At a glance:
Journalist Scott Anderson is the author of THE FOUR O’CLOCK MURDERS: A TRUE STORY OF A MORMON’S FAMILY VENGEANCE (1993), the novel TRIAGE (1998), and coauthored with his brother Jon Lee Anderson WAR ZONES (1988). As a renowned war correspondent, Anderson is ideally suited to writing about the extraordinary life that Fred Cuny led. Before his death, Cuny had become known as one of the foremost relief workers in the world. He had been dubbed the “Master of Disaster.” Energetic to a fault, Cuny always believed that he could change disastrous situations for the better. Anderson opens part one of the book with a chapter that discusses the disappearance of Cuny. In April, 1995, he returned to Chechnya against the advice of others. The small group he was a member of ventured toward a rebel fortress that was being bombarded by Russian troops. No one from the group was ever seen again. A search was organized, but what really happened to Cuny and the other members of the group remains a mystery.
For part two of THE MAN WHO TRIED TO SAVE THE WORLD, Anderson details Cuny’s life from birth. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 14, 1944, the family moved to Texas in 1952. While he hoped to be a Marine pilot, he became involved in civil rights activities during the mid-1960’s. By 1969, Cuny was off to Biafra to help airlift emergency food supplies. This was only the beginning of his efforts to solve humanitarian disasters around the world. Over the next twenty-five years, Cuny would be involved in such places as Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Iraq, the Sudan, and Somalia. More than merely a relief worker, Cuny was part diplomat, part intelligence officer, and part military expert. While Anderson may stray into hero worship in his description of Cuny the man, there can be no argument that Cuny made a difference in the lives of countless people.
Parts three, four, and five of the book give the harrowing account of the situation in Chechnya. Considered “the scariest place” on earth, Anderson is at his best setting the scene of how tortured a place Chechnya really is. Because no one knows for sure who killed Cuny, Anderson weighs in with a couple of his own theories. There were rumors that Cuny was linked to the CIA, but this could be no more than a red herring.
THE MAN WHO TRIED TO SAVE THE WORLD is a fascinating read and a touching portrait of an American who made a difference in the world.
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