Unsung Hereos: A review of The Boys of the Dark
December 30, 2010 • 5:07 am
By Allison Baldwin
(Robin Gaby Fisher is my journalism professor at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. This review is a
reflection of her work as an author. My personal views are based strictly on the impact of her novel and in no
way reflect my views of her as a professor.)
In the interest of reviewing The Boys of the Dark: A Story of Betrayal and Redemption in the Deep South, I
would first like to discuss what I did upon finishing.
I read the website connected to ‘The White House Boys’ and several articles I could find about the subject. I
even thought about calling Robert Straley personally to tell him how moved I was by his story, as well as those
of the other men involved in The White House movement. Once I figure out what to say, I may still do that. I
cried as I read the articles and the testimonials, quietly raging for the men who gave their lives so they could
bring justice to others who suffered like them and for future vistors of the Florida School for Boys.
I have never been so deeply moved by a story in my life. Even now, four days after finishing the novel, I am
not sure how to respond to it. It’s one of those books that leaves you shocked, outraged, and at a loss for
words. When you finish reading, you wonder why anyone would inflict this type of torture on another human
being. I found myself crying and saying “I’m sorry,” to men I have never even met.
Published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Press, The Boys of the Dark: A Story of Betrayal and Redemption in the
Deep South, tells the story of Michael O’McCarthy and Robert W. Straley, two men who were tortured and
beaten during their stay at the Florida School for Boys, in Marianna Florida during the 1950s and ’60s. Gaby
Fisher’s tale chronicles the journeys of the two men as they seek justice for the horrors they, and many other
Unlike her last novel After the Fire: A Story of Friendship and Survival, Gaby Fisher’s latest tale has none of
the warmth and banter present between Alvaro Llanos and Shawn Simons. Instead of getting humor and
quickness and love of life, this time around Gaby Fisher shows her readers the raw picture of broken men,
men torn down by years of grief and haunting memories. She also makes it clear that none of the
perpetrators have been convicted of a crime. There is no real closure here, making the novel that much
harder to read.
Gaby Fisher has said herself that she likes to write in scenes, and she does so here. However, these scenes
are longer and more dense. Backed up by archived history, both in the news and psychological realms, Gaby
Fisher provides her audience with precedented cases and studies that show why and how the torture at
Marianna may have happened. Most notably, she cites the Martin Lee Anderson case and the Zimbardo
Prison Experiment, as well as an experiment done by Martin Seligman.
(Editor’s note: I encourage anyone who doesn’t know of these cases to look them up in greater detail. They
are imperative to the overall understanding of the novel and just something good to know.)
The characters are raw and real, and Gaby Fisher does a wonderful job of taking their personalities and
moving them into the minds of her readers. When Robert Straley cried, I cried. When Micheal O’McCarthy
suffered, I suffered. Carol Marbin Miller and Gus Barreiro became my heroes. Gaby Fisher shows readers
that there are people in the world willing to sacrifice themselves in order to do what is right. She shows us that
we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Gaby Fisher tells a story that makes others think, that makes them question what they know and understand.
And most importantly, Straley and O’McCarthy, the true hereos of this story, remind us that the right thing is
not always the easiest one.
(For more information on the White House Boys Movement and the ongoing investigation, please visit, www.