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The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious Disappearance of an American Hero Paperback – May 16, 2000
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"One of the most thrilling stories I have ever read...This is not just an adventure story, but a mystery of the first order." --Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm
"A mystery story, straight out of a plot from John LeCarré." --The New York Times Book Review
"Forget Mount Everest. Forget the perfect storm. For pure adrenaline, there's nothing like the war zone." --Time Out New York
"One of the most important books to be published since the fall of the Berlin Wall...A great, epic mystery of our day." --The New York Observer
From the Inside Flap
A swashbuckling Texan, a teller of tall tales, a womanizer, and a renegade, Fred Cuny spent his life in countries rent by war, famine, and natural disasters, saving many thousands of lives through his innovative and sometimes controversial methods of relief work. Cuny earned his nickname "Master of Disaster" for his exploits in Kurdistan, Somalia, and Bosnia. But when he arrived in the rogue Russian republic of Chechnya in the spring of 1995, raring to go and eager to put his ample funds from George Soros to good use, he found himself in the midst of an unimaginably savage war of independence, unlike any he had ever before encountered. Shortly thereafter, he disappeared in the war-rocked highlands, never to be seen again.
Who was Cuny really working for? Was he a CIA spy? Who killed him, and why? In search of the answers, Scott Anderson traveled to Chechnya on a hazardous journey that started as as a magazine assignment and ended as a personal mission. The result is a galvanizing adventure story, a chilling picture of "the new world order," and a tour de force of literary journalism.
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This is not just a biography of Cuny. It is a story of the tragedy in Chechnya as well. Anderson informs on both counts without pushing a particular agenda. What is amazing is that he does this in spite of the fact that begins the book by confessing that he believes Cuny is a genuine hero. Yet he leaves the reader to form their own judgment on this and other aspects of the story.
Some have complained that the book is repetitive near the end (it seems as though the book were actually written to be serialized in five or six long magazine pieces, which would explain the repetition). The bottom line here is that the repetition that I noticed was either helpful and/or satisfying from a literary standpoint.
Aside from the author's great writing, you should read this book as a responsible citizen of the world and member of the human race. Fred Cuny may not have been Mother Theresa when it came to his ego, but his heart was definitely in the right place, and that big Texas personality got things done that, as Anderson and others have pointed out, saved lives.
George Padar COL USAR(Ret)
Kudos to Mr. Anderson for bringing this (well, the parts that are knowable) into the open.