An engrossing hidden history of wartime espionage, with elements of derring-do and moral barbarity.

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KING OF SPIES

THE DARK REIGN AND RUIN OF AN AMERICAN SPYMASTER IN KOREA

Fascinating account of an espionage pioneer who thrived during the Korean War and then disappeared into disgraced obscurity.

Harden (The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom, 2015, etc.) deepens his exploration of Korean history with the bizarre story of Donald Nichols (1923-1992), who spent World War II as a motor pool sergeant, then moved into military intelligence in Korea as the peninsula was descending into civil war, becoming a confidant of anti-communist strongman (and eventual South Korean president) Syngman Rhee. “In Nichols,” writes the author, “Rhee discovered a back door for delivering intelligence that could influence American policy toward Korea.” However, Nichols also witnessed Rhee’s torture and massacre of both insurgents and civilians prior to the 1950 Soviet-backed North Korean invasion. Nichols’ prescient warnings about the invasion to the American military were ignored; once war began, he was able to run operations including code-breaking and pilfering secrets from disabled Russian tanks and planes. “The air force credited Nichols, more than anyone else, with finding bomb targets in North Korea,” writes Harden. Under the protection of a powerful superior, Nichols built up an unsupervised black-ops unit, often sending South Koreans on suicide missions. His shadowy activities continued after the 1952 armistice (when he was vilified as a spy in a North Korean show trial), but in 1957, Nichols was abruptly sacked by the military and hospitalized, receiving electroshock therapy. Living with relatives in Florida, the ex-spymaster tried to acclimate to civilian life, but he was eventually revealed to be a sexual predator, accused of molesting young boys. Harden’s research shows such behavior had begun with his subordinates during the war, seemingly signifying the amoral inner life of an otherwise audacious, successful spy. The author ably connects his ominous central figure to the larger mysterious, unresolved narrative of the Korean conflict.

An engrossing hidden history of wartime espionage, with elements of derring-do and moral barbarity.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42993-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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