Gods of Death

Yaron Svoray, Author, Thomas Hughes, With
Yaron Svoray, Author, Thomas Hughes, With Simon & Schuster $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-684-81445-2
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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Israeli journalist Svoray, a former cop, promises more than he can deliver in this nonetheless compelling memoir of the writer-as-sleuth. The ""truth about snuff films""--porn films that feature the real-life murder of one of the participants--doesn't amount to much; or at least the truth that Svoray uncovered doesn't. Unlike Svoray's investigation into the German neo-Nazi movement (In Hitler's Shadow), the author's latest project doesn't deal with an organization that seeks to recruit members or to disseminate ideas. Consequently, Svoray's bad-ass style of investigating doesn't serve him so well in the shadowy world of international porn. It does makes for some odd moments, though, as he spends his savings greasing the palms of petty criminals, follows fruitless leads across three continents and stages, with his own cast of characters, an elaborate sting operation in a German restaurant. A surprise player here is Robert De Niro, who travels to Paris to attend--for research purposes, of course--a snuff film viewing that Svoray arranges. The author finally manages, with some trouble, to purchase a snuff film, though in the end it is confiscated by a Serbian border patrol. He also discovers that some of the worst atrocities of the Bosnian war were filmed, and that there are opportunists who profited from their sale. But the widespread horror he anticipated either does not exist or could not be found. Svoray's credible swagger, however, plus his passion for justice, a colorful cast and an abundance of skin-crawling moments make this a memorable, if not entirely satisfying, piece of reportage. (Sept.)
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