Fun royal history, as Larman captures the era’s delicious wit, spite, and malice.

THE CROWN IN CRISIS

COUNTDOWN TO THE ABDICATION

An entertaining, multilayered study of the abdication crisis of 1936 and the many traitorous and sycophantic characters surrounding King Edward VIII.

Employing an impressive amount of research via archival material, letters, MI5 dossiers, Philip Ziegler’s definitive 1990 biography of the king, and numerous other sources, British historian and journalist Larman manages to shine new light on this scandalous and well-picked-over moment in British royal history. He even includes new revelations regarding the assassination attempt by George McMahon on July 16. As he notes, further research and newly declassified documents offer “a stranger and more complex narrative, in which a succession of half-truths and subterfuge give a glimpse into a febrile, paranoid time…in which anything—even a royal assassination—seemed possible.” The author fully fleshes out the many historical characters who took sides during this tumultuous period, most of whom were flummoxed and/or enraged by the inability of the new king, a well-known hedonistic playboy, to extricate himself from association with the once-divorced and still-married American Wallis Simpson. Some of the most memorable include the Queen Mother, who shared her sadness with the king’s decision-making and refused to offer a “maternal blessing”; and those who supported him—e.g., newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook and Winston Churchill, “whose attitudes toward the situation was summed up by ‘let the king have his cutie.’ ” Over the course of this absorbing text, several salient points emerge: how incredible it was that the British press suppressed the scandal for so long when the American press was braying wildly; that Edward's venal, soulless character was so well established by the time he took the throne that nearly everyone, from his father to government officials to Simpson herself, sensed it was better he be gone rather than destroy the throne; and that Simpson had tried repeatedly to convince her forceful, cloying lover that she did not want him.

Fun royal history, as Larman captures the era’s delicious wit, spite, and malice.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-27484-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

more