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I just spoke with Nancy Hatfield, Jim's wife. She said there is absolutely no question that Jim took his own life. He had suffered a breakdown recently and was very despondant and acting out and no one had any idea the seriousness of his depression. She said he left no life insurance, so if anyone wanted to do something in Jim's name, it would be most appreciated, especially if done for their daughter. Here was the formal request from the obituary:
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to a trust for Haley Hatfield, in care of the Bank of Bentonville, Special Accounts, PO Box 1229, Bentonville 72712.
United We Stand, Divided We fall...
Dear Friends and Members of the Press,
We have been reeling from the news since Friday. Jim Hatfield is gone. In a country where not enough reporters and talking heads have the courage to speak truth to power, Hatfield, the President's most controversial biographer, ended his own life in solitude in an Arkansas motel last week.
I knew Jim. He could be tempestuous, moody and unpredictable. He was also intensely driven, articulate and full of Southern charm. When I spoke with his widow Nancy on Friday, we agreed, "He was a good writer." He was a hell of a fighter and you wanted him on your side. Just last month we spent a weekend together in Chicago on the trade show floor of Book Expo America. He signed books, shook hands, worked the crowd, spoke out, strategized with me and revealed sources. We went non-stop together to promote his Bush biography Fortunate Son. He was fond of quoting Langston Hughes, "I've been insulted, eliminated, locked in, locked out, and left holding the bag. But I am still here."
Like Hughes, Hatfield will live on through his books. Jim's life will not be soon forgotten. The story of Fortunate Son is gravely important. Jim was on the verge of collapse due to financial difficulties, and part of this was due to the failure of this book. The American media followed the trail laid for them: the piercing inquiries into Bush's drug history were diverted into ironic stories about Jim Hatfield's own checkered past. After Hatfield was fed information and then discredited, he faced financial ruin and obscurity. He lost two other book contracts. His death was by his own hand but the causes go deeper. October of 1999 was glorious for him: he celebrated the initial publication of Fortunate Son and the birth of his daughter. But October was shattered by a book burning, a two-year long media carnival, and the character assassination of Jim Hatfield, an ex convict turned author who had paid his debt to society.
Jim Hatfield's death is in part on the hands of an imperious American media establishment that reserves the softest touch money can buy for George W. Bush and all sons of privilege. Jim Hatfield, a working class journalist unannointed by the media elite, was viciously made into an example.
He had a fearlessness that will be missed.
--Sander Hicks, CEO, Soft Skull Press, Inc., 7/23/01
AUTHOR WHO DIED ALMOST ARRESTED AGAIN
"AUSTIN – A George W. Bush biographer whose criminal past caused his book to be recalled committed suicide, police said, just as he was about to be arrested on new criminal charges. A housekeeper found James Howard Hatfield, 43, dead of a prescription drug overdose Wednesday, in a Springdale, Ark., motel room, police said. A day earlier, detectives in nearby Bentonville, Ark., had seized Mr. Hatfield's home computer and arranged for him to surrender that evening on charges of fraudulently trying to obtain credit cards over the Internet. Instead, Mr. Hatfield – facing a parole revocation and return to Texas prison for a 1987 car bombing – checked into the motel where he died....
"Springdale [Ark.] police Detective Al Barrios said Friday that there is no evidence that any one else was involved in Mr. Hatfield's death: A suicide note indicated he did not want to put his family through the embarrassment and expense of criminal proceedings. In the note, Mr. Hatfield wrote of his financial straits since October 1999 – the month his book was scrapped – and expressed hope that the biography would yet provide income for his wife and infant daughter. He cited other factors, including a possible reference – by initials – to Fortunate Son: "Blame it on FS, the depression, the alcohol abuse ... " Bentonville, Ark., police records show that when he died, Mr. Hatfield was suspected of having used the Internet to seek credit in the name of a former fellow inmate, George T. Burt, who co-authored with Mr. Hatfield a series of TV trivia books. Mr. Burt of Plano who had served time for the near-fatal shooting of girlfriend near Houston, complained to police after learning of the credit applications. --DMN, 7/21/01
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Author of Bush biography commits suicide
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) - The author of a book about George W. Bush has killed himself, police said. James Howard Hatfield, 43, wrote Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the making of an American President in 1999. The unauthorized biography accused Bush of covering up a cocaine arrest. But during interviews about the book, Hatfield lied to reporters about his own criminal past. A hotel housekeeper discovered the man's body about noon Wednesday, Springdale police Detective Al Barrios said Thursday. Barrios said the man apparently overdosed on two kinds of prescription drugs. Police don't suspect foul play. AP-WS-07-20-01 0709EDT
REUTERS, 7/20/01 "Police said Hatfield, 43, died of an apparent drug overdose. His body was found by a maid on Wednesday, the day after he checked into the motel in Springdale, near his native Bentonville and about 200 miles northwest of Little Rock. Detective Sgt. Mike Shriver of the Springdale Police Department said there was no question it was a suicide. "He left a note and everything," Shriver said of Hatfield. "It's really cut and dried."...Shriver said Hatfield had checked into the motel the night before his body was found. He said a suicide note near the body referred to financial problems, and that friends had told investigators Hatfield was becoming increasingly depressed in his last days."
