The New York Times–bestselling author’s “haunting, compassionate, and terrifyingly true” story of a man breaking free from his notorious past (Gregg Olson, New York Times–bestselling author of Starvation Heights).
From 1926 to 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott committed at least twenty murders on a chicken ranch outside of Los Angeles. He held his nephew, Sanford Clark, captive there from the age of thirteen to fifteen. Sanford would be Northcott’s sole surviving victim. Forced by Northcott to take part in the murders, he carried tremendous guilt all his life. Yet despite his youth and the trauma he endured, Sanford helped gain justice for the dead and their families by testifying at the trial that led to Northcott’s execution.
These shocking events inspired Clint Eastwood’s film The Changeling. But in The Road Out of Hell, acclaimed crime writer Anthony Flacco uses revelatory new accounts from Sanford’s son to tell the complete, true story. Going beyond the film’s narrative, Flacco recounts not only Sanford’s nightmarish captivity, but also the inspiring life he led afterward.
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 hell on earth 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.