The Ascension of Jerry: Murder, Hitmen and the Making of L.A. Muckraker Jerry Schneiderman
DUST JACKET DESCRIPTION . . .
Bumbling hitmen. Burning corpses. A threatened son. Life in hiding. Jerry Schneiderman’s orderly world as a young, family man with a booming space-design firm died on the spot when his business partner was executed by a diabolical, five-foot-nothing assassin on a rainy night in 1979 Los Angeles, and the buzzard-eyed ringleader came for him. Though the killers behind the murder-for-profit corporation were nabbed (after it took them nearly a dozen tries to complete their job), the trauma annihilated Jerry’s family and strip-mined his trust. Recovery only came years later with Jerry’s improbable rebirth as a prank-loving, civic activist who defended the weak by milking his scars, leaving his adversaries chasing their shadows. Nineteen seventy nine, just the same, never really left him.
REVIEWS & BLURBAGE . . .
– “In Chip Jacobs true-crime, The Ascension of Jerry, we are whisked back to LA’s Kodachrome world of the Seventies. Through the eyes of the protagonist, Jerry, the “bright colors and greens of summer” quickly change to the real life black-and-whites of mayhem and murder. But, this is not just another Hollywood Whodunit. In the end we find it is really about one man’s search and struggle to find his own personal truths and redemption. Well written and highly recommended.” - Steve Hodel, LAPD Hollywood Homicide detective (ret.) and Bestselling author, “Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder.”
– “Jacobs delivers a seductive tour of an L.A. rife with murder-for-hire plots, political corruption and sociopathic schemes. Against this backdrop the young Schneiderman comes of age, to ultimately emerge as the last man standing. A terrific book – I couldn’t put it down! — Stephen Jay Schwartz, L.A. Times bestselling author of “Boulevard” and “Beat.”
– “Chip Jacobs’ chops as an accomplished newspaperman are on brilliant display in The Ascension of Jerry, a delightfully off-kilter true-crime tale of a hero (sorta) who is neither especially loathsome nor lovable … maybe just lucky to get out alive. Jacobs’ prose is intimate, darkly funny, and crisp as he follows the twisted path that leads SoCal businessman Jerry Schneiderman through a series of weird events – including crossing paths with some dumb-ass hitmen and some burning corpses – only to emerge as a merry prankster with a jones for social activism. (If you haven’t yet deduced that this book is not your Mama’s supermarket true-crime trash, then you’re doing it wrong. But here’s the thing: Jacobs’ ear for a good story is pitch perfect, and he tells it with all the smoggy pastel colors of post-noir LA. The Ascension of Jerry isn’t an old song in a new key, but an entirely new song about crime, fear, and a weird kind of redemption that could only happen in the general vicinity of Hollywood. Jacobs is a genuine writer, not a wannabe scribbler. He knows what makes us keep turning pages. So for those few true-crime readers who like their mayhem served up in a sumptuous story, seek this one out.” — Ron Franscell, celebrated true-crime author.
– Chip Jacobs uses his boundless reporter’s energy and well-honed sense of Southern California to tell a gripping tale of serial mayhem and the curious life of Jerry Schneiderman. It’s reassuring to see the right writer was paying attention.” – David Willman, Los Angeles Times Pulitzer winning investigative reporter and author of “The Mirage Man: Bruce Irvins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America’s Rush to War.”
– “Chip Jacobs explores the underbelly of an L.A. murder-for-hire ring that leaves many dead and a successful space planner, Jerry Schneiderman, so affected by PTSD that he embarks on a widespread muckraking campaign that targets major political forces in Los Angeles and beyond. Pitched as a “roots of Occupy story” (aside from Mark Twain’s, of course), The Ascension of Jerry: Murder, Hitmen, and the Making of L.A. Muckraker Jerry Schneiderman (A Vireo Book/Rare Bird; April 2012) will leave you closing your blinds and forever looking behind your back for the crazed psycho-killer disguised as an ordinary blue collar guy.” – Foreword magazine staff pick, late-summer 2012
– “The pay for some deals is wonderful, but the drawbacks that can come along with it may be too much to swallow. “The Ascension of Jerry: Murder, Hitmen, and the Making of L.A. Muckraker Jerry Schneiderman” follows the life of Jerry Schneiderman, whose (space planning) career prospered, then quickly spun out of control when his business (partner) ate a bullet via assassin. Fearing for his life, he was on the run for (months), before he found his … life’s calling. “The Ascension of Jerry” is an enticing true tale of getting one’s life back in the midst of … skullduggery, highly recommended.” – Midwest Book Review, September 2012
-- “The story of Jerry is filled with characters that seemed to have stepped out of a James Elroy or Raymond Chandler novel. Ruthless hitmen who can never find their quarry at home at night. A co-worker whose soul is corroded by hate and greed. A beautiful, helpless woman abandoned by a handsome swindler. And then Jerry, a clueless guy just trying to work hard for his family who is caught in a whirlpool of lies, betrayal and murder. It’s a classic LA story. Raymond Chandler would’ve been jealous. “- Southern California author Mary Castillo
– ” … a title for your shelf … a fascinating story” – Foothills Paper, July 27, 2012
– “Enthralled” – Tales & Ales review site
MEDIA AND OTHER COVERAGE . . .
