal prosecutors as a lens through which to view society’s loathing of human-animal sex, and she courageously asks the question, why? Why such a visceral reaction?

If you are a zoophile, or know someone who is, you owe it to yourself to buy Uniquely Dangerous, because seldom has writing on this inflammatory topic been so lucid, so even-handed and well-documented. If you are interested in the psychology of human sexual deviance, this book will provide useful insights. Similarly, those concerned with loss of personal freedoms and the erosion of privacy will find a story that illustrates their worst fears. If you like tales of personal will and courage in the face of overwhelming odds, you’ll cheer Spink’s outspoken defiance. And if you simply admire a riveting piece of journalism about a taboo subject, Maloney won’t disappoint you.

The portrait that emerges is of a complex, troubled man who always seems to find himself athwart the tides of life, whether he’s fighting his ex-wife for his beloved jumping horse or telling a federal court judge exactly how he feels. In the end, you may not like Doug Spink, but you might come to admire him. In a world that demands conformity, he refused to bend. Uniquely Dangerous is the balance sheet of what that stand has cost him.

— Malcolm J. Brenner, author: Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover

(In the interest of full disclosure, my novel, above, receives a brief mention in Uniquely Dangerous as part of material past the Appendix. This inclusion has in no way influenced my opinion of the book, however. — MJB)

 

 

Review: The Shape of Water

A few days ago, I was contacted by writer Ashley Feinberg, with the Huffington Post, who asked my opinion of the movie “The Shape of Water.” I hadn’t seen it yet (I’d been wanting to, on the recommendation of friends), but I was glad to go the next day (one of the pleasures of being retired).  Rather than mess it up with any kind of introduction, I’ll just link to the story: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-shape-of-water-malcolm-brenner-dolphin-sex_us_5aa17482e4b0e9381c169b7a

And I’ll tell you I’m very happy with the way the interview went and the resulting story. Many thanks, Ms. Feinberg!

 

Author gets free publicity from SNL!

dolphins_045PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – Writer Malcolm J. Brenner got a pleasant surprise on a recent Monday morning when he read a web site that plugged Wet Goddess, his epic human-dolphin love story. The story was picked up by Brenner’s routine Google Alerts search.

On November 13, The Inquisitor published a review of an edgy Saturday Night Live skit featuring Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant as a pair of female scientists trying to train a dolphin to communicate. When the dolphin hits adolescence, they find the only way to keep him on task is to masturbate him. Host Tiffany Haddish plays a colleague who finds the whole thing nasty. The skit manages to be funny, cheesy and satirical at the same time.

It’s based on the actual relationship between a kindergarten teacher, Margaret Howe Lovatt, and Peter, a male bottlenose dolphin kept in a unique living arrangement at the Communications Research Institute on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the early 1960’s. Lilly described the unusual situation, which was intended to teach Peter how to speak English, in his 1967 book The Mind of the Dolphin.

During six weeks of living with Peter in a flooded room day in and day out, Lovatt found him demanding she masturbate him before their lessons would continue. Eager to continue the research, and unable to rationalize any objections to Peter’s advances, Howe complied. Lilly used parts of her notes in his book.

The Inquisitor also referenced a 2014 article in The Mirror, a British tabloid newspaper, which interviewed Brenner about his dolphin experience by phone. That article, in turn, linked to an earlier story about Lovatt and Peter.

Asked whether the exposure had any effect on sales of his novel, Brenner said “I’m not sure, but I sold four copies over the weekend, which is unusual. The first sale came in from the next time zone west of me at about 11:30 p.m. my time, so I don’t know whether SNL would have been on there. But I’ll take any publicity I can get!  Thanks, guys, the check is in the mail!”

Brenner recently had to completely re-do the layout for his dolphin novel before having the next order printed.  “I’ve written two other books since Wet Goddess was published in 2010, and I wanted to add a couple of pages at the end of the book to let readers know about my other work, which is equally radical.

“Because Microsoft had changed its Word document creation software between 2010 and now, the original .doc file had paragraph spacing errors when I opened it in an up-to-date version that uses the .docx filename. I ended up having to completely reformat the book, adding two new photos to take up some blank space,” Brenner continued.

Ever the perfectionist, Brenner had no sooner gotten the books back from the printer than he found another minor typo in them. “That’s the beauty of short-run printing,” he explained. “You may not be able to afford an editor or a proofreader, but any goofs you make can be corrected in the next print run.”

Wet Goddess has sold about 1,400 copies in 18 countries and been translated into Russian, Brenner said. His other books are 2014’s Growing Up in the Orgone Box: Secrets of a Reichian Childhood, a memoir, and a 2016 science fiction novel, Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair.

 

“Orgone Box” now an e-book

Malcolm Brenner’s memoir of psychiatric sexual abuse and a dysfunctional family, “Growing Up In The Orgone Box: Secrets of a Reichian Childhood,” is now available as an e-book on Smashwords under the “Adult Content” listing.

“I suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of a sadistic pervert, Dr. Albert Duvall, who was appointed by Wilhelm Reich to practice his bogus ‘orgone therapy’ on innocent children like myself,” Brenner said. “My family poured thousands of dollars into this quackery on the basis that it would make us have better orgasms and be better people, but to this day I am filled with rage at what happened to me, and to hundreds of other unfortunate children.”

Duvall is the same psychiatrist whom entertainer Lorna Luft wrote about in her autobiography, “Me And My Shadows.”  Luft is the daughter of actress Judy Garland.

“This type of abuse is typical of ‘true believers,’ whatever their belief system is,” Brenner said.  “One of the characteristics of the children who were molested by Duvall is that we all tried to tell our parents what was going on in his locked, soundproof office, and none of them listened to us.”

Duvall, who died in 1979, was never accused, charged or punished for his crimes.

“I hope ‘Orgone Box’ sets the record straight about Wilhelm Reich’s nonsensical beliefs and Duvall’s sadism toward his patients,” Brenner said.  “The publication of this e-book makes my story available to more people, particularly in Europe, where Reich’s work remains popular, for some unfathomable reason.”