January 29, 2014
Audiobook Review: FATAL VISION by Joe McGinniss
My Thoughts on the Audiobook version of Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss and read by Christopher Reeve
Readers of this site will know that I have posted multiple times on the infamous Fatal Vision/Jeffrey MacDonald case so it should come as no surprise that I have read and listened to Fatal Vision. What is surprising is that it took me this long to get the audio version and give it a listen.
Fatal Vision itself is a true crime masterpiece; well written and investigated and probing deep into the troubled psyche of MacDonald. Given that the paperback book itself, with updates, checks in at nearly 1,000 pages, I sensed trouble upon noticing that this audio version is just under three hours. Granted, this version was recorded before the updates were placed in the book but saying that it's abridged is an understatement.
Let's start with the good. Christopher Reeve. Who doesn't love Christopher Reeve? He was a terrific actor and his smooth voice, with his acting skill, adds zing and zest to this version. He doesn't just read MacDonald's account and testimony, he acts it out, complete with sobs, anger and nervous pauses. It most definitely gives life to a relatively flat and misedited work.
This isn't McGinniss' fault - - the editors did a hatchet job on his written work, in my opinion. Unlike the audio version of Helter Skelter (review to come), in which the vast majority of the book was reported and left untouched, this version skimmed the surface and left the reader with little insight as to MacDonald and the crimes.
Worse, Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald have little to no voice representing only MacDonald's victims. Sure, we know the horrible way in which they died but very little else is shared with the listener about them.
Even MacDonald, the center of this sad story, is given short shrift. Due to the editing, very little or no mention is made of key aspects of MacDonald's past - - his troubled adolescence in which he spent time away from his own family and living with another was reported in the physical book but not here. Also stated in the book were reports that MacDonald got into altercations and fights in high school and that he had a very quick temper - - interesting and important but not important enough to make the cut for the audio version. MacDonald's womanizing and infidelity did garner a mention in this version but the full extent, as reported in the book, was not explored. Certainly he didn't massacre his entire family because he cheated, and cheated repeatedly, but it does provide perspective on MacDonald's character to know that he was cheating with his CO's wife and/or cheating with a female friend and her teenage daughter.
With that, the audio version of Fatal Vision is still a compelling listen. The brevity does hurt the authenticity of the work and I don't understand why it was so abridged. I can get that every single word can't necessarily be reported and perhaps the sections on "The Words of Jeffrey MacDonald" sprinkled throughout the book might be redundant and not translate quite so well audibly.
If you want the most basic information on the case, this version will do nicely. It's what I call a quick and dirty listen. If you want more in-depth reporting and information on the case, get yourself a paperback or Kindle version of Fatal Vision. You won't be sorry.
FTC Disclosure: This book was from my own private collection, purchased by me. I was neither paid nor compensated in any way for this review.