Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

True crime is one of my favorite subjects to read about and watch. Learning more about the inner workings of different perpetrators and their reasonings for behaving in such a way is fascinating. The lasting implications crime has on the victims and various affected families/friends also intrigues me. Society generally only cares about a crime for the first few months. After the publicity dies down, the whole situation will fade into the background. Reading about real life crimes allows me to believe that I am keeping these situations alive and the victims will continue to be remembered.

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood was my latest true crime fiction read. This novel is based on the experiences of Sally Horner, an 11-year-old kidnapping victim who was abducted in 1948 from a Woolworth’s in Camden, New Jersey by 52 year-old Frank La Salle. Sally’s abduction is also considered to have inspired Nabokov’s Lolita.  From what I read about this case, this novel is fairly close to what actually happened. Granted the dialogue between Sally and Frank can never be 100% known and neither can be what really happened while they traveled the country, nevertheless, this account gives readers a look into a dark time in a young girl’s life.

Camden, NJ. 1948. 11 year-old Sally Horner just wants to fit in. She watches a clique of girls at her school form a club and yearns to be a part of it. Living with her mother and older sister, Sally has always felt like she exists on the outside of everything. After walking up to this group of girls one day, the girls tell Sally that she has to steal something from the local Woolworth’s in order to become part of their group. Walking into Woolworth’s with all the girls around her, Sally wanders the aisles looking for something to steal. Seeing a notebook, Sally grabs it and begins walking out. Almost to the door, Sally is suddenly stopped by an older man who says he saw her stealing. Having watched her walk through the store, Frank has convinced her that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested at any minute. Telling her that he has to take her to see a judge, Frank says that Sally has to do exactly what he says or she will go to jail. This chance encounter has far-reaching ramifications for poor Sally.

52 year-old Frank LaSalle is not an FBI agent. He has just been released from prison. Living out of his truck/camper, Frank is on the lookout for his next victim and his next scheme. Sally Horner stands no chance against him. Convincing her that he is an FBI agent, Sally introduces him to her mother and they somehow convince her to let Sally leave with Frank. Thus begins the scariest two years of Sally’s life as Frank physically and mentally abuses her. Travelling from Camden to San Jose, Sally meets many people and hopes one of them will recognize her. Her family, old friends, and new acquaintances are all forever altered, just like Sally, as a result of her abduction.

Given that this novel is based on the real-life kidnapping of Sally Horner and her captor Frank LaSalle, I found it to be intriguing and a possible explanation of what happened between the two. While there are certainly many fictionalized sections, the over-arching storyline is pretty close to the truth. With the additional information about Vladimir Nabokov and his controversial Lolita, this story is finally able to give more voice to young Sally Horner. With her death happening only four years after her abduction, Sally was unable to tell her full story like other abduction victims. This book is certainly not a light read, but its close relation to true events allows readers to gain a better understanding of these tragic circumstances.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Jolly Holidays in the Forties!

Lately, my mother and I have been on 1940’s holiday movie binge and they are all FANTASTIC! Of course we watch Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) every year, but here is a list of some of the  films that we have just discovered:

It Happened on 5th Avenue
(1947)
Starring: Don DeFore, Ann Harding and Charles Ruggles

A homeless man and ex-GI secretly move into a millionaire’s empty mansion during the holidays and are soon joined by a young woman after they catch her robbing the mansion of its fur coats. Unbeknownst to the gentlemen, the young woman is actually the millionaire’s runaway daughter and soon she invites her cranky father, the millionaire, to move in with her as an undercover vagrant.

Christmas in Connecticut
(1945)
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet

A Martha-Stewartish journalist becomes frantic when her publisher insists she treats an injured GI to a real family-oriented Christmas at her Connecticut home–what will happen when they find out she has no cooking skills, no husband, no baby, and no home in Connecticut?!

The Shop Around the Corner
(1940)
Starring: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan

Two workers in a Budapest gift-shop absolutely loathe each other, but are unaware that they are each other’s beloved anonymous pen-pal. Who will be the first to discover the truth? This is the original movie that inspired You’ve Got Mail starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks!

Holiday Affair
(1949)
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Wendell Corey

Classic romance where a single mother struggles to choose between a comfortable fiancé and an unexpected romantic stranger on Christmas.