The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers

Bryan Christy, Author . Hachette/Twelve $24.99 (241p) ISBN 978-0-446-58095-3

Albino pythons, endangered lizards and other reptiles are the currency of an underworld as dangerous and lucrative as the drug trade. Freelance writer Christy’s debut is an enthusiastic but scattered chronicle of the rise and fall of a lizard kingpin and the federal agent who pursued him. Mike Van Nostrand inherited Strictly Reptiles, an import-export business in Florida, from his father, Ray, turning it into a multimillion-dollar smuggling operation. Van Nostrand imported reptiles of all shapes and sizes, usually concealed in the suitcases or clothing of his mules, and sold them to collectors and pet stores. He exploited loopholes in the international treaty on endangered-species trade and paid off corrupt officials. In the early 1990s, Fish and Wildlife Services agent Chip Bepler set his sights on Van Nostrand. After Bepler’s years of surveillance and hard work, Van Nostrand was sentenced to eight months in prison, his export license revoked, and Strictly Reptiles was forced to pay $250,000 in fines to a wildlife fund. Christy’s frenetic approach—bouncing from Mike’s smuggling to young Ray catching snakes to the neglect of wildlife crime prosecution—is disorienting in what could have been a fascinating tale. (Aug. 1)

Reviewed on: 06/09/2008
Release date: 08/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-0-446-53790-2
Paperback - 239 pages - 978-0-446-69975-4
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4561-0834-2
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