The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders

The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders

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by Anthony Flacco, Jerry Clark
     
 

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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

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Overview

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 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.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
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

“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 whole story in itself.” Clint Eastwood, director of Changeling, regarding Sanford Clark

“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

Publishers Weekly
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. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
A 1920s rape and murder spree, re-created with grisly details both real and imagined. Between 1926 and 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott murdered at least 20 boys at a chicken ranch near Los Angeles. (The 2008 film Changeling dealt with the mother of one of his victims.) During those years, Northcott held hostage and assaulted his teenaged nephew, Sanford Clark, forcing him to assist in the killings. True-crime writer and novelist Flacco (The Hidden Man, 2008, etc.) depicts Northcott as a conscienceless monster, killing innocents he deemed inferior to demonstrate his own presumed power. He was physically repulsive as well, if the author's description of a hairy body, "more animal than human," is to be believed. Sensitive readers should take a pass on this book, given the scenes of chained, terrified children subjected to hideous sexual assault and murder. Flacco relies on court records, news accounts and his collaborator, Clark's son Jerry. He acknowledges covering gaps in the historical record with embellishments that sometimes keep the narrative chugging along, but other times bog it down. The real events are so mesmerizing, if sickening, that it seems superfluous to spend ten pages imagining Clark's thoughts as he lies imprisoned by his uncle in a boarded-up pit. Most of the book details the crimes, but Flacco ends by describing the aftermath for Clark, whose testimony against his uncle helped send Northcott to the noose. The final pages show Clark's inner strength, abetted by his loving wife and sister, taming his nightmarish memories enough to give him a decent and even admirable life. Gripping if occasionally drawn-out account of a gruesome crime wave and a victim who survived it.Author events in the Northwest and Canada. Agent: Sharlene Martin/Martin Literary Management

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781402768699
Publisher:
Union Square Press
Publication date:
11/03/2009
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

Dave Pelzer
"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)
Michael Stone
"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)
Gregg Olsen
"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)
Clint Eastwood
"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 whole story in itself."--(Clint Eastwood, director of Changeling, regarding Sanford Clark)
Jane Velez-Mitchell
"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)

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