Reviewed by Randall Radic
October 2, 1930. Gordon Stewart Northcott asked for a blindfold. After receiving it, the floor opened beneath his feet and Northcott plunged down. The rope around his neck brought his fall to an abrupt halt. Northcott died and justice was served.
There’s a curious field of suppressed energy about this book. It’s the true account of a man named Gordon Stewart Northcott. He was a real piece of work, as they say. Exaggerated, quaint, and absurd are adjectives that come to mind when trying to describe him. And of course, don’t forget insane, demented, crazy, deranged, and mad as a Hatter.
Northcott kidnapped his own nephew, because he needed help. Northcott was a child molestor and a murderer. He abducted little boys, violated them sexually and, usually, killed them. Northcott forced his nephew, Sanford Clark, to help him procure his victims. After Northcott was done with them, he forced Clark to help him bury them. Sometimes they weren’t quite dead when they were buried.
Northcott’s father, George, knew what his son was up to. But because he loved him, he didn’t try to stop it. In fact, with an air of simplicity both charming and suspect, he almost encouraged the secretive work. Northcott’s mother, whose name was Louise, doted on her little boy. She had a commitment to him that could not be disrupted. So she killed for him. None of the three family members – George, Louise or son Gordon – could speak anything remotely resembling the truth. They were all pathological liars.
Written by James Jeffrey Paul, who put years of labor into researching his material, the story is told with in a coldly detached voice, which accentuates the spookiness of the tale. No wonder Clint Eastwood took one small part of the story and made it into a fascinating movie. The movie was called The Changeling and starred Angelina Jolie. Only most people don’t know that the unseen, dark monster behind the events of the movie was Gordon Stewart Northcott.
Included in the book are actual court transcripts of what was said, and by whom, at Northcott’s trial. As one reads it, one comes face to face with Northcott’s brooding absorption with his secret ideas – the caprice of intrinsic deviancy. Also included are the letters that Northcott wrote to his parents from his cell on Death Row at San Quentin Prison. The letters are disturbing, formless, chaotic, devious. It would appear Northcott had an obsession with complication as an end in itself.
Nothing is Strange With You is a remarkable book. Why? Because it operates a priori – it attempts to infer the truth of murderous, horrifying events, directly from the nature or condition in the mind of the perpetrator of the events. And does so successfully! The success is this: the perpetrator – Northcott – is presented as a passenger, a listless subhuman hominoid, who is too preoccupied in depravity to recognize his stage in dying. And in the end, when the State of California executes him, all they are doing is confirming his death.
This is a book that needed to be written. This is a book that needs to be read.