What if your father were the dictator? That’s the intriguing, real-life story behind Johnny Dwyer’s American Warlord.
Back in 1972, an ambitious Liberian named Charles Taylor came to Massachusetts to attend college. In 1977, Charles had a son who came to be known as Chucky. Charles would return to Liberia to pursue a life in politics, while Chucky would remain in the U.S. with his mother (Bernice).
As the years passed, Chucky became a troubled teenager, growing up in suburban Orlando. Eventually, Bernice sent him to Africa to live with Charles, who had become an important person in Liberia’s politics. As time passed, Charles would become the president/dictator of Liberia and Chucky would become one of Charles’ most-feared enforcers. Father and son would both eventually face repercussions from the international community.
The setup is great, but Dwyer’s book is only a qualified success. American Warlord is both the story of the Taylors and of Liberia’s history. Cutting back and forth between the Taylors’ stories and the history requires a lot of skill from author Dwyer, and he isn’t always able to make it work. The reader also tires of reading about Chucky – a violent, semiliterate drug addict.
American Warlord is worth a look – but it’s not great. I give it 6 out of 10.