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Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully (Paperback)
After the untimely death of his father, young Allen Kurzweil looks forward to attending a boarding school in the Swiss Alps, where his father was raised. He is attracted by the promise of fresh air, hiking, and the camaraderie of other boys. Once there, however, he is badly bullied by an older boy, with the unlikely name of Cesar Augustus. For years afterwards he is haunted by the memories. Decades later, when his own son is bullied, Ray decides to track down Cesar. What he encounters in his search can only be put in the category of “you can’t make this stuff up!” A substantive memoir with a whacky side, this is a book you will not want to put down. ~ Jane— From Jane
Winner of the Edgar® Award for Best Fact Crime
The true account of one boy’s lifelong search for his boarding-school bully.
Equal parts childhood memoir and literary thriller, Whipping Boy chronicles prize-winning author Allen Kurzweil’s search for his twelve-year-old nemesis, a bully named Cesar Augustus. The obsessive inquiry, which spans some forty years, takes Kurzweil all over the world, from a Swiss boarding school (where he endures horrifying cruelty) to the slums of Manila, from the Park Avenue boardroom of the world’s largest law firm to a federal prison camp in Southern California.
While hunting down his tormentor, Kurzweil encounters an improbable cast of characters that includes an elocution teacher with ill-fitting dentures, a gang of faux royal swindlers, a crime investigator “with paper in his blood,” and a onocled grand master of the Knights of Malta. Yet for all its global exoticism and comic exuberance, Kurzweil’s riveting account is, at its core, a heartfelt and suspenseful narrative about the “parallel lives” of a victim and his abuser.
A scrupulously researched work of nonfiction that renders a childhood menace into an unlikely muse, Whipping Boy is much more than a tale of karmic retribution; it is a poignant meditation on loss, memory, and mourning, a surreal odyssey born out of suffering, nourished by rancor, tempered by wit, and resolved, unexpectedly, in a breathtaking act of personal courage.
Whipping Boy features two 8-page black-and-white photo inserts and 83 images throughout.
About the Author
Allen Kurzweil is a prize-winning novelist, children's writer, inventor, and journalist. His work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the New Yorker, the New York Times, Smithsonian, and Vanity Fair. He is a graduate of Yale University and the recipient of Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
“Kurzweil does the delightfully unexpected: He morphs his story from a poignant memoir into a true-crime thriller.”
“Whipping Boy is like nothing I’ve ever read, an investigative memoir that’s honest, funny, sad, and edge-of-the-chair suspenseful. I loved it.”
— Dan Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
“Whipping Boy reads like a European version of American Hustle…Full of intrigue and suspense, the story follows the bizarre twists and turns of one man’s journey to find and confront his childhood tormentor-ready-made for a film treatment.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Whipping Boy is much more than the search for a bully. Kurzweil takes readers on a suspenseful and thrilling ride.”
“Pleasure-packed…makes the wily con artists in American Hustle look stuffy by comparison.”
“A fascinating, multi-pronged morality tale about victimhood, skewed perception and the liberation of facing your demons.”
— Washington Post
“A captivating hybrid of investigative journalism and memoir…Kurzweil is not simply settling a private score; he’s standing up for anyone who has ever been bullied.”
— Chicago Tribune
“A memoir that reads like a thriller as the author circles the globe to find the man who made his boarding school days a living hell.”
— Tampa Bay Times
“Kurzweil crafts an entertaining, sharply reported picaresque centering on the colorful leaders of the scam, who bamboozled their marks by posing as monocled European aristocrats and produced a fake deed from the fictional King of Mombessa… A crime saga that’s ripe with hilarious humbuggery.”
— Publishers Weekly
“This meditation on pain and memory...only sounds like fiction.”
— Library Journal
“I enjoyed Whipping Boy on so many levels. It’s wonderfully conceived and wonderfully executed.”
— Ricky Jay, author of Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women: Unique, Eccentric and Amazing Entertainers