Jim Jones Is Alive is a fictional account of the aftermath of the Jonestown tragedy in which Jim Jones escapes Jonestown and moves to a horse ranch in Northern California. The author, Eugene Mendonsa, is a Ph.D. who has written several other academic books. The first thing you notice is that there are no page numbers, neither is there a prologue or introductory information. You open the cover and Chapter One begins.
This was a book that should not have been written for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because it’s just plain dumb at best, and outright offensive to survivors who had to live with the real Jim Jones at worse. In my humble opinion, it was a horrible book with lots of trite clichés and hokey dialogue. I would hate to suffer through that again. If you want to know why, here is a summary of the story. It will save you from wasting a lot of time and money.
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This book opens with an American college professor named Avery Daniels teaching Social Anthropology at Cambridge University in England. Up to this point he has led a pretty normal, almost boring life… that is, until one day when he receives a note telling him that the woman who he thought is his mother, isn’t. Dismissing it as a bad joke, he disregards the note, but then he receives another note, this one more persistent. The second note goes on to say that his biological mother died in Jonestown. It works: a seed is planted in his head that begins to germinate and grow beyond his ability to simply dismiss it as a hoax.
Avery decides to pay a long overdue visit to Reya Hunt Daniels, the woman he thought he knew. She fits the stereotypical image of a 1950’s mother you see depicted on many black-and-white TV shows, the very picture of domesticity and trite aphorisms. After some brief chitchat, Avery tells her about the note and watches for her reaction. At first Reya tries to dismiss the note, and then to distract him by telling him to just sit down and “eat his pie” – as if he were still 10 years old – but finally relents. The note probably came from his sister, she says, who has been institutionalized in a lunatic asylum. Still, she admits that he was adopted and that, according to what she’s heard, his biological mother did actually die in Jonestown.
Avery makes a trip to the hospital to visit his sister, Maryellen Daniels. Not surprisingly, she looks and acts like how one might imagine a crazy person who has been confined to a lunatic asylum would act. Still, she is lucid enough to whet Avery’s appetite by feeding him little morsels of information about his natural mother.
Avery then spends the next few days ruminating over everything he has uncovered, oftentimes in bouts of rambling soliloquy. After much consideration he decided to hire a private investigator and eventually contracts the services of a woman named Sally. The fact that Sally is tall and blonde doesn’t hurt.
In the meantime, Jim Jones, who did survive and changed his name to Jon Jeremy, is living at a horse ranch called The Lazy JJ in Northern California, which he paid for with money he embezzled from Peoples Temple. When he learns of Avery’s investigation, he sends Hank, one of his paid flunkies, to find out what Avery and his detective know.
Sally decides to take a trip to Guyana to see what she can dig up. While there she speaks with many people who remember Jonestown. However, without her knowing it, she has been followed by some of Jones’ men who are supposed to kill her. She ends up in gun battle, killing one of her would-be assassins in the process. Hearing about the shooting, Avery rushes to her side, they have the obligatory love scene, fall in love, and return to the U.S., reinvigorated in their pursuit of the truth.
After the debacle in Guyana, Hank and his partner Paul return to Jones’ ranch to deliver the bad news. Jones is furious and goes on one of his infamous tirades, after which he pulls a gun and kills them both. Unfortunately for Jones, Avery and Sally are about 500 yards away, watching this whole thing go down. Jones spots their car, and another pursuit begins with more of Jones’ henchmen. Sally and Avery narrowly escape with bullets whizzing by their heads.
At this point Jones realizes that the jig is up. He retreats to the house and grabs a woman named Choral – who turns out to be Avery’s biological mother and who also survived the deaths – and together, they make their escape.
It seems that Jones has a second ranch, this one surrounded by land mines and surveillance cameras, because he has had the foresight to plan for intruders. He also decides he needs a new pseudonym, something original, something that no one could figure out. So he starts calling himself Jerald Jenks, because that is so vastly different from Jon Jeremy, which was so vastly different from Jim Jones.
But things aren’t going his way at all. The Mexican who took care of the second ranch – and whom Jones has disparaged and mistreated throughout their acquaintance – turns out to be a drug trafficker who was just pretending to be a simple ranch hand. Manual is tried of his act – and Choral is tired of Jones – and they decide to run away. But Jones learns of the double cross and kills the pair.
Once again, Jones is on the run, this time with a new women identified as Lynnette Quigley. But four murders are too many for local authorities to ignore, and they track him down in the woods. Sally and Avery, who also join in the pursuit, stumble into his camp, where they find Lynnette sitting on a wooden create. She is in shock because just a few minutes before they arrived, Jim Jones was attacked and dragged off by a large bear. It is, in the end, the end of Jim Jones.
(Mark Gallaga’s previous article for the jonestown report is Savive Book a Compelling and Controversial Read. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)