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
A swashbuckling Texan, a teller of tall tales, a womanizer, and a renegade, Fred Cuny spent his life in countries rent by war, famine, and natural disasters, saving many thousands of lives through his innovative and sometimes controversial methods of relief work. Cuny earned his nickname "Master of Disaster" for his exploits in Kurdistan, Somalia, and Bosnia. But when he arrived in the rogue Russian republic of Chechnya in the spring of 1995, raring to go and eager to put his ample funds from George Soros to good use, he found himself in the midst of an unimaginably savage war of independence, unlike any he had ever before encountered. Shortly thereafter, he disappeared in the war-rocked highlands, never to be seen again.
Who was Cuny really working for? Was he a CIA spy? Who killed him, and why? In search of the answers, Scott Anderson traveled to Chechnya on a hazardous journey that started as as a magazine assignment and ended as a personal mission. The result is a galvanizing adventure story, a chilling picture of "the new world order," and a tour de force of literary journalism.
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