* Ascension of Jerry makes winners’ circle at the Southern California Book Festival - Fall 2013
* Story highlighted in true-crime authors’ featurette appearing on the DVD of the Ethan Hawke/Lionsgate thriller “Sinister“
* Author interview on “Connie Martinson Talks Book” - Summer 2012
* Ascension of Jerry takes silver at Hollywood Book Festival - Summer 2012
* Vroman’s bookstore bestseller
* Why is civic activism and journalism legal and who was Jerry Schneiderman? – KCET, June 11, 2012
* Author interview for The Ascension of Jerry - This American Wife web radio, June 8, 2012
* “Jerry Schneiderman: The Rabble-Rouser you’ve never head about but should know” - L.A. Weekly, May 22, 2012
* “Author Chip Jacobs details Jerry Schneiderman Murder Triangle in New Book” - KCBS-KCAL TV, May 17, 2012
* “Killer Prose: With ‘The Ascension of Jerry,’ writer Chip Jacobs reveals his wildest tale yet” – Pasadena Weekly, March 23, 2012 (Note: the “murder corporation” referenced in this article was located near but not in the old Bullocks department store in Pasadena.)
* Ascension of Jerry listed in Bookforum as an independent title to watch
The stranger I’d incensed in the rusty, white Volkswagen bus pumped his fist out the window, cussing. “Motherfucker,” he yelled. “I’m gonna get you. M-O-T-H-E-R-F-U-C-K-A! ” His promise came with little javelins of spit that pelted out of his mouth, liquid vulgarity over which he had little control. That look — his detesting eyes, the scarlet veins branching through his neck — were nothing I’d ever seen before, at least not in the rear-view mirror of my father’s boat-sized Pontiac Grand Safari. My vehicular offense, apparently, was unforgiveable to the person now committed to my comeuppance. I’d forced the man to swerve when I’d inadvertently cut him off changing lanes on a road in the hilly Los Angeles suburb of Altadena. I was a seventeen-year-old high school junior then, and the fortyish, VW owner had found a target. “You motherfucker,” he kept saying. As in me.
Seated next to me that piss-yourself spring day in 1979 was one of my best friends, Dave Ferris. Neither of us had any inkling how to elude the tailgater, let alone what he might do to us. “Road rage” hadn’t yet been coined. Our jabbering about the history instructor whose dentures had dropped to the floor mid-lecture stopped when we measured our vulnerability out here. I sped up to the next signal to get some separation. There was none. The Volkswagen stayed on my chrome bumper with the Led Zeppelin sticker on it, the hate coming out of that van like the singed, black exhaust it disgorged. Dave and I stared blankly ahead. The radio was flicked off. Our brains migrated into SOS wavelengths, yet there was no cop or Good Samaritan in sight on the rain-glistened streets. I pulled over into the right lane, going east, praying the stranger would settle for flipping us the bird off and tearing away. Surely, that’d satisfy his spleen over a lane-changing miscue. No, it would not. He jerked from behind me into the left lane. At the stoplight, he rolled his passenger-side widow down to glower again, as if he had decided we were worthy of his dark attentions. I knew I had to do something drastic or risk being on the six o’clock news. So, once the light flashed to green, I glided half a block, veering off with a sharp, right turn at the first street we passed. Consider yourself ditched, psycho! When I looked back, my stomach air dropped. Not only was our pursuer right behind us, his VW was blocking our escape on the block that was actually a cul-de-sac. We were dead meat over a mulligan.
