DANGEROUS GAMES

THE TRUE STORY OF A CONVICTED MURDERER ON DEATH ROW WHO CHANGED HIS SEX AND WON HER FREEDOM

A startling portrayal of life at the frayed edges of the American Dream—of drag shows, transvestite hustlers, teenage hookers, flophouses—and murder most foul. Free-lance writer Bentley centers his narrative on Leslie Douglas Ashley, a flamboyant drag performer who in the early 80's fled Houston for Manhattan. Failing to make it in the Gotham clubs, Ashley, still in drag, took to the streets as a prostitute. Returning to Texas, he encountered Carolyn Ann Lima, a slightly retarded 17-year-old hooker. The two joined forces, servicing clients from schoolboys to traveling salesmen. One of the pair's johns was a local real-estate agent who—according to their later testimony—became threatening during an assignation. Lima pumped six rounds into the man, then helped Ashley drag the body to a nearby vacant lot, where they set it on fire. Taking their victim's car, the two set out for Manhattan, pausing briefly in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Picked up in N.Y.C. on a minor charge, Ashley and Lima were returned to Texas on murder charges. Ashley was condemned to death, despite an insanity defense; Lima plea- bargained and received time. During an appeal, it became clear that the prosecution had withheld evidence regarding Ashley's mental condition, and, after a new sanity hearing, the transvestite was put in a mental institution. Ashley was eventually pardoned; today, after a sex-change operation, she's politically active as a spokesperson for ACT UP—although Bentley indicates that her abrasive personality goes unappreciated even by that organization. An engrossing look at a shadowy area of American life—and the dark underbelly of the Reagan years. (Eight pages of photographs)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-55972-180-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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