The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life & Mysterious Disappearance of Fred Cuny

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9780385486651: The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life & Mysterious Disappearance of Fred Cuny
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What makes a man a hero, and what price must he pay? For one man, the answers came in the scariest place on earth.

Fred Cuny spent his life in terrible places. In countries rent by war, earthquake, famine, and hurricane, Cuny saved hundreds of thousands of lives with a fearlessness that amazed all who knew him. A Texan, a teller of tall tales, a womanizer, and a renegade, Cuny grew ever more daring in his globe-trotting adventures as his motivations became murkier. Was he a danger junkie? A CIA spy? Or a man who truly believed he had the wits and courage to save the world?

After twenty-five years of heroic work that earned Cuny the nickname "Master of Disaster," he set off to the rogue Russian republic of Chechnya, a land of gangsters and Islamic terrorists, a quasi-state engaged in an unimaginably savage war with a Russian army of drunken, brutal incompetents. Cuny went to try to stop the war, but for the first time in his life he was scared, unsure of himself in an insane landscape where betrayal and murder lurked behind every face. He failed to stop the horror, yet soon returned to Chechnya on a mysterious mission. Cuny was last seen on a lonely mountain road, headed for a rebel fortress that was being subjected to the most intense artillery bombardment since World War II.

War correspondent Scott Anderson became obsessed with Cuny's fate, and ventured into the deadly war zone himself in search of answers to several haunting questions: Whom was Cuny working for? What happened to him, and why? Most powerfully, what sort of man believes he can save the world?

The answers to these questions form the heart of this extraordinary narrative, a true-life thriller that brings to light the chaos, treachery, and danger of the "new world order." The Man Who Tried to Save the World is a tour de force of literary journalism and an utterly compelling read.

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Review:

Fred Cuny, a fearless and hugely ambitious Texan, was nicknamed "Master of Disaster" for his handling of relief projects worldwide. He stood out in a bureaucratic world with his unorthodox methods and obvious success. In 1995, during a visit to a mountain border town in Chechnya that was under heavy Russian bombardment, Fred Cuny disappeared.

Renowned war correspondent Scott Anderson became so involved in uncovering Cuny's fate that he risked his life several times in Chechnya. He describes a larger-than-life character who could have come straight from a Le Carré novel--a flawed hero who habitually lied about his past but to whom hundreds of thousands of disaster victims owed their lives. All wars are cruel, but Anderson succeeds in convincing us that the random savagery shown by the combatants in Chechnya made its terror unique. Against the background of a ruined country, he interviews Chechen rebels and traitors, Russian generals and pathetically young conscripts, and shadowy operatives who steered Cuny toward danger. Lies and changing stories make the mystery of what happened to Cuny ever more impenetrable, yet Anderson continues his stubborn detective work. With writing that has the fluidity and psychological insight shown by the author of the novel Triage, Anderson brings to this book a passion not usually found in journalism and makes it literature. --John Stevenson

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Initial Praise for The Man Who Tried to Save the World:

"This is war at its most brutal, and war reporting at its finest. Scott Anderson's tour through Chechnya in search of a lost American humanitarian ranks as one of the most thrilling stories I've ever read. That Anderson made it out alive is incredible, but this is not just an adventure story, but a mystery of the first order."
--Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm

"This is the kind of book I love: a can-of-worms odyssey by a journalist with balls of brass and a relentless determination to get to the truth. What starts out as a search for facts turns into a Conradesque epic, a journey into a real-life heart of darkness where every hall is mirrored, nothing is what it seems, and every truth uncovered leads to a deeper mystery. The Man Who Tried to Save the World has all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster--an enigmatic Yank with military and spy connections, shadowy Russian spooks, mysterious women, bandits and brigands, Chechnyan warlords, even missing nukes--with this difference: It's all true."
--Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire

"Scott Anderson's The Man Who Tried to Save the World is a taut thriller of wartime intrigue that also happens to be true. Through the story of Fred Cuny's disappearance, Anderson gives us the story of Chechnya, and he does so with a reporter's exactitude and a novelist's sense of the tragic and absurd. A powerful, many-layered book."
--Darcy Frey, author of The Last Shot

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