A Vietnam memoir with zero punches pulled, related by one of the most incisive observers of the American political scene.

LIEUTENANT DANGEROUS

A VIETNAM WAR MEMOIR

Acclaimed political cartoonist Danziger looks back at his year in Vietnam, somehow managing to convey difficult truths without completely depressing readers.

Drafted shortly after graduating college in 1968, Danziger believed (as many did) that the war was in its final stages. He reported to Fort Dix hoping the worst would be over before he could be sent overseas. He offers detailed, often amusing accounts of the ill-focused basic training, which was “phenomenally stupid, left over from World War II and ha[d] nothing to do with conditions in Southeast Asia. It was this side of mad.” Seeking ways to further delay deployment, he entered language school to learn Vietnamese, assuming he would then be stationed far from combat zones, interpreting intercepted signals from the field. But the instruction was perfunctory at best, and after acceptance to officer training—another ploy to postpone deployment—Danziger was sent for ordnance training, and his language skills eroded quickly. Then he was deployed to Vietnam, where he was one of many junior officers with inadequate training and no enthusiasm for the missions. The author’s account of his year “in-country” is consistently candid about the futility of the war, and he makes little effort to portray his own role as anything but ineffectual. The book’s title plays on the Vietnamese’s attempts to pronounce his name. Looking back, as if trying to explain the era to a younger audience, he tries to provide perspective. Subsequent history shows that America learned nothing from Vietnam, he writes; the country has entered one unwinnable war after another, with few moments of success and thousands of lives lost. Unsettling as these truths may be, Danziger’s compelling presentation of his experience makes the book a must-read war memoir. The author aptly opens his trenchant book with an epigraph from Joseph Heller.

A Vietnam memoir with zero punches pulled, related by one of the most incisive observers of the American political scene.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-58642-273-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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