A deeply researched life of a man at the crossroads of history.




Biography of a defiant journalist who worked tirelessly for the cause of Greek democracy.

Barron, founding advisory board member of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, draws on numerous sources—archives, oral histories, presidential libraries, government documents, legal cases, and broadcast transcripts—to create an overwhelmingly detailed biography of Greek journalist and activist Elias Demetracopoulos (1928-2016). Growing up in war-torn Greece, Demetracopoulos joined the resistance; at age 14, he was incarcerated and tortured by Nazi occupiers. Recognizing the impact that journalists made on shaping public opinion, Demetracopoulos was determined to join their ranks. By the time he was 21, he had gained a position on “the most prestigious and influential paper in Greece,” which gave him access to powerful Greeks and the many Americans who had come to help shape Greece’s economic and political future. Eager to go abroad, Demetracopoulos arrived in the U.S. in 1951 to report for his home paper. He carried with him 24 “letters of introduction to high-ranking officials,” and he quickly came to the attention of the CIA, which offered him a part-time job sharing intelligence. He declined, returning to Greece, where he once again found himself roiled in politics when a military junta came to power in 1967. Barely escaping, he made his way to the U.S., where his outspoken opposition to the junta made him a subject of intense interest to the CIA, FBI, and State Department for the rest of his career. Barron offers an evenhanded portrait of a complex man: Detractors called him egotistical, self-aggrandizing, and narcissistic; admirers praised him as “a highly intelligent, well-informed man of influence, generous in doing favors, and a loyal friend.” Tireless and bold, he cultivated a network of sources who afforded him a close view of political intrigue; Barron gives ample evidence of the tangled machinations that characterized American policy toward Greece from Truman to Reagan.

A deeply researched life of a man at the crossroads of history.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61219-828-6

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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 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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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