A remarkably incisive account of an endlessly compelling figure.

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INTREPID'S LAST SECRETS

THEN AND NOW: HISTORY, SPIES AND LIES

A revisionist history of the infamous Canadian spy William Stephenson that focuses on the fascist enemies that he encountered in Allied territories.

The historical legacy of spymaster Stephenson has long been a confusing one. Some historians consider him a minor player in the clandestine machinations of World War II; others believe his contributions were inestimable in value; and still others don’t comment on him at all. As former teacher and journalist Macdonald (The True Intrepid, 2011) observes, it surely didn’t help that Stephenson lied to authors and reporters about the details of his own life. With astonishing meticulousness, the author sets out to fill in these lacunae, starting with Stephenson’s early years in Manitoba, Canada, where he became a successful entrepreneur. He established his own industrial espionage group in the mid-1930s for business purposes, and by 1939, he was in contact with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. Stephenson was eventually sent to New York City as a so-called passport control officer, where he ran his own organization, the British Security Coordination, whose aims were to undermine the Axis powers as well as homegrown fascist groups working to undermine the Allies in the United States and England. Macdonald follows American historian Carroll Quigley’s research closely as he shines a light on these groups, which included such institutions as the Council on Foreign Relations, which he contends was working against President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Macdonald’s study is not only rigorously researched, but also conveyed in cinematic terms—and as a result, even unconvinced readers will find themselves riveted. Over the course of the book, the author draws on so much tangled evidence, including hearsay and rumor, that the work has the air of a conspiracy theory at times. However, his argument is relentlessly thorough, and his principal contentions seem plausible. Finally, Macdonald makes a ringing case for exploring a nation’s past: “A country with unexamined history is a country without a soul.”<

A remarkably incisive account of an endlessly compelling figure.

Pub Date: July 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-2413-4

Page Count: 552

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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Highly recommended—anyone at all interested in music will learn a lot from this book.

HOW MUSIC WORKS

From the former Talking Heads frontman, a supremely intelligent, superbly written dissection of music as an art form and way of life.

Drawing on a lifetime of music-making as an amateur, professional, performer, producer, band member and solo artist, Byrne (Bicycle Diaries, 2009) tackles the question implicit in his title from multiple angles: How does music work on the ear, brain and body? How do words relate to music in a song? How does live performance relate to recorded performance? What effect has technology had on music, and music on technology? Fans of the Talking Heads should find plenty to love about this book. Steering clear of the conflicts leading to the band’s breakup, Byrne walks through the history, album by album, to illustrate how his views about performance and recording changed with the onset of fame and (small) fortune. He devotes a chapter to the circumstances that made the gritty CBGB nightclub an ideal scene for adventurous artists like Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie and Tom Verlaine and Television. Always an intensely thoughtful experimenter, here he lets us in on the thinking behind the experiments. But this book is not just, or even primarily, a rock memoir. It’s also an exploration of the radical transformation—or surprising durability—of music from the beginning of the age of mechanical reproduction through the era of iTunes and MP3s. Byrne touches on all kinds of music from all ages and every part of the world.

Highly recommended—anyone at all interested in music will learn a lot from this book.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-936365-53-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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