The Name of Death by Klester Cavalcanti tells the life story of Julio Santana, the world’s most prolific professional killer, with 457 kills. Santana grew up in a very poor village on the banks of the Amazon, in Brazil. His famiy had no electricity and much of their food was caught in the river or killed by Santana using his expertise with a rifle. He lives with and is very close to his parents and younger brothers. One day his uncle tells him he needs to employ Santana to kill someone. Santana does not really want to do this but the uncle talks him into it. In just a few minutes he can earn six times the wage of most workers in his area for a month. After this Santana, a devout Catholic, tells himself he does not want to kill anyone else. But soon he is helping the army track and capture communists. He is revolted by the torture used by the army and national police. The uncle begins to tell him he can become rich as a professional killer. Several of the killings are depicted very vividly. He prefers to shoot his victims in the head up-close with a 38.
Many of the killings are over land disputes, some are personal issues being solved, some are political. He becomes quite a well known killer. After every killing he says ten Hail Marys, his uncle told him God will forgive him. In a very well done sex scene, he loses his virginity, as does his fourteen year old girl friend, not an improper relationship in rural Amazonia. He later marries another woman and stays faithful to her. They have a very solid relationship. The only issue is the wife hates what he does for a living.
He keeps a journal of his hits, 457 in all. The journal Includes the name of the victim, who hired him and why they wanted the killing and how much he was paid. He killed 47 women. He did have some rules he learned from his uncle.
He does not rob his victims bodies, after all he is not a thief. He does not kill someone while the sleep, as that would be cowardly. He does not kill pregnant women.
I learned a lot about life in the poor villages where Santana grew up.
Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this story is that Santana seems like a decent person. He takes no pleasure in the killings.
The translation was done by Nicholas Caistor
This is an exciting book. It rings true for me. I have visited an Amazonian river village and spent some time in Rio de Janeiro and this made the book all the better for me.
Klester Cavalcanti is one of the best investigative reporters in Brazil and has worked in the country’s largest vehicles, such as Veja, Estadão, and IstoÉ. Born in 1969 in Pernambuco, Brazil, he has received national and international awards, such as Best Environmental Report in South America, given by Reuters and the ICUN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature), and the Natali Prize, the most important Journalism for Human Rights Award in the world. He also received the Vladimir Herzog Human Rights Award and is three times winner of Jabuti Literature Prize, the most respected award in Brazilian literature – with the books WIDOWS OF THE LAND (VIÚVAS DA TERRA), 2004; THE NAME OF DEATH, 2006; and DAYS OF HELL IN SYRIA (DIAS DE INFERNO NA SÍRIA), 2012.
The latter two titles and THE NAME OF DEATH are being made into films. The Name of Death is a super production from Globo Films and Fernando Meirelles (director of City of God and the opening of Rio Olympic Games), with Henrique Goldman as director and a great cast, scheduled for release in mid-2017 and aiming the international market. A fourth book THE LADY OF LIBERTY (A DAMA DA LIBERDADE), the biography of a woman dedicated to free contemporary slaves in Brazilian agriculture industries, is also being adapted to the movies under the direction of Bruno Barreto.
I was kindly given a review copy of this book