The Devil in my Friend

Eileen Williams' Feisty Side of Fifty logo

Mary Eileen Williams Review July 2024

“This book will, not only leave you fascinated by the suspense involved in uncovering details of the murders, but also by the looming question it will leave in each reader’s mind: Can you really trust the people in your life whom you thought were your friends? As the murder in Malibu demonstrates all too clearly… maybe not.”

Mary Eileen Williams—” Feisty Side of Fifty Radio”

Goodreads Logo Image

Goodreads Review May 2024

The true account of Ivor and Sally Ogle Davis’s friend and neighbor whose affable exterior hid a conniving and cruel murderer. “The Devil in My Friend: The Inside Story of a Malibu Murder,” tracks the life of Fred Roehler, from his early years with a family who weren’t afraid to bend the rules of society for financial gain, to the deaths of two wives and a stepson. When he is arrested for suspected murder, investigative journalists Sally and Ivor believe he is innocent and gather information to prove it. However, as time goes on and more information comes to light, they are shocked to find that Roehler wasn’t the person they thought him to be.

Highly readable, I would highly recommend this riveting story
— Nicky B. “Good Reads.”

Image of author Jude Southerland Kessler

Murder in Malibu
Review: Jude Southerland Kessler“How does it feel to be/ One of the beautiful people?” John Lennon asked after his third visit to the chic, well-heeled Los Angeles suburbs. Having visited in “the land of the lovely” in 1964, 1965, and 1966 – meeting Peter Fonda, the Byrds, Jayne Mansfield, Peggy Lipton, and oh yes, Elvis (who was there in ’65 to make the film “Paradise Hawaiian Style”) – Lennon had experienced the lavish lifestyle of Bel Air, Malibu, and Hollywood. He had met the megastars. He had also made friends with a London transplant, a savvy, interesting foreign correspondent for the London Daily Express, Ivor Davis.Ivor had traveled with The Beatles on their 1964 North American Tour and then, in 1965, Davis had joined them for the San Diego/Los Angeles legs of their second North American Tour. Affable and smart, Davis was selected to be one of only two reporters to go with The Beatles to meet Elvis Presley. Both Davis and Lennon loved California – the lush land of celebrities, bougainvillea, sparkling pools, and champagne. But eventually, they both discovered that snakes can lurk in the manicured shrubbery. Indeed, in the late 1970s, Davis encountered one of the most dangerous.In his new book The Devil in My Friend: A Malibu Murder, Davis recounts the true story of his neighbor Fred Roehler, a clever Navy diver who, Davis reports, allegedly spent years defrauding insurance companies and convincing the Navy that he required worker’s compensation for a serious back injury whilst all the while constructing a massive rock retaining wall for his neighborhood. Some years before, Roehler’s first wife, Jeanne, had drowned in her backyard pool under suspicious circumstances. And then on January 2, 1981, his second wife Verna and young stepson Douglas – both recently and heavily insured – drowned in a boating accident off Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of Santa Barbara, with Roehler. This story, if fiction, would be too gruesome to read. But because every word is thoroughly documented by Ivor Davis and his wife, the late Sally Ogle Davis, The Devil in My Friend is a gripping read.Ivor Davis’s journalistic career spans 60 years. He interviewed (and was close friends) with Muhammed Ali, Steve McQueen, and Elizabeth Taylor. He traveled with Robert Kennedy and was only feet away from Kennedy in the kitchen when he was shot. Davis was one of Reagan’s “Boys on the Bus.” And his book Five to Die, covering the Charles Manson murders, was so accurate that it was accepted into court evidence during the Manson trial. His reputation for painstaking investigation and thorough coverage of a story is almost unparalleled. But to my way of thinking, in The Devil in My Friend, Davis is at his best.He sets the stage by taking you into the hip beach community that Ali McGraw (and Ivor and Sally Davis) called home – the place where wearing the right clothes, traveling in the right set, and owning the right boat made all the difference. He introduces you to Fred Roehler’s family of origin, his closest friends, and his work associates. Ivor – whom Roehler assisted in coaching Ivor’s son’s soccer league – gives you very human glimpses of Roehler interacting with “the beautiful people” of the Malibu jet set. You meet Roehler’s mother-in-law, Camelia or “Cam,” who adores Fred. You get to know Roehler’s lawyer and best friend, William Fairfield. And like Ivor Davis, you find the affable, athletic diver to be one heck of a guy.But when the story that Roehler, his wife, and his stepson capsizes on 2 January, and the strong and accomplished swimmer can’t save them…when questions begin to arise about the sizeable insurance payoffs on the lives of Roehler’s wife and stepson…and when Roehler is arrested on suspicion of murder, you begin to wonder if there might be more to the story. Trust me, there is.Both Ivor and his wife Sally knew Roehler well prior to the death of Verna and Douglas, and they firmly believed in his innocence. They attended every day of Roehler’s trial as part of “Team Fred” and were shocked at the trial’s outcome. However, in the months following Fred’s conviction, things began to change. As the Davises offered to help Fred put things right, they were given “all of Fred’s personal records…dating back to college, photographs, interview tapes, and transcripts.” (p. 246) Then, the couple began to routinely travel the 800 miles (round-trip) to Folsom State Prison to speak with Fred and gather evidence on his behalf. But the more the Davises delved into the details of the Roehlers’ double murders, the more bewildered they became. “The more time we spent with [Fred],” Davis reports, “the harder it became to ignore the growing list of contradictions in Fred’s story.” (p. 249)However, still determined to help their friend, Sally and Ivor began interviewing Roehler’s work associates; they carefully canvassed his friends. They investigated the death of Fred’s first wife Jeanne Roehler. They even flew to Roehler’s hometown of Centreville, Indiana to interview his childhood teachers, neighbors, and long-time acquaintances. And in almost every interview they conducted, the opinion of one Centreville neighbor was repeated over and over: “‘If there was money in it,’ one said flatly, ‘he did it.’” (p. 253) Bit by bit, a gruesome picture of guilt was beginning to emerge…one that had been very cleverly and artfully concealed. And that is the intriguing story of this book.I did not sleep for four nights after beginning The Devil in My Friend. It’s the sort of book that makes you bargain with yourself, “Five more pages and then I’ll go to sleep…Okay, one more chapter, and that’s it!” You literally cannot put it down.I have read all of Davis’s books including his updated version of the Manson story (filling the reader in on what has transpired in the last 50 years), Manson Exposed. In my role as a John Lennon biographer, I’ve read Davis’s phenomenal The Beatles and Me On Tour and his recent 60th Anniversary Edition, which has a considerable amount of new information. But without a doubt, The Devil in My Friend: The Inside Story of a Malibu Murder is his best book to date. It is magnificently researched, very well-written, and compelling. It is also a vivid reminder that “the beautiful people” can be mere sham and show.

