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

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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

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