FROM KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS TO CRIME Scripps Howard News Service Release date: 12-01-88 +qu

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FROM KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS TO CRIME Scripps Howard News Service Release date: 12-01-88 "Monkey on a Stick," by John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $19.95. With bc-hubner(sh) By MARK WOOD Scripps Howard News Service As Chuck St. Denis turned to run, 12 bullets pierced his body. Somehow he got up and stumbled away. Thomas Drescher tackled him, then stabbed St. Denis with a kitchen knife until the blade broke. Switching to a screwdriver, Drescher kept stabbing St. Denis, then he punched a hole in St. Denis' skull with a hammer. Finally, as Drescher and Dan Reid were wrapping the body in plastic, St. Denis opened his eyes and pleaded. "Don't do that, you'll smother me." Incredible? You bet, but it's true. And it's just the first of many revelations about the American Hare Krishna movement in "Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness and the Hare Krishnas." This is a fascinating book that reads more like a crime thriller than the social history and expose that it is. Indeed, reporters John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson effectively use all the conventions of a crime novel to draw the reader into the real story: how murder, drugs and fraud turned the spiritual intentions of a generation into a nightmare. Besides the murder of Krishna devotee Chuck St. Denis, "Monkey on a Stick" also details the murder of a former devotee who tried to expose the movement's horrors and the supposed murder by pit bulls of a temple armorer. Other madness detailed in the book includes the sexual abuse of children, the beating of women, money-raising scams, arms-stockpiling, drug-running, a guru fueled by LSD and other gurus more concerned with empire- and palace-building than furthering "Krishna Consciousness." As do most thrillers, "Monkey on a Stick" also has its good guys, particularly Tom Westfall and Joe Sanchez, the only two cops to show any interest in the Krishna movement. Westfall became known as the "Krishna Cop" because of his detailed knowledge of the movement. Yet the thriller aspect mostly provides background for an examination of the social history of the Krishna movement by Hubner and Gruson. Through extensive interviews with current and former Hare Krishnas, as well as law enforcement officials, the authors provide some provocative clues to why "people who had set out make peace and love ended up molesting children, running drugs, committing murder." To their credit, Gruson and Hubner take pains to point out that not all the Krishnas were involved in crimes, nor were many even aware of them. If there is a downfall to "Monkey on a Stick," it's the book's structure. The facts and figures that make this engrossing story more credible are buried among the notes and citations at the end of the book. In a note on their methodology, Hubner and Gruson urge readers to consult the chapter-by-chapter notes as they read the book, a process that can be distracting at times. Still, "Monkey on a Stick" will leave you shaking your head in amazement. (Mark Wood is a reporter for Scripps Howard News Service.)


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