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Bookends: Tales of two prisoners with different endings October 16, 2015

Posted by klondykewriter in Uncategorized.
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Bookends: Tales of two prisoners with different endings

By Dan DavidsonBreaking Lorca

March 30, 2015

– 831 words –


Breaking Lorca

By Giles Blunt

Vintage Canada

258 pages


In this total departure from his John Cardinal mystery series, Giles Blunt takes us on a trip to El Salvador, during the era when the country was “governed” by an alphabet soup jumble of guerilla groups and death squads, some of which were financed and equipped by clandestine cadres in the CIA in order to prevent the leftist groups from assembling a working government.

In this novel we enter the life of Victor Peña, a bookish young man whose family connections doom him into being drafted by the squad his uncle, Captain Peña, leads. He wanted nothing more than to study, read books and perhaps grow up to work in some job where he could help people. Instead, he is forced by his uncle to visit unspeakable tortures on poor souls who have been identified as agents of the enemy.

He knows he is doomed.

“Sooner of later the other soldiers in the squad were going to kill him. It was only a matter of time. Victor had never done anything to antagonize the brutes he worked with, but he was sure they hated him, or soon would.”

The worst thing he is forced (do this or die) to do is participate in the breaking of Lorca, a proud and noble young woman caught in the act of helping people by providing them with food. There is water-boarding, shock treatment with the General (a GE generator), beatings, countless rapes and indignities.

At the end of her ordeal, Victor is forced to kill her, and he only misses in the attempt by an accident that goes unnoticed by his superiors. It is this cowardly act that gains him the right to be chosen for further training in America.

Once there, he disappears, changes his name, gets a low paying job and tries to reform his life. Wouldn’t you just know that the act of helping another countryman brings him into contact with Lorca, who has managed to escape to New York and is living in seclusion there with a relative.

She has no idea who Victor is, because she was blindfolded through most of her ordeal, which has left her broken and suffering from PTSD. Ironically he and she become involved with a group that wants them to testify about American involvement in El Salvador. As the story works out, it’s not clear if this was an honest committee, or just a way to smoke out possible whistleblowers.

At any rate, it doesn’t go well. In the end, however, Victor finds s degree of personal redemption in sacrificing himself to save Lorca when they are ambushed near the Washington Zoo on the night before the hearings.

Ivan: The Remarkable Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

Story by Katherine ApplegateIvan

Illustrations by G. Brian Karas

Clarion Books

40 pages


Applegate and Karas have brought is the true story of Ivan, a Congo born gorilla who sent most of his life as the main attraction in a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington. Born in 1962, he was captured at the age of six months, and after he arrived in the United States he spent several years living with a family who ran a pet store at the B&I Circus Store. When he was about five, and was too big to keep at home any longer, he became the resident of a three metre by three metre steel and cement display room.

He lived there for the next 27 years, with his main recreations being finger painting watching television, and interacting with the crowds. During those three decades public perceptions of what was proper treatment for captured wild animals evolved to the point where a 1990 National Geographic documentary, “The Urban Gorilla”, began to spark agitation to move Ivan to a more natural surrounding.

It took a few years for the movement to gather enough steam to accomplish its goal, but Ivan was relocated to Zoo Atlanta, where he finally got to live with other gorillas in a 1.5 acre natural habitat area. It took some time for him to get used to others of his kind, but he did make the adjustment and it is said that the last decade of his life was spent in contentment. He died in 2012 at the age of 50.

Ivan’s story is told in simple text and pictures in the first 36 pages of the book. The remainder provides us with a more sophisticated account, as well as some actual photographs of Ivan and a sample of one of his finger paintings. There is also a moving afterword by one of the keepers who cared for him in his final home.

Applegate and Karas are donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to a couple of organizations that look out for the welfare of gorillas.




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