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THE OUTSIDER

MY LIFE IN INTRIGUE

Reading The Outsider is like listening to a grandfather recount his exploits in front of the fireplace: the narrative is...

Acclaimed thriller writer Forsyth (The Kill List, 2013, etc.) delivers a charming autobiography about his real-life adventures around the globe.

The author was raised during the Blitz, and he describes a childhood of routine bombardment, constant fires, and a tank parked in his backyard. Forsyth became obsessed with the Royal Air Force, and he eventually enlisted. But he seemed destined to write tales of suspense: he learned several languages, became a foreign correspondent, and traveled the world in search of stories. In Germany, he accidentally shared a drink with a Nazi war criminal. In France, he covered the near-assassination of Charles de Gaulle. In Nigeria, he found himself stuck in the middle of the Biafran War. The book is a patchwork of anecdotes told in the meandering style of an elder Englishman. Forsyth’s tales of derring-do are a pleasure to read, especially when coupled with his self-deprecating humor, but his most endearing quality is his ravenous curiosity, which pulled him from one exotic location to another. When he visited the Negev Desert, not long after the 1948 war, he interviewed an aged veteran who had spent decades fighting for the creation of Israel. “He stared for several seconds, then came alive, as if jolted by an electric shock,” writes the author. “I could have filled ten notebooks, but I just sat and listened to an old man who was sixty years of living history and who had seen it all.” Forsyth has also seen it all, and though his sometimes-rambling memoir has no overarching message, he explains how a dreamy London youth ended up writing some of the world’s most famous thrillers. When Forsyth recounts the moment he typed the title The Day of the Jackal for the first time, fans may find themselves misty-eyed.

Reading The Outsider is like listening to a grandfather recount his exploits in front of the fireplace: the narrative is occasionally long-winded and self-satisfied, but after living such an exciting life, Forsyth has earned his bragging rights.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17607-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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