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The Lost Executioner: A Story of the Khmer Rouge Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 7, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (February 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802714722
  • ASIN: B001G7RAZ4
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,132,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Long preoccupied by the Cambodian genocide in the late 1970s at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Irish-born and Thailand-based photojournalist Dunlop homed in on Comrade Duch, head of the Khmer Rouge secret police and Pol Pot's chief executioner, who had vanished. How had a well-educated schoolteacher (born Kaing Guek Eav) become commandant of a torture center and complicit in the deaths of an estimated 20,000 political prisoners? asks Dunlop in this measured but horrifying book, a chronicle of his dogged efforts to understand the carnage and bring about justice. With Duch at the book's core, the author (who worked in Cambodia throughout the '90s) weaves a contemporary account of a war-ravaged nation into the history of its ancient past and rumination on terror in the name of ideology. Dunlop also deepens his story with thoughtful—and very personal—commentary on photography and violence. In 1999, Dunlop found and confronted Duch, who voluntarily confessed to his role in the Khmer Rouge. Though Duch was then charged and imprisoned, he has not yet been brought to trial. Cambodia's labyrinthine politics can occasionally be difficult to digest, but Dunlop's personal quest for international justice holds the narrative together. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Irish photographer Dunlop steps out from behind the camera to render this visceral account of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Communist regime responsible for more than two million deaths between 1975 and 1979. Armed with a black-and-white photograph of Comrade Duch--Pol Pot's chief executioner--Dunlop traveled to the war-ravaged country to probe the dark depths of a once-studious young boy and dedicated teacher who became one of the twentieth--century's most notorious mass murderers. (More then 20,000 men, women, and children were reportedly executed during Duch's tenure as chief of Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh.) In April 1999, Dunlop's encounter with Duch--who had changed his name, slipped quietly back into village life, and become a lay pastor--led to a confession that shot ice through the photographer's veins. (Dunlop's role in exposing Duch earned him Johns Hopkins' award for Excellence in International Journalism.) Dunlop's interviews with former Khmer Rouge members are both wrenching and revelatory. Among the most memorable subjects is Prak Khan, who was like an "empty shell," with rigid posture and eyelids that "blinked slowly, as though he had difficulty keeping them open." To date, only two prominent Khmer Rouge perpetrators are in prison: Comrade Duch and Ta Mok, aka "the Butcher." For Dunlop, it is but a small step in a long journey toward justice. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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This book is very easy to read.
M. Long
This is one of those books that you won't want to put down until the last word has been read.
readin' & groovin' mama
A young Irish photographer has done it in this superb debut.
Daniel Dennis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Dennis on December 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It takes a special writer to bring light to an issue of seemingly impenetrable horror. A young Irish photographer has done it in this superb debut. Pol Pot's frenzied demolition of Cambodia in 1975-79 has been documented from within(The Stones Cry Out, Stay Alive My Son) and by outsiders (Year Zero, S 21). What more could be said?

"The Lost Executioner" takes the form of a terrifying detective narrative. The young author with a picture in his pocket has an obsession - to find Cambodia's Himmler in the chaos of the country he helped to terrorize. In striking prose that reveals the photographer behind the pen (his descriptive powers are at their best rendering faces and images of rural life) the writer takes us deep into the heart and mind of Cambodia, its paralyzing paradoxes, and the west's policy swings between breathtaking cynicism and incompetent pity. Like Shelley's mariner, Nic Dunlop fixes us with an amazing tale and sets our sights clearly on what should be done. To read his book is to be challenged anew of our obligations to the family of man.

