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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

A rewarding book with much to offer, including the likely spark of new interest in how singular choices made by both men and...

The carnage of war, the rise of a dictator and one North Korean defector’s life story all come together in this combination of biography, military history and exposé.

Harden (Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, 2012, etc.) skillfully fuses all his narrative threads into one united chronicle. In narrating the rise of North Korea’s first communist dictator, Kim Il Sung, Harden ties Kim’s story to that of defector No Kum Sok. The once-privileged son of a factory owner under Japanese rule, No disliked communism and its constraints from the start and began planning his escape the first time he heard Kim speak in person. No spent five years pretending to be zealously committed to the party in order to protect himself long enough to put his plan into action. He joined the navy and volunteered to become a fighter pilot in hopes of flying his way out of North Korea. Eventually, he did just that, crossing the border to South Korea in a MiG-15 and leaving Kim and communism behind for good. To complement both No’s and Kim’s stories, Harden keeps the Korean War in the foreground. He includes details that were left out of American news and military reports, using recently disclosed military documents and No’s eyewitness testimony. The U.S looms large in this book, both as a dream destination for No and a terrifying agent of death and destruction for his homeland. Using this multifaceted view, Harden explains how Kim, though laughably inept regarding military strategy and in fulfilling his nation’s needs, was able to build a lasting dictatorial dynasty.

A rewarding book with much to offer, including the likely spark of new interest in how singular choices made by both men and nations can reverberate for generations.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01657-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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