Bush Critic Found Dead
SPRINGDALE, Arkansas -- The Bentonville man who attracted national attention with his unauthorized biography of George W. Bush committed suicide Wednesday, police said.
James Howard Hatfield, 43, wrote Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President, in 1999. The book accused Bush of covering up a cocaine arrest. Hatfield's cover-up of his own criminal past overshadowed the book subject, however, when the author's publisher recalled all 70,000 copies shortly after its publication.
A hotel housekeeper discovered Hatfield's body about noon Wednesday in a room at the Days Inn, Springdale police detective Al Barrios said Thursday. He apparently overdosed on two different types of prescription drugs, Barrios said, one normally taken for pain and one usually taken for depression. He said toxicology tests aren't complete, so the cause of death isn't officially known. Barrios wouldn't identify the drugs or the reason they had been prescribed, saying he needed to confirm the information with Hatfield's doctor. Police don't suspect foul play, Barrios said. The suicide was "well-staged," with notes to loved ones and phone numbers for police to call for notification, he said. He said Hatfield checked into the hotel, on West Sunset Avenue, on Tuesday night. The housekeeper discovered his body clothed, lying on the bed, and called police.
In his book, Hatfield accused Bush, who at the time was the Republican presidential front-runner, of covering up a 1972 cocaine arrest with the help of his father. But during interviews about the book, Hatfield lied to reporters about his own 1988 conviction for an attempt to kill a co-worker. Court records show that Hatfield paid another man $5,000 to plant a bomb in a former co-worker's car. Hatfield's book about Bush was supposed to be published in January 2000, but St. Martin's Press moved up the date to fall of 1999 after Hatfield turned in a manuscript containing the cocaine allegation. The publisher pulled the book from store shelves in October 1999 after Hatfield's background became public.
Hatfield found a new publisher, Soft Skull Press, which republished the book a few months later. In a February 2000 interview with the Benton County Daily Record, Hatfield said he wanted to move on with his life. "I have a wonderful wife, the best wife in the world, and a new baby. We want to put all this behind us." A 1976 graduate of Bentonville High School, Hatfield was a self-employed writer and had published other books. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Hatfield; their daughter, Haley Hatfield; his father, Ralph Hatfield of Bentonville; and two brothers. -- ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE, 7/20/01
--Linda Starr, 7/20/01
Jim Hatfield was my friend.
We became very good friends actually, more than many people realized. We worked together on researching GWB information for the updated version of Fortunate Son and a few other projects. I am so sorry he felt such extreme desperation and misery. I'm sorry he had such a hard road to travel this earth. I'm proud to say I was among those (all excellent company, I might add) who came to join his side of the battle in having his book published, exposing GWB and made his acquaintance after the St Martin's recall fiasco. I was among his fiercest defenders. I did so because it was the right thing to do, but also because I genuinely believed in Jim and his book. I'm proud of how we came to know each other. We became good friends and shared many confidences. I will always miss Jim.
Jim and I shared many common bonds, including depression. We understood each other well. Jim adored his wife, Nancy, and baby daughter, Haley, and always worried how his work and this book was impacting them and their life together. Jim Hatfield was witty, funny, brilliant, articulate, a very good writer and was a great friend to me. I will miss Jim, his many talents, his humor, his passion, his work and a warm light has gone out of my life forever. The world will be a much colder, darker place without Jim in it and we have lost a great fighter in the cause to expose the truth about GWB. I cannot even begin to adequately describe the depth of my despair over this tragic news, or the extent of my sympathy and sorrow to his family. My heart breaks for them all.These next words have never been more true than at this minute... United We Stand, Divided We fall...
ONLINE COMMUNITY RESP0NDS TO HATFIELD DEATH
"In the online community where he found a home after "Fortunate Son," the reactions to Hatfield's reported suicide were unsurprisingly suspicious. Take this from Democrats.com: "Police labeled the death a suicide, but we'll be watching this story VERY carefully." The conspiracy theorists were out in force on the Democratic Underground, where speculation was that Hatfield's death was some kind of "payback." One poster writes: "I heard Hatfield was working on a second book, who knows what might have been in there. While it would be nice if we could prove it, I don't expect to. After all, [Bush's father] was head of the CIA." Even the folks at the Free Republic were skeptical. "Are we seeing the beginning of another 'Dead Body List'? I thought that garbage flowed out with the incoming tide," writes one poster. But others in the thread were more rooted in cold, hard fact. "And so begins the Parade of Conspiracy Nutballs." Conspiracy nutballs aside, Hatfield's friends are mourning the author's death. "Right now, my thoughts are for his widow, Nancy, and his daughter, Haley," Online Journal editor Bev Conover said. "My deepest condolences to them. Jim will be greatly missed. After his media roller-coaster ride, Hatfield kept a low profile, penning an occasional column for Online Journal, a liberal Web site. He once wrote a piece accusing Bush advisor Karl Rove of hatching a Machiavellian plot to use Hatfield's checkered past to dismiss the cocaine allegations about Bush. Soft Skull Press, against Hatfield's stated wishes, claimed Rove himself was Hatfield's key source for the cocaine allegation. Conover said she was "devastated" after hearing the news of Hatfield's death. "I got to know Jim fairly well over the past few years. I knew him to be a gentle and sensitive man whose life, career and family were ruined because he told the truth about George W. Bush," Conover said Friday." --Salon, 7/20/01
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