The world then was an ornery, random place, just as it seems in 2012 as we wage wars without end and read cavalierly about the unemployed father who slaughters his family in a PTSD-stricken spasm. There was no Google, no Facebook, no Prius and no noticeably melting glaciers in 1979. There were Japanese stereos, computers as big as steamer-trunks, tricked-out Camaros and eye-watering smog. At our school, La Canada’s private Flintridge Preparatory, Dave and I had heard about how history loops in cycles, so prosperity ebbs into recession and fascism follows nationalism. Nobody, though, had explained why individual Americans were lashing out, as they deposited rattlesnakes in mailboxes and hung state leaders in effigy, why they moved into gated communities or took out gun permits by the barrell. To me, it was generational occurrence: every twenty years or so, a collection of folks were bound to scream the classic snarl from the movie, “Network” — “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!” Everything was going wrong in the land of opportunity. Disenchantment and self-doubt following Vietnam and Watergate had become embitterment and cynicism about the future, as the Arabs embargoed our oil and President Jimmy Carter cajoled us to turn down our thermostats in his Mr. Rogers sweater. Nowhere was the population brooding more than in “laid-back” Southern California, where the coastline still shimmered and tourists bought maps to the stars’ homes even as serial monsters – the “Freeway Killer,” “The Hillside Strangle,” Orange County’s Rodney Alcala –roamed the freeways and factories yanked up their stakes in the first vapors of globalization.
Think about the planet today and it’s easy to see the wreckage of the late-seventies in the refraction. A Democratic president promising to restore hope must battle the status quo while struggling to save our pensions and protect our borders. Today’s “Great Recession” was yesteryear’s “stagflation.” Wall Street bailouts and the collapse of GM recall the Chrysler Corp. bankruptcy requiring a $1-billion loan that infuriated many blue collars. People mistrustful of their government today need only revisit the national mood after the Three Mile Island disaster. Outside the country, the scowling faces of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and the students he allowed to seize the U.S embassy suggested we Westerners had no monopoly on anger. Forget, too, about John Wayne storming the desert to rescue the hostages. He’d expired from cancer. When Soviet tanks rolled down the Khyber Pass and into Afghanistan, where superpowers go to die, any illusion of a well-adjusted, post-sixties planet circled the drain. Blood-thirsty, resentful folks made sure of that. Jerry Schneiderman, an untested space-planner with a startup firm and young family, never could’ve imagined that his city of scattered high-rises and dreamy potential would plop a resentful multi-killer with a contractor’s license into his lap. One bullet transformed the real into surreal in Los Angeles. One bullet and Jerry’s real-life education comprised an assassinated partner, an endangered child, an epileptic triggerman, a cross-dressing thief, and more post-traumatic lesions than Dr. Phil could address in a special. Read my true-crime book about him to verify any doubts. Jerry-endangered metastasized into Jerry-the-cunning.
The fuming soul who climbed out of his two-tone VW that day in ’79 was bearded and storkish, easily 6’3,” wearing an Army-surplus jacket that Robert DeNiro might’ve chucked in a Taxi Driver outtake. Outside his mini-bus, he was just as enraged as he’d been inside of it. Dave and I were statues in our seats as he swung up to the driver’s side window in what seemed a half-stride. Any second, I expected his hand would flash a pistol or machete and our blood would be all over the Pontiac’s caramel-colored, leather upholstery. My mind switched to reboot mode – to the clinical. Instead of thinking about my defense when the weapon was drawn, I remember asking myself what misery – divorce, illness, unemployment, loosened sanity, voices in the head – he hoped to exorcise by terrorizing us. Just because I’d forced him to swerve on a foggy afternoon. Maybe some part of me needed to know his suffering before he slaughtered us over it. Then his oversized noggin was fully leaning into the car, invading it, filling tyranizng it with that bloodshot spirit. I tried not crapping myself as I leaned away. “Don’t ever, EVER, do that to ME again! You hear me, kid?” His breath reeked, not just of nicotine, but of something diseased inside. “Not to me.” “Yes sir,” I stammered.” He stared deep into my eyes, as if he were calculating whether we merited extermination with a “M-O-T-H-E-R-F-U-C-K-A” Banshee whoop. His right fist vibrated near me, slightly swaying for a few seconds that dragged out like a weekend in purgatory. What was in his other hand, the one outside the car, I wondered? Was a quick death painful? I’d never know. Abruptly, he withdrew his fist and his head, stomping back to his VW bus, to his bottomed-out existence in a country malnourished for hope, and floored it. NEVER AGAIN!” he shouted. Something tells me we weren’t the last ones he’d stalk over the trivial.