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The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders Hardcover – November 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"(Flacco's writing) is visceral and haunting.....a chilling look at a dark chapter in America's history." --Associated Press, 11/09

"Gripping......"--Library Journal, 8/15/09

"....This well-told tale of senseless killing, guilt and redemption of a young innocent is a page-turner." --Publishers Weekly, 8/31/09

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


“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




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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Union Square Press; 1 edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402768699
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402768699
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

A New York Times and International Bestselling author, Anthony Flacco was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of four brothers. Their father was an Air Force pilot and mother was a talented artist and painter.

His background as a trained stage actor with over 2,000 performances under his Actors Equity membership provides the primary basis for his critically acclaimed ability to empathize with a wide cross-section of personalities. He moved into screenwriting when he was selected for the prestigious American Film Institute fellowship in Screenwriting, and received his MFA in screenwriting there in 1990 after winning AFI's Paramount Studios Fellowship Award for his film script, The Frog's Legacy. He was then selected out of 2,000 entrants for the Walt Disney Studios Screenwriting Fellowship, and spent a year writing for the Touchstone Pictures division.

His screenwriting experience drives narrative stories that are visually compelling, whether for a movie theater or the screen of a reader's imagination.

In 1994, his first nonfiction book, A Checklist for Murder, was acquired in auction by Dell Books as a mass market paperback and turned in solid sales.

Anthony then adapted his book into a screenplay for a two-hour television movie script and sold it to NBC Studios for a movie of the week. For the next several years, he worked as a freelance script doctor and story editor.

During that time, Anthony was hired by the Discovery Channel to write a two-hour documentary entitled Deadly Spree, and his true crime writing was also featured on a one-hour episode of The Prosecutors for Court TV.

Anthony served as a national Judge for the Illinois Arts Council, writing individual evaluations for over 100 screenplays for their 2003 Writing Awards.

In 2005, with the publication of his nonfiction book Tiny Dancer (St. Martin's Press) the book was selected by Reader's Digest as their Editor's Choice for August, 2005 -- which was their 1,000th Commemorative Issue. The book has been internationally acclaimed, and the Kansas City Star named Tiny Dancer "one of the 100 Most Noteworthy Books of 2005." In 2007, the book received Best Seller status in Italy and continues to be popular there with over 300,000 copies sold in that one country.

Back in the U.S., his first two novels of historical fiction are from Mortalis Books at Random House. The first book, The Last Nightingale, was released in June of 2007 and was one of five nominees for "Best Original Paperback" from the International Thriller Writers Association. The second book, The Hidden Man, published in June of 2008 and created widespread interest in his historical writing within the publishing community.

In November of 2009 his historical true crime book was released by Sterling Publishing -- The Road Out Of Hell: The True Story of Sanford Clark and the Wineville Murders. It won the USA NEWS 2009 Best True Crime Book of the Year.

Publish Your Nonfiction Book (Writer's Digest Books), which Anthony co-authored with literary manager, Sharlene Martin, was also published in 2009.

He wrote NY Times Bestseller, Impossible Odds: The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Release by SEAL Team Six published on May 14, 2013 with Atria Books/Simon and Schuster which won the 2013 USA NEWS Best Memoir of the Year.

His historical novel, In the Matter of Nikola Tesla: A Romance of the Mind, has been published in the U.S, Italy as "L'Ultimo Segreto di Tesla"," Russia and Estonia.

He is an experienced public speaker and frequently gives seminars on writing, and is a featured speaker on writing for writers conferences and clubs.

For more information, see

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Geri on December 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It's not often we get to hear the story from the victim of a serial killer as we do in this sensitively written account of Sanford Clark, the nephew of serial killer Gordon Stewart Northcott.

In 1926 Northcott snatched his nephew, 13 year old Sanford, away from his self centered sister and used him for sex as well as his servant and accomplice as Northcott raped, tortured and murdered about 20 young boys on his chicken ranch outside of Los Angeles. This scenario repeated itself with escalating mania for two years before Northcott was caught, convicted and executed by the state.

