A Tale of Modern Times

William Dear: The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III; Houghton Mufflin; Boston. 

Dallas Egbert was a genius. At the age of 13 he entered Michi­gan State University to study computer science. MSU assured the Egberts that the university would take special care of the brilliant but remarkably imma­ture student. Two years later he disappeared. William Dear, the Texas PI hired to find him, lost no time in discovering how well MSU had protected their young charge. Little Dallas had spent his college years cooking up angel dust in his dorm room and taking an active part in the homosexual community of East Lansing. His most strenuous intellectual pastime was playing Dungeons & Dragons—not just in his head, but in the eight-mile maze of steam tunnels under the MSU campus. 

Dear’s investigations were sometimes bizarre. In order to get inside the boy’s head, he spent time learning to play Dungeons & Dragons. He even lay down in front of an oncoming train (another one of Dallas’s amusements). Unfortunately, the engine had a cowcatcher at­tached, and the PI had to run for his life. More productively, Dear authorized a homosexual inves­tigator to start pressuring the local gay community just to see what would pop (Philip Mar­lowe would have been proud). Eventually Dear retrieved the boy from an oil-field town in Louisiana. His story, when he finally gave it to the detective, was as strange as anything Dear had imagined. Driven to despair by the obvious pressures of his fantastic life—pressures which were increased by a domineering and demanding mother—he took refuge in the steam tunnels and swallowed what he hoped was a lethal dose of quaaludes. When he woke up to discover yet another personal failure, he went for help to an older homo­sexual, who first befriended him and then exploited him with a series of “friends.” Eventually the gays got scared, probably as a result of Dear’s pressuring, and sent the boy to Louisiana, per­haps intending to have him killed in a more·convenient location. As Dear closed in, they changed their mind and told the boy to telephone the detective. Dallas’s recovery is not the usual happy ending of fairy tales. His relations with his family improved for a while but not enough to stave off chronic depression. One year and a day after his disappearance, he blew his brains out with a .25 automatic.

William Dear is no writer—his style alone acquits him of that charge—but he has put together a compelling narrative of mod­ern times. The casual and indi­rect manner of his storytelling gives the reader an occasional frightening glimpse into the unreal world of the college campus. Students would not come forward with information. The faculty refused to talk. The Gay Rights organization was only interested in protecting its rear. Nobody, it seemed, cared one way or another about the 16-year-old boy who had lost him­self in the fantasy world of sci fi, Tolkien clubs, and game fan­tasies. The kids who knew him best were too wrapped up in their private worlds of games, drugs, and illusions.

What was the role of MSU in all this? If Dear is right, they deliberately misled Dallas’s parents about the life the boy was leading. So far from providing supervision, the university authorities had no way of knowing from one day to the next if the kid was even in East Lansing (often he wasn’t). They took five days to notify the parents of his disappearance, and Dear was in East Lansing for a week before they allowed him to explore the tunnels. Meantime, “somebody” complained to the Michigan State Police that Dear was not properly licensed in the state—anything, it seems, rather than help uncover a potentially damaging scandal. 

It is difficult to say what Dallas Egbert might have made of his 180+ IQ if he had been allowed to lead a more normal life, or if he had been allowed to lead a more normal life, or if he had been sent to a responsible liberal arts college instead of to the nightmare campus of what Russell Kirk has taught us to call Behemoth U. 


Ugly Little Facts

Anthony T. Bouscaren: Soviet Offense: U.S. Defense; The Foundations Press, Notre Dame, IN.
Adam M. Garfinkle: The Politics of the Nuclear Freeze; Foreign Policy Research Institute; Philadelphia
The history of science, Albert Einstein once observed, is that of beautiful theories slaughtered by ugly little facts. The history of the nuclear freeze movement is that of a beautiful theory impervious to facts of every sort. The gos­samer theory, of course, is that if the U.S.stops producing nuclear arms, the Soviets will do likewise, and global peace will be the eventual result. The unpleasant facts will not support this fantasy. In his short study Soviet Offense: U.S. Defense Anthony Bouscaren carefully documents the unre­lenting Soviet quest for nuclear and conventional superiority during a 15-year period in which the U.S. did freeze its nuclear arsenal and dramatically reduced its conventional forces. The sinister implications of the continuing Soviet buildup that Bouscaren traces should be evident to all but leftist ideologues and the “invisibly ignorant.” Professor Bouscaren briefly dis­cusses the combination of West­ern irrationalism and Soviet ma­nipulation which has created the freeze movement, but Adam Gar­finkle offers a much more com­prehensive treatment of the movement in his Politics of the Nuclear Freeze. Intelligent and carefully nuanced, Garfinkle’s analysis explodes “the illusions of certainty of freeze advocates.” Of the nuclear dilemma, Garfinkle writes, “Ambiguous solutions to problems shrouded in uncertainty are much to be preferred to those that are clearcut and wrong.” Lovers of beautiful theories will not care for Garfinkle’s book; respecters of ugly facts will find it invaluable. 

The Sunset King

Olivier Bernier: Louis the Beloved: The Life of Louis XV; Doubleday; Garden City, New York.
Louis XV became King of Franceattheageoffive.Forthe rest of his life he was to be courted, tickled, and used by a seriesoftutors,mistresses(de­ clared and undeclared), and ministers.Hislongreign(1715-74) is commonly credited with bringing on the Revolution.The listofchargesordinarilyleveled against the amiable monarch include: court extravagance, unsuccessful foreign policy, the indulgence of his mistresses’ whims,theisolationofthecourt from the exigencies of the real world. Bernier makes a reason­ ablecasefortheKing: his worst problems were inherited and he did the best with what he had. By the end of his life, he could congratulate himself on the peace and prosperity which France enjoyed. No foreign army had invaded French soil (Canada was lost, but no one seemed to care about “a few acres of snow”); the pernicious power of the Parlement de Paris had been broken (a revived parlement helped bring on the crisis which led to the unfortunate events of 1789); above all, France was looked up to as the intellectual and artistic center of the world. When men like Talleyrand sighed for the lost glories of the ancien régime, they were paying a justified (if inmplicit) tribute to Louis le bien-aimé.
It is hard not to sympathize with Louis XV. It is equally hard to forget that only 15 years after his death Europe witnessed the implosion of Old France and the unleashing of a revolutionary fury which was to infect the entire world. Even Bernier concedes that the King was too complacent in allowing his power to be misused by aristocratic flunkies. On rare occasions he did manage to assert himself, but his exertions had no ensuring effects. Bernier’s extravagant praise of Louis is something like the conservative rediscovery of the Eisenhower years. Both regimes showed a bright face to the world: peace abroad, tranquility at home; Louis was well beloved; we all liked Ike. Less noticeable but more significant in the long run were the forces of social and intellectual discontent which overflowed into rebellion.