ALLAN PINKERTON

THE FIRST PRIVATE EYE

Mackay, a Scottish historian whose previous works include a biography of fellow Scot Robert Burns (1993), turns his attention to another Glaswegian, Allan Pinkerton. Pinkerton is best remembered as the founder of the private- detective agency that still bears his name. When he started the agency in Chicago in 1850, it had a staff of two; today it has a staff of thousands, with offices around the world. Pinkerton, who was born in 1819, was early left fatherless; as an adolescent he became a cooper's apprentice. His skill as a barrelmaker would be matched by his rapid rise in the ranks of radical politics, where he became prominent in the Scottish branch of the Chartist movement. Undoubtedly, his controversial past led in part to his decision to emigrate to America in 1842. Pinkerton and his wife, Joan, made their way to Illinois, settling near the budding city of Chicago. Scouting a seemingly deserted island for wood, Pinkerton came upon a mysterious campfire that led him to a counterfeiting ring. Soon after, he was appointed deputy sheriff of Cook County, and his career in law enforcement was underway. Eventually, he would become head of intelligence for General George McClellan and a key figure in Civil War history. It is in his treatment of the Civil War period, fully a third of the book, that Mackay falls down grievously. Too much of his time is spent in spirited special pleading for McClellan and a defense of Pinkerton's reputation. Mackay is, however, astute in his assessment of the relationship between the growth of Pinkerton's private agency and the railroad industry. After the war Pinkerton was involved in a number of notorious cases, including attempts to bring the James gang to trial and to suppress the Molly Maguires, a secret organization active in the Pennsylvania coalfields. More hagiography than biography, this rather lifeless narrative hardly represents a balanced portrayal of a controversial figure.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 1997

ISBN: 0-471-19415-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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

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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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