The Road out of Hell
"And you wonder: How the hell did this guy go on to be a loving father and grandfather? How did he bury all that crap? That's a story in itself." - Clint Eastwood, Director "The Changeling"
From 1926 to 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott committed at least 20 murders on a chicken ranch outside of Los Angeles. His thirteen- year-old nephew, Sanford Clark, was the sole surviving victim of the killing spree.
Forced 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 trial-which 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.
Using never-before-heard information from Sanford's son Jerry Clark, Flacco tells the real story behind the case that captivated the nation. 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.
Crime novelist and true-crime writer Flacco (A Checklist for Murder) gives the reader a front-row seat in the harrowing Wineville, Calif., murders where, between 1926 and 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott, with the aid of his nephew Sanford Clark, killed at least 20 people at a remote chicken ranch outside of Los Angeles. The unwilling accomplice Sanford was 13 when he was sent by his parents to stay with his uncle, who continually brutalized and sodomized him while killing a series of helpless boys. Flacco reconstructs the details of the grisly murders, with Northcott's dotty mother, Louise, sometimes joining the bloody mayhem. Eventually, the cops caught up with Northcott and his ritual killings, and he was hung after a sensational trial in which Sanford was the star witness. With a heartfelt epilogue by Jerry Clark, Sanford's son, this well-told tale of senseless killing, guilt and redemption of a young innocent is a page-turner. 16 pages of b&w photos. (PW, 8/31/09)
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"(Flacco's writing) is visceral and haunting.....a chilling look at a dark chapter in America's history." -- AP, 11/09
"Gripping......"-- LJ 8/15/09
Praise for The Road Out of Hell
“Haunting, compassionate, and terrifyingly true, Flacco delivers an unqualified masterpiece befitting of one of the greatest cases in the annals of crime.”—Gregg Olsen, New York Times Bestselling author of Starvation Heights
“Anthony Flacco serves this one straight from the heart. Sanford Clark is an innocent victim of deliberate evil who is nearly vanquished out of existence, but once rescued, dedicates his life of quiet courage and loving decency for family.”—Dave Pelzer, author of A Child Called It and 2005 National Jefferson Award Recipient
“In a terrifying tour de force, Anthony Flacco drops the reader into California in the 1920’s and takes us on a gut-wrenching ride through a killing rampage so hellish it makes the BTK serial killer’s spree look tame. In the midst of the carnage, an innocent is forced to kill to survive and then must fight to redeem himself. Once you pick this book up, you will not be able put it down.”—Jane Velez-Mitchell, Host of CNN’s “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell,” and author of Secrets Can Be Murder: What America’s Most Sensational Crimes Tell Us About Ourselves
“Th[is] story is one of the most horrific I know of—and I know a lot of stories. …Northcott’s crimes, which include the corruption of his nephew Sanford Clark, are certainly among the worst. Amazingly, the book not only shows us a picture of almost unimaginable evil, but also a picture of one man—Sanford Clark—who was able, beyond all expectation, to transcend the evil into which he was forced by his uncle [and] become, in the process, uncommonly good.”—Dr. Michael Stone, Host of Discovery Investigation’s “Most Evil,” Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Attending Psychiatrist in Forensics at MidHudson Forensic Psychiatric Hospital