Weaving together technological, economic, social, and political threads, Brunt offers much to ponder.

A World War I–era tale about an important invention and a mystery surrounding its creator.

In his latest, Brunt, the author of Ghosts of Manhattan, chronicles the life and work of Rudolf Diesel, who disappeared in September 1913. While the word diesel is well known in the English language, most readers know little or nothing about Diesel and the innovative internal combustion engine he invented. The author’s interest in history and politics shines through in his well-researched, engaging book. In addition to describing the engine and its applications, Brunt provides a clear picture of Diesel the inventor, the polyglot, the man dreaming of social justice and a peaceful world. “The process of invention is inherently linked to the social and economic challenges of the time,” writes the author, “and inventors like Rudolf Diesel were generally working in response to forces beyond their control.” The text is equally fascinating when the author delineates the pursuits of Kaiser Wilhelm II, John D. Rockefeller, and Winston Churchill, all of whom were factors in Diesel’s life. Brunt’s curiosity about Diesel is contagious even if a good portion of the narrative is about his contemporaries, whether inventors, politicians, or business tycoons. The author’s theory about Diesel’s disappearance rests on this extensive backstory, though it lacks definitive proof and remains confounding. Regardless, Brunt brings readers on a pleasant excursion across Europe and North America, chronicling the stories of German aspirations to trump British naval power and the landscape of the U.S. before it became a true world power. Also intriguing are Diesel’s accurate predictions about pollution, solar power, and even rising nationalism, and the book’s parallels to present-day innovations and their societal and political implications make it a worthy read. After all, Diesel lived in tumultuous times that bear striking similarities to the present.

Weaving together technological, economic, social, and political threads, Brunt offers much to ponder.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9781982169909

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023



Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020


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

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