Dwyer’s ‘Amer­i­can War­lord’ tracks Chucky Tay­lor’s US to Liberia trek


“Amer­i­can War­lord: A True Story” (Al­fred A. Knopf), by Johnny Dwyer

Chucky Tay­lor’s 2008 trial in Miami fed­eral court was a sort of home­com­ing for a young man whose ado­les­cence in Florida had been like so many oth­ers bored with the sub­urbs and long­ing for ab­sent fa­thers.

The sur­real jour­ney Tay­lor took from Florida to Liberia and then back to stand trial for tor­ture is the sub­ject of “Amer­i­can War­lord.” Through public records re­quests, trial tran­scripts, in­ter­views in the U.S. and Liberia, and let­ters from Tay­lor him­self, jour­nal­ist Johnny Dwyer tried to piece to­gether what hap­pened to Tay­lor that made him such a unique catch for U.S. au­thor­i­ties.

Tay­lor is the Amer­i­can-born son of for­mer Liberian Pres­i­dent Charles Tay­lor, who now is serv­ing a pri­son sen­tence in the United King­dom for war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity for his in­volve­ment in Sierra Leone’s civil war. Grow­ing up near Or­lando, Florida, Tay­lor wasn’t un­like many other chil­dren of im­mi­grants in feel­ing out of place. His mother and step­fa­ther, both Trinida­di­anAmer­i­can, were rais­ing him in the sprawl­ing sub­urbs. His bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther lived abroad and didn’t keep in touch. He had brushes with the law, and he had a girl­friend whose par­ents didn’t like him.

The key dif­fer­ence is that Tay­lor’s fa­ther was a rebel leader in Liberia, who took power in a bru­tal civil war. A re­u­nion with his fa­ther in Liberia when he was in his late teens changed the younger Tay­lor’s life and gave him the op­por­tu­nity to un­leash danger­ous im­pulses where there was no law but his fa­ther.

In a dense nar­ra­tive, Dwyer charts Tay­lor’s evo­lu­tion from an av­er­age Amer­i­can thug into a no­to­ri­ous loose can­non in a war-torn re­gion. Dwyer’s in­ter­views with the girl­friend Tay­lor in­ter­mit­tently brought from Or­lando to join him in Liberia of­fer the most in­ter­est­ing win­dow into Tay­lor’s world, where he sought his fa­ther’s ap­proval even while com­mit­ting atroc­i­ties.


This photo pro­vided by Al­fred A. Knopf shows the book cover of “Amer­i­can War­lord,” by Johnny Dwyer.

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