From journalist David Kushner, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and other premiere outlets, Alligator Candy is a reported memoir in the vein of The Night of the Gun about how a family survives an unthinkable tragedy.
David Kushner grew up in the suburbs of Florida in the early 1970s, running wild with his friends, exploring, riding bikes, and disappearing into the nearby woods for hours at a time. One morning in 1973, however, everything changed. David’s older brother Jon, making a trip to the local convenience store, vanished. This is the story of Jon’s murder at the hands of two sadistic drifters…and everything that happened after.
Alligator Candy isn’t only the chronicle of Jon’s death, it is also the story of how parenting in America changed, casting light on the transition between two generations of children—one raised on freedom, the other on fear. Jon’s death was one of the first in what turned out to be a rash of child abductions and murders that dominated headlines for much of the 1970s and 80s. It was around this time that milk cartons began to feature the images of missing children, and newscasters began asking, “It’s 10:00, do you know where you children are?”
When one of Jon’s killers received a parole hearing, David revisited the case that had so haunted him. Marshalling his skills as a journalist, he compiled all the details that he was sheltered from as a child, interviewing neighbors, reporters, cops, and his own family, and combing through yellowed news clippings. Haunting and intimate, Alligator Candy is a moving, disturbing, insightful, and inspiring meditation on grief, growth, family, and survival.