A true-crime page-turner about one of the more notorious bank heists of the past half century.

SIX DAYS IN AUGUST

THE STORY OF STOCKHOLM SYNDROME

A historian painstakingly reconstructs the crime that gave rise to the pop-psychological term Stockholm syndrome.

In August 1973, a furloughed Swedish convict armed with a submachine gun burst into a Stockholm bank and took four hostages, who, during their ordeal, seemed to grow attached to the gunman and a prison mate brought in at his request. The crime inspired the catchphrase Stockholm syndrome, which King defines as “the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor.” It is often applied to high-profile kidnapping victims such as Patty Hearst and Elizabeth Smart. The “syndrome,” however, has been little studied and isn’t an officially recognized psychiatric condition; rather, it is “more a media phenomenon than a proper psychiatric diagnosis.” As such, King reconstructs the six-day standoff by drawing largely on sources other than academic studies, ranging from FBI materials to interviews with hostages and with gunman Jan-Erik “Janne” Olsson and his prison friend Clark Olofsson. In a suspenseful, chronological narrative, the author shows how missteps by the police, the media, and Prime Minister Olof Palme, combined with small acts of kindness by the hostage-takers, drew the group together. Early on, for example, the police barricaded the entrance to the bank vault in which the captors and captives hid, leaving the group with nothing to eat or drink, which made the hostage-takers look like heroes when authorities yielded to their demands for food. The most startling sign of a bond arose after the standoff ended when hostage Kristin Enmark asked captor Olofsson to father her child and was “devastated” when the resulting pregnancy was ectopic. King keeps a tight focus on ties that arise in hostage crises, but readers may suspect that some of his findings apply to the “terror bonding” that results from other crimes, such as domestic violence or child abuse.

A true-crime page-turner about one of the more notorious bank heists of the past half century. (8 page b/w photos)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-63508-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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