In an earlier work about Northcott and his crimes, James Jeffrey Paul's book, Nothing is Strange with You: The Life and Crimes of Gordon Stewart Northcott, Paul details the facts about Northcott and the legal ramifications of his crimes, as horrific as anything we've ever known.

But what of the nephew, Sanford Clark, Northcott's victim accomplice who managed to survive the psychopathic depravity and sexual abuse at the hands of his uncle?

Sanford was small for his age during the years he lived with Northcott. He was young, alone and so dominated by his abusive uncle, he lost all sense of the outside world and fully believed he would become Northcott's next victim. Daily Northcott abused Sanford with beatings, humiliation, demeaning his intellect, satisfying his sexual needs and enlisting him to carry out his perverted atrocities on young boys he lured to his ranch with promises of horseback riding, baby rabbit hutches or a day's work. This constant terror forced Sanford to subsume his individuality to suit his uncle's appetites for sex and control.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on December 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On the negative side this story involves an uncaring mother, a cruel grandmother, a sociopathic uncle, and an ambivalent father and grandfather. On the positive side we have an abused thirteen-year old boy, a loving sister, a caring adult who the boy did not want to disappoint, and a loving wife and their two adopted sons.

This story aptly illustrates the psychological torment that is involved throughout the remainder of their life when a child is abused. Sanford Clark is forced to leave his home in Saskatchewan, Canada, to live in southern California with his uncle in a murderous environment which is disguised as a chicken ranch. It was only through the determination of his loving and caring sister who spent every cent she had to travel down to check on the welfare of her brother due to suspicions of the letters he wrote to her at home.

We will never know the full extent of the murders committed by the deranged Uncle Stewart, but justice was eventually served and Sanford was able to return home to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to marry, adopt two children and live a productive life despite having to deal with migraine headaches and other psychological problems for the remainder of his life. Thanks to the efforts of his sister and wife he was able to adjust, and to even serve in the Canadian army during World War II.

This is not a pleasant story to read, but then it is a true crime story that does have a happy ending. It is a fast and easy read and hard to put down. I wouldn't say this is a book to enjoy, but we can, to some extent, learn the difficulties encountered by those individuals that have been tortured physically and psychologically by deranged individuals.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By makeseashanty on November 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read "nothing is strange with you" the story of GS Northcott, and I always wondered what happened to poor young Sanford, well, now I know. This book is so wonderful, there is so much detail and you truly get to know this man, and his story. It's amazing that he turned out to be the man he was. This book is both sad and inspiring. Truly a wonderful read.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Michael B on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For the purist follower of the flim Changeling, or the follower of the Wineville Chicken-Coop murders in 1926, the book by Anthony Flacco finally tells us the story from the words of nephew-victim, Sanford Clark (as told to his son Jerry, by Sanford himself).

Anthony Flacco has masterfully written a brilliant crime novel that covers the events, horror and unbelievability that took place between Sanford Clark, his uncle-Gordon Northcott, and 4 murdered children, including Walter Collins on a chicken ranch in Wineville Ca in 1926.

For those of us who were thoroughly engaged by the masterful writing skills of screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski in Changeling, this book represents the third part and final 'trilogy' in the continuing story of what happened at Wineville. (The film being the first part of the trilogy, the second part of the trilogy, the book by James Jeffrey Paul-Nothing is Strange with You).

The film left many of us wondering about whether or not Walter Collins may have escaped.

After hearing the Story that Sanford tells in the book by Mr. Flacco, one has little doubt as to poor Walter's outcome, but besides that, this book is about Sanford and his true story.

When Sanford was discharged from the Whittier reformitory, he returned to Canada to live an exemplary life. Sanford did not wish to relive the horrors that he had been an unwilling participant in and so there has never been a true accounting of Sanford's story, besides the original court transcripts.

This is the second hand account of the story (from Sanford to his son Jerry to Mr. Flacco)of Wineville with all of the inherint horrors.

Sanford was brutalized, sodomized and beaten to the fear of death by his uncle Gordon.
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