Like the best books, Nic Dunlp's "The Lost Executioner" relates much of what is known but makes us see it in a new light

This splendid and courageous book just might help re-awaken international opinion to re-consider our obligations to Cambodia.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By William A. Sowka Jr. on April 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Needless to say, the tragedies depicted in this book were very disturbing. Having read much on the genocide in Rwanda, I couldn't help making comparisons. Sadly, I saw too many similarities and my response goes from shock to curiosity. To his credit, Dunlop did not exploit the gruesomeness of the torture and killings. He was very respectful toward people, families, and to Cambodia as a whole. The story's focus was primarily on one member of the Khmer Rouge known as Comrade Duch who headed a prison with a nortorious reputation for committing brutal crimes against humanity. This focus gave Dunlop a unique twist to his book, however, the story was often made confusing. Not only did Dunlop fail to provide adequate historical background to the story, but even paragraph to paragraph the story was not easy to follow. The writing did not flow as easliy as I would have liked. I found myself back tracking a bit to get the story straight. Another interesting twist Dunlop makes was to question how such atrocities as this occur. He gives some thought to the dangers of Buddhism and socialism but I would have loved him to expound on these thoughts a little more. Nevertheless we see that the problem is multidimensional and not just political. He also exposes the failures of the U.N.(suprise,suprise) and of the U.S., but again, his argument is not made clearly or in detail. Despite some of my criticism of Nic Dunlop's writing, I was extremely impressed by his diligence, his committment, his honesty, and his persistence. He gets 5 stars for character and is to be applauded for this work.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There are few more chilling places in the world than the apparently innocuous buildings of Tuol Sleng, the school on the outskirts of Phnomn Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Low buildings surround a central courtyard or playing field on three sides; the design is a common one throughout southeast Asia. But while today's visitors to Tuol Sleng arrive in daylight and are able to walk out when the horror within the walls of the former classrooms becomes unbearable, the thousands who entered in the middle of the night during the nightmarish rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, only seven adults would live to tell the truth about the horrors they endured.

Photojournalist Nic Dunlop has done something even more valuable than preserve the story of this horrific institution and the regime and individuals who administered it, however. His imagination captured by images he has not created -- the endless array of head-and-shoulders photos of the doomed prisoners staring defiantly or despairingly into the camera on the day of their arrival -- he finds himself haunted by Tuol Sleng and the evils committed there, returning time after time when he is in Cambodia. Ultimately, he focuses on the story of one man, the cadre who became Pol Pot's chief executioner and the head of Tuol Sleng, Comrade Duch.

The story that Dunlop relates could almost be a work of great detective fiction, as he follows a chain of clues that ultimately lead him to the village where Duch -- a former schoolteacher who has returned to his profession while also working with international relief agency World Vision -- is living an ordinary life.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By AndyB on April 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Nic Dunlop's first-rate detective story on the trail of Pol Pot's chief executioner, the notorious Comrade Duch, is a fascinating journey into Cambodia's recent bloody history. Through a series of testimonies by Duch's family members and people who knew him, Dunlop builds up a compelling picture of this former teacher turned mass murderer, whilst also giving us a running commentary on the development of the Khmer Rouge organisation through the eyes of former cadre such as Sokheang, now a human rights investigator though formerly a Khmer Rouge sympathiser.

The Lost Executioner is Dunlop's first book; he's primarily a photographer who became obsessed with S-21, known to many as Tuol Sleng, and its commandant, Comrade Duch. He even kept a photo of Duch in his pocket. By an astonishing stroke of luck, Dunlop met the man responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 people, in Samlaut, a small town in northwest Cambodia in 1999 and exposed him with the help of Nate Thayer and the Far Eastern Economic Review, leading to his arrest and detention, awaiting trial. Dunlop's subsequent investigations and interviews now provide us with a great wealth of detail about Duch's life before, during and after the Khmer Rouge reign of terror though ultimately the reason for Duch's transformation into a brutal killer remains an unexplained puzzle. In a perverse twist, Duch converted to Christianity, had worked for an American charity, was living under a new identity and had returned to teaching before his unmasking. The book is written in an easy to follow though powerful narrative and I recommend The Lost Executioner to anyone seeking to delve into the morass that is Cambodia's recent past. It's a remarkable and revealing story.
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