From 1926 to 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott committed at least 20 murders on a chicken ranch outside of Los Angeles. His nephew, Sanford Clark, was held captive there from the age of 13 to 15, and was the sole surviving victim of the killing spree. Here, acclaimed crime writer Anthony Flacco - using never-before-heard information from Sanford's son Jerry Clark - tells the real story behind the case that riveted the nation.
Forced by Northcott to take part in the murders, Sanford carried tremendous guilt all his life. Yet despite his youth and the trauma, he helped gain some justice for the dead and their families by testifying at Northcott's trialwhich led to his conviction and execution. It was a shocking story, but perhaps the most shocking part of all is the extraordinarily ordinary life Clark went on to live as a decorated WWII vet, a devoted husband of 55 years, a loving father, and a productive citizen.
In dramatizing one of the darkest cases in American crime, Flacco constructs a riveting psychological drama about how Sanford was able to detoxify himself from the evil he'd encountered, offering the ultimately redemptive story of one man's remarkable ability to survive a nightmare and emerge intact.
©2009 Anthony Flacco (P)2014 Audible Inc.
I was riveted from the beginning, brilliant. As a survivor of abuse myself from age 11 to 20 I understand the 'heaviness' and feelings of hopelessness Sanford went through. What an amazing person to get through it. A true hero.
This true story is more horrifying and heartbreaking than anything else I've ever heard but I'm glad I stuck with it. Not for the faint hearted but anyone interested in the darker side of humanity and the incredible power of the mind to overcome it needs to listen. Highly recommended.
I used to actually read books, held them in my hand, left grubby marks over the pages complimenting the coffee rings on the cover. No more
This was painful to listen to for the first half, the pain was almost palpable a I witnessed this boys humiliation, fear and hopelessness, if it weren't for the narrator who almost gently ushered and urged you to stick with it I would probably have not been able to continue listening.
It suddenly strikes you just how badly thought of in terms of regard for life children were in that era, certainly in rural and developing parts of America, doubtless to say that this boys story of abuse was not rare, just unreported. .
Heartache, Courage, Inspiration.
The most memorable moment in this story for me was the prosecuting attorney Kelly breaks up when he sees the extent of damage done to Sanford at the chicken ranch. As the narrator chokes out the words, portraying the emotion of Mr. Kelly it is impossible not to feel the level of hurt emotionally and physically of young Sanford. It is equally impossible not to feel the incredible compassion of Mr. Kelly. I am grateful for the narrator recognizing the need to relay this to the listener.
Mr. Flacco is of course the author of this book. As a result he understands how to convey the feelings of the individuals involved.
I did listen all in one sitting. Yes. The book is engaging, moving, horrifying and uplifting.
This is not simply a true crime novel written in a "just the facts ma'am" style. Although I find many of those interesting as well. This book is written with the focus on the victim more than a focus on the criminal. This book is not one for the squeamish. I would recommend this book but advise readers that the emotions exposed are raw.
"Overall compelling but lost momentum at the end"
This was an incredibly disturbing true crime story which at times was very difficult to listen to. In fact I had to take a break at times to deal with the terrible descriptions of abuse suffered by the narrator (the victim, Stanford Clark). But I kept going and am glad I did as the story was also a very compelling one and I really, really wanted to see justice served against the pepetrator of these horrific crimes. My only discontent with the book was that I thought it was a bit weak at the end. I would have liked it to focus more on the trial. I must put in a mention of the narrator of this audiobook, Anthony Flacco, who does an amazing job of portraying the twisted and depraved personage of Clark's Uncle. I would encourage listeners to look up photographs from this true crime case as they will definately add depth to the characters portayed in this book, as well as the settings and courtroom drama.
"Gripping Story of Survival"
Given that this book tells the story from the perspective of Sanford Clark, you know he gets away. I kept reminding myself of this fact in the first part of the book. I was pleased to see that the book told the story of Sanford's life after the chicken farm.
The narration is very good. He really gets into character.
