Revisionist history done well, if not likely to please Chuck Norris die-hards.

CULT OF GLORY

THE BOLD AND BRUTAL HISTORY OF THE TEXAS RANGERS

A comprehensive account of the Texas Rangers, perhaps the most storied police force in American history.

There’s Walker, Texas Ranger, and then there’s The Lone Ranger, the latter recounting “a crime-fighting career that spanned almost ninety years.” There are Lonesome Dove and many an oater. Celebrated in popular culture very nearly from the beginnings of the organization almost 200 years ago, the Texas Rangers have always been a small outfit with an oversized image. Even today, writes former Dallas Morning News reporter Swanson, now a journalist professor at the University of Pittsburgh, there are only some 160 Rangers on active duty in a state of 29 million people. In the force’s early days, most of their work involved fighting the Natives, and the legacy of conflict between the group and non-Anglos is strong. The author points out that it was only in 1969 that an officer of Hispanic descent was admitted, and more than two decades would pass before an African American was allowed into the service. That legacy includes, in recent history, the use of the Rangers to break up a strike of Hispanic farmworkers, a cloud on a reputation already marked by episodes of violence. Still, as Swanson writes—after recounting tales ranging from Ranger incursions into Mexico to the successful hunt for outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker—the force is slightly more representative of Texas’ population today, with about a quarter of its number representing ethnic minorities, and all now recruited from the state’s highway patrol. “The perils have dwindled in the modern era—no one is pulling Comanche arrows from their foreheads anymore—but the job still carries risks,” Swanson concludes. His narrative is a touch too long and sometimes repetitive but understandably so, given the big story he has to tell, expanding on, updating, and sometimes correcting works by writers such as Walter Prescott Webb and John Boessenecker.

Revisionist history done well, if not likely to please Chuck Norris die-hards.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-101-97986-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

WILLIE NELSON'S LETTERS TO AMERICA

An epistolary grab bag of memories, lyrics, jokes, and homespun philosophy from the legendary musician.

As an indefatigable touring artist, Nelson (b. 1933) has had a lot of time on his hands during the pandemic. Following his collaboration with his sister, Me and Sister Bobbie, the road warrior offers a loose collection of lessons from a full life. If you’ve never read a book by or about Nelson, this one—characteristically conversational, inspirational, wise, funny, and meandering—is a good place to start. The book is filled with lyrics to many of his best-known songs, most of which he wrote but others that he has made his own as well. For those steeped in The Tao of Willie (2006), some of the stories will be as familiar as the songs—e.g., the origin story of his nicknames, including Booger Red and Shotgun Willie; his time as a DJ and a door-to-door Bible and encyclopedia salesman; early struggles in Nashville with “all the record executives who only see music as a bottom-line endeavor”; and return to his home state of Texas. Many of the personal stories about family and friends can be found in Me and Sister Bobbie, but they are good stories from a rich life, one of abundance for which Nelson remains profoundly grateful. So he gives thanks in the form of letters: to Texas, America, God, golf, and marijuana; the audiences who have supported him and the band that has had his back; those who have played any part in Farm Aid or his annual Fourth of July concert bashes; and departed friends and deceased heroes, one of whom, Will Rogers, answers him back. Nelson even addresses one to Covid-19, which looms over this book, making the author itchy and antsy. Even at 87, he can’t wait to be on the road again.

Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7852-4154-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper Horizon

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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