Rocky Goes West
ISBN 1875989 19 6
Published Oct 1997
From the author of God's Little Acre comes this true story of art, money and cannibalism.
In 1961 Michael Rockefeller, son of billionaire and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, went missing in a notorious headhunting area of what was then West Papua New Guinea, today's Irian Jaya. Just two years earlier, inter-tribal warfare in the Asmat region had resulted in the ritual headhunting and cannibalization of fifty-one teenagers. The colonial Dutch police force shot and killed some men in the ensuing investigation.
This was the area where Rocky went to make a Harvard documentary about head-hunting and to buy wooden art for a New York museum. Was Rocky's disappearance and presumed death a form of retribution? Was he headhunted for other reasons? Did he drown in a boating mishap? Was he taken by sharks or sea serpents? Was Rocky a dolt and an embarrassment to his wealthy and powerful father? Was he gay and decided to join the tolerant Asmat natives? Was he just an ordinary guy, who wanted to escape the influence of his famous family?
Paul Toohey went to Irian Jaya and spoke to dozens of people associated with the case, including Australian private eye Frank Monte, who was employed by Michael's mother after Nelson Rockefeller's death, to try to find out what had become of her son, and found himself on a genocide mission with Indonesian soldiers.
Beneath Toohey's laconic, often funny account lies a meticulously researched investigation of one of the great unsolved mysteries of the Twentieth Century.
Paul Toohey is still young but he has been a journalist and editor for many years.
'Toohey is terrific' - Sydney Morning Herald
'Toohey is not the kind of guy who reports things from a safe distance' - Rolling Stone
'He's brilliant. I love his stuff.' - Nick Cave