All Sally Horner wanted was to fit in with the cool girls at school. What she got instead was two years of harrowing captivity at the hands of a sexual predator.
Author T. Greenwood recounts Sally’s real-life plight in Rust & Stardust, a shocking crime novel about the famous real-life 1948 abduction that inspired Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and the film that followed.
Eleven-year-old Sally’s effort to make friends goes awry when the other girls tell her she must steal something from a local pharmacy. When she does, she’s immediately caught by Frank LaSalle, a man who purports to be an FBI agent and threatens to arrest her if she doesn’t do as he says. Sally believes LaSalle intends to take her before a judge, and LaSalle in turn poses as the father of one of the other girls and convinces Sally’s mother to allow her to accompany his family to Atlantic City for a weeklong vacation. So begins nearly two years of lies and torment as LaSalle absconds with Sally, traveling from state to state in an effort to elude the law.
As the novel is told in large part through Sally’s youthful perspective, it is easy to see how she is so easily duped by an adult who professes to be first an officer of the law and later her long-lost father. Readers will sympathize with Sally’s tragic plight while being revolted by LaSalle’s predatory instinct as he sexually exploits her.
Greenwood reportedly spent more than two years researching Sally’s abduction and years drafting Rust & Stardust. The result is an unflinching portrait of a vile criminal and his helpless victim. What is perhaps just as vivid is how sexual predators today continue to mirror the exact methods LaSalle used to usurp Sally’s will—and body—with empty promises, gifts and eventually threats.