Chaiton, Sam 1950-
Chaiton, Sam 1950-
CHAITON, Sam 1950-
PERSONAL: Born 1950, in Canada.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Entrepreneur and writer. Five Believers Batiks (batik-importing firm) and Big It Up International (urban hat and apparel company), cofounder.
(With Terry Swinton) Lazarus and the Hurricane: TheUntold Story of the Freeing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Viking (Toronto, Canada), 1991, revised edition published as Lazarus and the Hurricane: The Freeing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 2000.
Coauthor of first draft of screenplay, The Hurricane.
ADAPTATIONS: Lazarus and the Hurricane was adapted for the 1999 film The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Screenplay, with Terry Swinton, based on the life of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the man convicted of kidnapping Charles and Anne Morrow Lindberg's baby.
SIDELIGHTS: Sam Chaiton, writing with Terry Swinton, turned his decade-long experience in helping to free a wrongly convicted man into the 1991 book Lazarus and the Hurricane: The Untold Story of the Freeing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Part of an idealistic group of Canadians living in Toronto in the 1970s, Chaiton traveled to Brooklyn's Environmental Protection Agency in 1979 to research an antipollution device. While there, he and Swinton met a young black man, Lesra (Lazarus) Martin, who, though functionally illiterate, had dreams of becoming a lawyer. Lesra's ambition and hopes for the future inspired the Canadians. Returning to Canada, they wanted to take the young man with them and give him opportunities he might not have at home. They convinced the boy's parents to let him go with them back to Canada. It was Lesra who subsequently introduced the others to the plight of the boxer Rubin Carter, after reading his 1974 memoir, The Sixteenth Round. Carter, wrongfully convicted of three murders in 1966, had won a new trial after public outcry from such prominent people as the musician Bob Dylan, only to be found guilty a second time. But spurred by Lesra's interest and a correspondence that began between Carter and their charge, Chaiton and Swinton became personally involved in the case, moving to New Jersey and directing an appeal that ultimately led to the 1988 exoneration of Carter.
This experience prompted publication of their book, Lazarus and the Hurricane. "It's not a book that we had to make up," Chaiton noted on CNN Online. "It was part of our lives. . . . One of the beautiful lessons of Lazarus and the Hurricane . . . is the liberating power of the written word. The fact that Lesra Martin learned how to read, and read Rubin Hurricane Carter's autobiography, led directly to the freeing of . . . Carter." Eight years after its Canadian publication in 1991, the novel served as partial inspiration for the Norman Jewison movie The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington as Carter. The movie also led to the American publication of Lazarus and the Hurricane.
Reviewing the 1991 edition in the Toronto Star, Jack Batten noted that the authors' "prose style has a wide-eyed, gee-whiz quality, but that seems nicely appropriate to the book's us-against-them story." Batten also observed that "perhaps oddly, what remains most vivid from the book isn't the tale of triumph and of upbeat conclusions. It's the image of an innocent man enduring all those years inside a penitentiary." Writing of the updated American edition in the Seattle Times, Steve Weinberg found that the book tells "such an unusual story that it does seem like fiction. But it's not." Wes Lukowsky commented in Booklist that Lazarus and the Hurricane "offers a detailed account of the commune's legal, emotional and spiritual efforts on Carter's behalf." For a Publishers Weekly contributor, Chaiton and Swinton's book "has the advantage of an unusual inside perspective," though, as the same reviewer went on to note, it "is strangely lacking in the passionate intimacy of an insider." Library Journal's Karl Helicher, however, found the book a "lively . . . recounting [of] Carter's struggle with the legal system and hellish prison conditions and . . . Lesra's adjustment to Canadian life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 1, 1999, Wes Lukowsky, review of Lazarus and the Hurricane: The Freeing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, p. 659.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Karl Helicher, review of Lazarus and the Hurricane, p. 126.
New York Times, December 29, 1999, Stephen Holden, "A Boxer Fighting the Demons within Him," pp. B1, E1.
Publishers Weekly, December 6, 1999, review of Lazarus and the Hurricane, p. 64; February 7, 2000, Dick Donahue and Daisy Maryles, review of Lazarus and the Hurricane, p. 19.
Seattle Times, January 30, 2000, Steve Weinberg, review of Lazarus and the Hurricane, p. M8.
Toronto Star (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), April 21, 1991, Susan Kastner, "The Crazy Idealists," p. D1; May 25, 1991, Jack Batten, review of Lazarus and the Hurricane: The Untold Story of the Freeing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, p. H14.
CNN Online,http://www.cnn.com/ (February 2, 2000), "A Chat with the Authors of Lazarus and the Hurricane."
Philadelphia City Paper Online,http://citypaper.net/ (January 6-13, 2000), Sam Adams, "Stormy Weather."*