The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World

Ian Sansom in Literary Review:

With The Real Lolita, Sarah Weinman might be said to have invented a completely new genre: true-crime literary criticism, which is not to be confused with truly criminal literary criticism, which, of course, is most literary criticism. The Real Lolita is, by any measure, a unique and very peculiar book.

The sad real-life story of Sally Horner, as recounted by Weinman, goes like this. Born in 1937, Florence ‘Sally’ Horner lived with her mother at 944 Linden Street, between Ninth and Tenth Streets in Camden, New Jersey. Her father killed himself when she was six. In March 1948, aged eleven, on her way home from Northeast School, where she was a fifth-grade honour pupil and president of the Junior Red Cross Club, she stole a five-cent notebook from the Camden Woolworth’s on Broadway and Federal. On the way out of the store, she was caught by a man who told her he was an FBI agent. He agreed to let her go if she promised to report to him occasionally.

A few months later, in June 1948, the man caught up with Sally on her way home from school. He told her that she was required to accompany him to Atlantic City. He then telephoned Sally’s mother, Ella, pretending to be the father of a friend of Sally, inviting the girl to join him and his family on holiday. On 14 June, Ella dropped Sally at the Camden bus depot. Almost two years later, in March 1950, after an unsuccessful police hunt, Sally telephoned her family from San Jose, California, asking them to rescue her.

More here.