Gripping if occasionally drawn-out account of a gruesome crime wave and a victim who survived it.




A 1920s rape and murder spree, re-created with grisly details both real and imagined.

Between 1926 and 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott murdered at least 20 boys at a chicken ranch near Los Angeles. (The 2008 film Changeling dealt with the mother of one of his victims.) During those years, Northcott held hostage and assaulted his teenaged nephew, Sanford Clark, forcing him to assist in the killings. True-crime writer and novelist Flacco (The Hidden Man, 2008, etc.) depicts Northcott as a conscienceless monster, killing innocents he deemed inferior to demonstrate his own presumed power. He was physically repulsive as well, if the author’s description of a hairy body, “more animal than human,” is to be believed. Sensitive readers should take a pass on this book, given the scenes of chained, terrified children subjected to hideous sexual assault and murder. Flacco relies on court records, news accounts and his collaborator, Clark’s son Jerry. He acknowledges covering gaps in the historical record with embellishments that sometimes keep the narrative chugging along, but other times bog it down. The real events are so mesmerizing, if sickening, that it seems superfluous to spend ten pages imagining Clark’s thoughts as he lies imprisoned by his uncle in a boarded-up pit. Most of the book details the crimes, but Flacco ends by describing the aftermath for Clark, whose testimony against his uncle helped send Northcott to the noose. The final pages show Clark’s inner strength, abetted by his loving wife and sister, taming his nightmarish memories enough to give him a decent and even admirable life.

Gripping if occasionally drawn-out account of a gruesome crime wave and a victim who survived it.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4027-6869-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Union Square/Sterling

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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