GODS OF DEATH

AROUND THE WORLD, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, OPERATES AN ULTRA-SECRET BUSINESS OF SEX AND DEATH. ONE MAN HUNTS THE TRUTH ABOUT SNUFF FILMS.

A former investigator of neo-Nazis turns his detective skills and underworld contacts to the almost equally sordid and furtive world of violent pornography in this incredible globe-trotting odyssey. Snuff films—whose filming involves people actually being sexually tortured, raped, and murdered—have long been the stuff of legend and apocrypha. To this day, the FBI claims that there is no such thing. But Svoray (In Hitler's Shadow, 1994) seems to have found otherwise. Beginning with a contact in Israel, he travels, using several different cover stories and aliases, to Bangkok, New York, Los Angeles, London, Germany, and Paris, before ending up in Serbia, following an ever-winding, often elusive trail. His goal, ostensibly, is to procure a copy of a snuff film, proof final and positive. But he is really more interested in seeing where his leads go, what new and dangerous pornographers, con men, and mobsters they turn up. Along the way he views a number of snuff films and even arranges a viewing in Paris of such a film for the actor Robert De Niro (deep in method acting research). Then there is the Connecticut mansion where wealthy pillars of the community pay $1,500 each for the privilege of watching a snuff film. In Bosnia, Svoray finds himself negotiating for a snuff film (it turns out to contain a horrific record of Bosnian Serb atrocities, including rapes and murders) while NATO planes fly bombing runs overhead. Back in Belgrade, Svoray is arrested and the tape, his only proof, confiscated. If this is all true, it's an amazing story. There are so many incidents, so much danger, one has to wonder how Svoray managed to survive. Certainly, given this material, his penchant for melodrama and dramatic flourishes is completely superfluous. What would be gawky, ill-plotted, and rambling as fiction, as fact becomes an unbelievably compelling journey to the depths of human depravity.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-81445-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

more