Next book



Fans of Graham Greene and Alan Furst will revel in this well-told true-life story.

An unlikely tale of true espionage by London-based journalist/historian Hemming (Abdulnasser Gharem: Art of Survival, 2012, etc.) in which a nerdy Jewish kid becomes a kind of James Bond.

Geoffrey Pyke (1893-1948) found his calling in the face of Nazi Germany’s official anti-Semitism. He did not forget that as a British POW in Germany in World War I, though, he had been confined to a barracks reserved for Jews—and not by Germans but by his fellow British officers, masters of “the casual anti-Semitism of Edwardian England.” Still, he remained a loyal servant of the empire, gathering valuable intelligence that would have earned him a firing squad as a spy. Convinced that the educational orthodoxy was misguided, Pyke also attempted to start a network of schools to be funded by his wizardry in the stock market. Convinced that it was not enough to defeat the Nazis but to “make fools of them in beating them,” he gained the confidence of Winston Churchill and cooked up some elaborately improbable technologies, including “an unsinkable aircraft carrier made out of a cheap new material that could be produced quickly.” Along the way, Pyke fell into the communist orbit. “I am primarily an anti-fascist,” he insisted, but he would have been a candidate for execution by his own country had he not beaten his pursuers to the punch. Hemming examines the facts, augmented by “the release of previously classified documents by MI5,” surrounding the Pyke affair, suggesting that while his subject, a tinkerer and discoverer, journalist, and genius indeed, had given material aid to the Soviets, he may not have been so deeply involved as was supposed. Pyke has been dead for nearly 70 years, so modest rehabilitation is of less interest than the fascinating story surrounding his deeds—for, as Time noted, killing himself “was the only unoriginal thing he had ever done.”

Fans of Graham Greene and Alan Furst will revel in this well-told true-life story.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61039-577-9

Page Count: 544

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

Next book


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

Next book



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

Close Quickview