Overlong but well-balanced.

Veteran journalist Wilkie (Journalism/Univ. of Mississippi; Dixie: A Personal Odyssey Through Events that Shaped the Modern South, 2001, etc.) produces a meaty biography extolling the rise and fall of an infamously lucrative trial litigator.

A 1976 graduate of the University of Mississippi Law School and former Navy pilot, Richard “Dickie” Scruggs’ early career as a lawyer was jumpstarted when he began representing shipyard workers from his Pascagoula hometown who were diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. The ensuing lawsuits against the culprits, asbestos manufacturers, netted both the claimants and Scruggs millions in the ’80s. Fueled by cooperative whistleblowers and what he felt was a “lack of government regulation” on issues like tobacco, chemicals, physicians’ malpractice and substandard automobile design, Scruggs became a hubris-laden champion to the “powerless masses,” while concurrently becoming the target of angry politicians and corporate brass who lost constituents and corporate revenue. His co-involvement in prosecuting an array of tobacco companies “gave him an annual income projected at $20 million over a twenty-five-year period.” Scruggs went on to successfully tackle insurance companies who denied claims in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. However, he also cultivated and heavily financed shady associations with state auditors and professional partnerships. His marriage to Diane Thompson, sister to the wife of republican Sen. Trent Lott, afforded Scruggs a familial alliance that would become elemental as political overlords began zeroing in on his increasingly hushed activities. These peripheral pressures may have accounted for the attorney’s lack of proper judgment when his law firm was indicted and convicted of the bribery of a Mississippi state court judge twice, once in 2007 and again in 2009. Using data from print media, court transcripts, interviews, family meetings and from a particularly hard-won discussion with Scruggs’ son and junior law partner, Zach, Wilkie charts his subject’s serpentine legal and political machinations with dense, rich prose. While he honestly considers Scruggs “a friend,” his chronicle is even-keeled and unbiased.

Overlong but well-balanced.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-46070-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010


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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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