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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Another Disappointing Book About Ariel Castro and the Girls

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 4:02 PM

click to enlarge ST. MARTIN'S PRESS
  • St. Martin's Press
New York Times bestselling author John Glatt has penned a book — another in a seemingly endless series —  about Ariel Castro and the captivity and rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. 

The Lost Girls, (336 pgs., St. Martin's Press), complete with an "incredible true story" subtitle, will arrive on Amazon and your nearest bookstore in mid-April. 

And don't hold your breath. 

Glatt, a "veteran crime scribe" who has written books about abduction before, guides readers through Ariel Castro's back story and the sordid details of the captivity itself. And much like other true-crime "guilty pleasures," the breakneck pace leaves little room for interpretation (or even investigation) of facts. It's merely a surface-level tour through the quotes and headlines of a bizarre and horrifying story that captured the nation's attention.

The real hook and coup of the book, we're assured in the press materials, is that Glatt got exclusive access to a former girlfriend of Ariel Castro's, a woman named Lillian Roldan.

"Over an emotional lunch in Cleveland," Glatt writes in his prologue, "Lillian broke down in tears as she spoke about her feelings for Castro, who she had once hoped to marry." (Sic)

But the 'Lillian" chapter in the book is a mere four pages in length, without any real insight into Castro's character other than Roldan's somewhat baffling admission that he was a "considerate lover" and that their sex life was "completely normal." That chapter's disconnected climax occurs when Castro takes Lillian into his basement (before the girls were captive there), beyond a padlocked door, and shows her a bag of "dried up" weed, which Lillian decides she doesn't want to smoke.

It's frustrating that most of the book's chapters fail to transcend the level of transcription. Glatt merely paraphrases Charles Ramsey's signature interview with John Kosich, for instance, and of the three girls only managed to speak to Michelle Knight directly. He lifts quotes from prior interviews with Gina and Amanda and only occasionally cites his source.  

Sourcing wouldn't be a problem — I'd be content to trust him — if the rest of the book felt thoroughly (or even compassionately) researched. Perhaps, as locals, it's because we lived through the original media frenzy — a frenzy which erupted nearly two years ago, if you can believe it — that it's so easy to spot minor inaccuracies, and so difficult to listen to outsiders characterize the city and the story in ways that ring false.

Here's Glatt on Cleveland's near west side: "At night, drugs and prostitution run rampant, as drivers exit off I-90 to get whatever they need."

He calls Seymour Avenue "scarred by race riots" in the 1960s and "ground zero" for a crack epidemic in the early 90s, making it "one of the most dangerous places in Cleveland."  

Ultimately, Seymour Avenue was one of the most dangerous places in Cleveland, but Glatt's discursive (almost schizoid) compilation is hardly the volume Clevelanders need to recall and process the danger.  A good book on this subject might still be a few years away.

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