Ladies and Gentlemen…The Penguins!

Childrens Review Logo

Bound to capture the attention of music buffs, fledging ornithologists, and enthusiastic geographers, Ladies and Gentleman … The Penguins is as entertaining as it is educational.  Author Ivor Davis has filled his jaunty tale with well-placed Beatles puns, and ends the book on a high note by adding facts about penguins and the Falklands, a puzzle that teaches the names of the actual members of the world famous band, The Beatles, as well as some fun coloring pages featuring The Penguins band members. Dave McTaggart, the illustrator of over 30 children’s books, adds plenty of pop to the pages with bright colors and characters with pizazz. Bursting with fun, Ladies and Gentleman … The Penguins will surely appeal to a wide range of young readers, but particularly those destined to be rock stars—either the singing in the shower type or those sure to head out on a world tour at any chance they get. See the full review here.

Midwest review logo“Ladies and Gentlemen….. The Penguins” is a delightful children’s illustrated book about Sadie, a musical king penguin who stars in a hot rock group from the British owned Falkland Islands, down in the Southern Hemisphere, off the coast of South America. Living on the Falklands where the population is one million penguins, half a million sheep, and three thousand humans, Sadie and her friends decide to form a rock band called the Penguins. Written by the fifth Beatles, Ivor Davis, “Ladies and Gentlemen…. The Penguins!” is a total Falklands based spoof on the Beatles, with tons of in jokes, plus actual facts and figments about the Falklands. Sadie and the Penguins achieved high fame with their music, but not without competing with rock groups such as the Rolling Rockhoppers, and the Macaronie Plumes. Sadie and her brother Elias and cousins Levi and Ezra toured and sang their hits, managed by their manager, Brian Fishstein. They sang on the Ed Pelican Show, winning a prize for “We All Live in a Yellow Marine Ecological Reserve.” The Queen even gave the Penguins the order of the Penguin Empire. But one day, Sadie woke up with a sore beak and falling out feathers. The Penguins were homesick. Touring wasn’t fun any more. So they quit, cold penguin. But they still perform on cruise ships, and even write their memoirs. That’s why Sadie wrote “Ladies and Gentlemen….. the penguins!!” This delightful Beatles homage story wouldn’t be complete without “Everything You Wanted to Know About Penguins But Were Afraid to Ask, Fun Facts About the Falklands, and a cool Penguin Puzzle challenge which highlights the names of the four Beatles hiding in the preceding pages of the book. Last of all are four lovely black and white coloring portraits of each favorite Penguin, Sadie Elias, Levi, and Ezra. Kids of all ages will love “Ladies and Gentlemen…The Penguins!” 

The Beatles and Me On Tour

PW Best BooksDavis, a British journalist transplanted to Los Angeles, was commissioned to go with on a tour of the U.S. the Beatles in the summer of 1964, mostly to be a ghostwriter for George Harrison’s column in the London Daily Express. He got to know “the boys” and the intricacies of their relationships, witnessed their sexual peccadilloes on the road, and became close to their manager, Brian Epstein. He was present when the Beatles met Elvis and when they smoked pot with Bob Dylan for the first time. Fans of the Beatles will absolutely delight in Davis’s insider account of a frenetic tour, and there are several stories that enthusiasts have never heard before. Read more…

1478446_origA Rollicking Recounting of a World Gone Mad

By David Boldt ( a Pulitzer Prizing-winning journalist and former editor at Philadelphia Inquirer and Wall Street Journal) 5 STAR REVIEW
This is a book for people who believe books about entertainment should be entertaining. It is not for those intent on calculating (to the second decimal) what percentage of a given Beatles’ song was written by Paul, and how much by John, a scholastic debate that seems to be in vogue currently. Ivor Davis ‘extensively researched account of The Beatles first US tour (and he was there), while chock full of interesting information, is much more an account of Beatlemania than a treatise on Beatle-ism.

Schedule an Event

Media Contact

Contact Author