Caution: This book spares no details.
This book gave me the chills. It's beyond me how some people can commit such horrible acts.
"Couldn't Stop Listening."
I had mixed emotions about this but ultimately I found it a very satisfying listen. I'm a fan of true crime, a well written and good narration of the story is a bonus.
This was a compelling story of tragedy and resilience. At times Flacco's descriptions of the places and characters is lacking. There could have been more detail's to the little things about the characters and scene settings that draw the reader in deep, but I loved his narration. His animation kept me listening.
Yes. I spend long hours driving a truck and any driver knows that those 10 hours can sometimes feel like 20 hours.....a good book is worth the investment.
His enthusiasm for the story. Characters were believable and I felt emotions, both empathy and disgust, for the range of goodness and evil that exists in this true story.
Evil has blood relatives too.
"Almost didn't finish because of narrator"
The story is very well written and respective of the victims. Including comparisons to today's world helps us to understand how much the world has changed and how powerless victims were to tell their story in the 1920s. Sanford was an amazing young man and even more amazing adult to overcome the horrific abuse experienced during his captivity.
The narration was too theatrical and quite distracting from the story. I nearly stopped listening after the first chapter, but glad I stayed with it as the story was written so well.
"Heartbreaking and inspirational"
This is the story of Sanford Clark, a boy whose early life was a nightmare. He was cruelly mistreated by his mother and a father who turned a blind eye to the abuse, but things took an unthinkably hideous turn when his uncle took him to his remote farm. The first part of the book is hard to listen to even, I would suggest, for readers of true crime. But the second part is remarkable for the life that this man was able to build for himself, thanks to his sister, a sympathetic and enlightened official, a rehabilitation program which was way ahead of its time, his wife, and above all to his own character and determination. It is nothing short of a miracle that a child so abused could find his way back to become a devoted husband and father and a respected member of his community. I am not a fan of books with a great deal of reconstructed dialogue, but it works and it's all perfectly believable - Anthony Flacco, with Jerry Clark, has done a first class job with the original material. Flacco's narration is at times a little overdone but this is excusable given the events he is recounting. The participation of Sanford's son is heartwarming - his input tells us about the wonderful man his father was - an inspiring ending to a true horror story.
"All Around Great Listen"
Times Have Changed
I can't believe how different the world is now compared to back in the 1920's, the way the world works sure is shown in this book. The way women are perceived unmarried to the way child murderers are dealt with to the way America and Canada have a relationship. I was blown away about the truth behind this story to the way the world turns.
Anthony Flacco was brilliant in the way each character was portrayed differently, you always knew which character was speaking. The emotion he brought out of each character was amazing, when someone was scared or crying you could feel it. This man knows how to paint a picture with words, just right.
Most of this book emotionally moved me in so many ways, the decisions this kid had to make would turn your stomach and make you believe....would I do the same thing?!
Great story, from beginning to the end, If you want to experience true human emotion from horror, to fear, to heroic response this is the book. If you like True crime, this is a MUST hear. DO IT!
"Excellent, terrifying book... Made me cry."
Written with great delicacy for such a horrendous subject matter, this book tells the story with heartbreaking straightforwardness. I was reluctant to delve into this book and it sat in my wish list a long time before I plucked up the courage to give it a listen. I am glad I did. The narrator is wonderful. And the story is one of decency and love overcoming an evil so extreme it is almost unimaginable.
Book shows great insight into human psychology (not so much into those truths that transcend human experience). It does accomplish an important achievement in that it brings to mind the suffering of those who find themselves helpless in the clutches of violent, abusive individuals. Somehow it is worse when it is a child caught in such a web. Maybe because they are the most helpless and vulnerable amongst us. Be warned this book is troubling, to say the least. It may leave a scar or two.
I'll have to agree with some of the other reviewers that the details were shocking and somewhat hard to hear, but it had to be heard to understand what this man lived through as a boy. It's incredibly heart breaking and I kept wishing I could save him and the others.
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