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The Road Out Of Hell
The Road Out Of Hell
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Anthony gives an overview of the book:

  The Road Out Of Hell is the true story of the infamous Wineville Chicken ranch murders of 1926-1928, focusing on the kidnapped thirteen-year-old boy, Sanford Clark.  He was held captive on the ranch for two years, savagely beaten and sexually abused, forced to participate in murders and dispose of bodies.  The story pursues the question of how he managed to go on and live for the next sixty-five years and live a life of honor and decency, dying as a publicly lauded and beloved local figure, even by those who knew all about his past.  This is the full story behind the true movie "Changling," directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angeline Jolie, which only touched upon the Wineville case and Sanford Clark's plight.  After director Eastwood finished the film, he said of Sanford Clark, "And you wonder: How the hell did this guy go on...
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The Road Out Of Hell is the true story of the infamous Wineville Chicken ranch murders of 1926-1928, focusing on the kidnapped thirteen-year-old boy, Sanford Clark.  He was held captive on the ranch for two years, savagely beaten and sexually abused, forced to participate in murders and dispose of bodies.  The story pursues the question of how he managed to go on and live for the next sixty-five years and live a life of honor and decency, dying as a publicly lauded and beloved local figure, even by those who knew all about his past. 

This is the full story behind the true movie "Changling," directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angeline Jolie, which only touched upon the Wineville case and Sanford Clark's plight.  After director Eastwood finished the film, he said of Sanford Clark, "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."

 

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Excerpted from Chapter One:

The weather got noticeably warmer while they moved south, and that was nice for awhile. Uncle Stewart put the convertible top down so that they rode with their hair flying while he shouted over the sounds of the engine and the onrushing air. Sanford figured that Uncle Stewart liked shouting over the wind because it forced Sanford to work at understanding what he was saying. So far, the only thing that he had found to make his uncle happy at all was to pay complete attention to him.

At the moment, Uncle Stewart was half an hour into the topic of Hollywood movies. His tone was beginning to take on a strange urgency, as if he had a solemn duty to figure out what should be done about the current state of American movies and that he needed to have the answers ready by the time they got down to Los Angeles. “It’s typical! I am telling you. Completely typical procedure for Hollywood movies! So when you do something stupid like putting that nasty old queen Greta Garbo in the female lead—and F.Y.I. here, The Paradise Case is only going to be the biggest picture that David O. Selznik has ever done. Are you listening? Good! This is important! Anyway, this fool, this idiot, this hopeless moron puts her in the lead of his biggest picture even though she’s supposed to be some kind of crackpot who treats everybody like garbage and even though he could have cast Jeanette MacDonald.”

He reached over and poked Sanford. “Jeanette MacDonald! Do you hear me?”

“Yeah I hear you!” Sanford yelled to keep him from poking again. His fingertip felt like a knitting needle.

“Okay then, do you know who she is?” Uncle Stewart jeered. “No? He playfully slapped the back of Sanford’s head as he had already done several times that day. “Well I am telling you this and you had best hear me loud and clear, buddy: on top of beauty that drives men crazy, Jeanette MacDonald has talent, humility, and brains! Can you say that?”

“Sure,” Sanford replied into the wind.

“Then let’s hear you! Talent, humility, and brains!”

It took Sanford a moment’s worth of blank staring before he realized that it was an actual request. All right, he thought, if this will do it for him, eager to give him the expected answer and get him to relax, maybe even stop and take a break. “Talent! Beauty!--” Sanford bellowed in Uncle Stewart’s direction. But before he finished, Uncle Stewart reached over and struck him in the back of his head with the flat of his hand. This time the blow was so strong that Sanford’s chin bounced off of his chest. He bit his tongue and felt a mouthful of fire.

Uncle Stewart glanced over at him and broke out laughing, as if the two of them were famous friends. “You look like you just shit yourself!” He dropped the friendly mask before he continued. “It’s talent, humility, and brains! Didn’t I just say that?”

“Yes,” Sanford shouted back, maybe a little too fast.

“Well then, what are you trying to do, piss all over me?”

“What?”

“Are you saying that you are willing to repeat two-thirds of what I tell you but you intend to just ignore the other third, then?”

“What are you talking about?”

Uncle Stewart hit him in the back of the head again. This time Sanford saw stars. He stared straight into a swimming school of twinkling lights, trying to get his vision into focus. As a small-framed boy with a passive nature, Sanford had already learned how to tense any part of his body just a split second before the impact of an oncoming blow, but the skill was useless with a strike to the head. It took too long to get his arm up there. Uncle Stewart kept catching him unprepared.

Meanwhile a rush of guilt flooded through him. The truth was that he could have avoided that last blow altogether. Uncle Stewart was correct that Sanford knew what he meant. He had to admit to himself that he tried to play dumb and Uncle Stewart saw straight through it. Sanford made an indelible mental note: Do not lie to Uncle Stewart unless you are prepared to really put one over. He’s an expert and he will catch you.

Uncle Stewart laughed. “That last little love tap got your attention, didn’t it? So try it again: Jeanette MacDonald would be the best choice for David O. Selznick’s next picture, because of her…”

“Talent, humility, and brains!” Sanford immediately chimed in.

Uncle Stewart’s face lit up so brightly that Sanford realized he had scored a point. “Exactly! These are the values that ought to drive American movies today. …”

 

 

anthony-flacco's picture

This story is so moving and profound that it affects everyone who learns of it. Once I happened upon it, there was no other choice but to pursue it. The heartbreak and horror of Sanford's time in hell is exceeded by the courage and loving support of his older sister Jessie, who nearly died in rescuing Sanford from the murder farm, and from June, his wife of over fifty years. These two women devised a method to rescue Sanford from his frequent bouts of depression before he succumbed to despair. His own guiding force was his determination to earn the special understanding and the second chance at life provided to him by the PROSECUTOR of the murder cases. The man's name was Loyal C. Kelley, and he charged Sanford with the responsibility to go out and live in such a manner as to prove that he had earned his new life. Sanford, who expected to never to get off of the murder farm alive or else to spend his life slowly dying in prison, spent decades proving that Kelley had been right about him. He remained constantly supported by Jessie and June -- the way that they did it was simple and extraordinarily effective.

About Anthony

Writers Guild of America / west -- Mystery Writers of America -- International Thriller Writers

Anthony’s background as a trained stage actor with over 2,000 performances under his Actors Equity membership provides the primary basis for his critically...

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Published Reviews

Feb.14.2008

         "Every historical mystery tries to home in on the ideal setting at the perfect moment in time.  Anthony Flacco succeeds on both counts in his first novel, THE LAST NIGHTINGALE, which opens on...

Jul.14.2009

Tiny Dancer was selected as one of the "100 Most Noteworthy Books of 2005"

Author's Publishing Notes

This book is published by Union Square Press, an imprint of Sterling Publishing, and was their lead title for fall of 2009. It has also sold into foreign translation under the title, "Lunga e la Notte" and has earned bestseller status in Europe as a hardback, paperback, and e-book.