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Dead Season: A Story of Murder and Revenge

3.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679747895
ISBN-10: 0679747893
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

This moody, brilliantly atmospheric work of reportage is the story of three murders that took place on the Philppine island of Negros. The first victim was a wealthy landowner. The second was an impoverished farmer who was massacred, along with his wife and three children, in a barrio whose name means "the place of the ghosts." The third was a young soldier, who may have been killed by communist guerrillas or on the orders of his commanding officer. On Negros, every death has many stories.

In tracing the shadowy connections among these events, Alan Berlow, a correspondent for National Public Radio, portrays a society in which democracy is at best a hopeful fiction and everyone is a collaborator by necessity. Beautifully written, rich in ambiguity, and as riveting as any crime thriller, Dead Season is a work of tragic depth and complexity.

"Like a tale from Faulkner or Marquez...a saga of surprisingly majestic proportions."--Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague

"A passionately written tale about the chaos at the edge of the twenty-first century."--John Hockenberry, author of Moving Violations


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679747893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679747895
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,234,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loren D. Morrison on June 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
What Alan Berlow found in his investigations on the Philippine Island of Negros, in a period spanning 1988 to 1992, was not too different from my own experiences while living on the island of Luzon between 1955 and 1958.
Berlow, then a correspondent for National Public Radio, uses three interrelated murders on Negros as his starting point for a discussion of capitalism gone awry, corruption in the political system, a military out of control, and revolutionary forces with murder and retribution on their mind. This book is much more than an investigation of three murders, it is a look into the soul of a nation.
A farmer with a streak of independence is killed by the military in a massacre that takes the lives of his wife and three of his children. A soldier, who took part in the massacre, but may not have fired a shot, is later murdered, possibly by his own comrades and possibly by guerilla forces. The murder of a wealthy landowner and operator of a sugar cane plantation seems to have provided the impetus for the other two murders.
Berlow's investigations into the murders led to a rather intimate knowledge, not just of the primitive lives of the poor of Negros, but also of the politics and mores of the entire nation. Not much seems to have changed since my years in the Philippines over forty years earlier. He describes the inability, or unwillingness, of President Corazon Aquino, elected on a platform of genuine land reform, to make good on her promises. This might have been because her family happened to own the largest sugar plantation in the Philippines, or it might have been some combination of knowing "on which side her bread was buttered," and concern for her own safety.
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Format: Paperback
Berlow's story provides a dark, tropical atmosphere which envelops the reader's senses. To say it is a tale of murder is to understate the matter - it is nearly impossible to open this book to a random page without encountering murder or death in some form. Berlow vividly describes those elements which make the Philippine island of Negros such a dangerous place: a powerful and autonomous military, a fearful and ineffective police force, heavily armed rebels, rich and abusive plantation owners, activist priests, a severely corrupt political and legal system, and a desperately poor populace. Take all of these and throw in heavy doses of religious mysticism and paranoia, and you have the author's setting. Berlow's narrative bounces back and forth between all the confused and intertwined elements in an almost dizzying fashion in an effort to determine the motives behind just three of the many murders which take place on the island, those of a soldier, a peasant, and a wealthy land owner. It is a mesmerizing work. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Philippine history, politics, or culture. Even those not interested in the Philippines per se will find this story a gripping social commentary on life, death and power in the Third World.
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Format: Paperback
Though I am living in the island of Negros, i do not find Mr. Berlow's observations as racist (as one Negrense put it) or inaccurate or communistic. It seems that people with vested interests who want to protect the villainous family in the book are themselves related to that family by means of blood relations or by affinity. Thus, such inaccurate 1-starred reviews full of vitriol & lies & sour-graping should be taken with a kilo of salt.

As for the book, it is accurate in describing the plantation lifestyle of the hacienderos and the oppression that goes with it, and the collusion of the military with the landed gentry. He has a flowing style of writing, the cadence of his paragraphs very engaging. It grips you and won't let you go until the last period. Berlow's work has the same flavor of those by Steinbeck wherein his characterization of the people is thoroughly fleshed out. His book is full of anecdotes and facts that can be corroborated, so the intelligent reader can't just dismiss this as pure guesswork and suppositions of what might have happened.

Overall, A very very satisfying read indeed!!
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By A Customer on December 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
A book filled with sometimes shocking detail and personal intimacy, the kind of book about life in the Philippines that so many reproters wished they could leave their daily routines to write. Gripping, impassioned narrative worthy of the passion play that is the Philippines. THE NEW YORK TIMES. A remarkable guide to the tragedies and mysteries that pervade the Philippines. FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW. A truly impressive work of investigative Journalism. COMMONWEAL. A vivid portrait of a sad, overpopulated country, divided by class and poverty, still hostage to the legacies of American colonoialism and Ferdinand Marcos, whose patterns of violence and retribution seem unconquerable. KIRKUS REVIEWS. A chilling critique of a system indifferent to ordinary folk. The book makes abundantly clear how deeply rooted political and colonial feudalism are in Philippine society. ASIAWEEK MAGAZINE. Rich in telling detail and revealing a thorough understanding of the local culture. LIBRARY JOURNAL. Berlow's book is a well-told and compelling story of a small town and its people: the hacenderos and the villagers, how they interact and what they are to one another. Berlow finds significance in the smallest details about lives of his real-life characters, things the average person would take for granted, and gives them the importance that every life deserves. As the stories unfold, it becomes clear that the story of Negros is the story of wealth and poverty, of power and helplessness, of the lack of democracy and justice. Sadly, it is also the story of Filipino society. MANILA TIMES
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