An engrossing report on David Koresh and the endurance of cult culture.



The tragic rise and fall of a dangerous Christian sect.

Guinn’s well-rounded examination of the Branch Davidians begins in early 1993 during a 51-day federal siege on David Koresh’s heavily guarded compound. As the author recounts, a biblical prophecy that foretold the end of the world compelled Koresh and his followers to stockpile a large cache of weapons within the confines of the Mount Carmel Center, on a 77-acre plot of land outside of Waco. Having surveilled Koresh and his group for months, the government agents meticulously calculated their raid operation. In addition to chronicling the firefight and fire that killed 76 Branch Davidians, the author scrutinizes the legacy of the Davidian movement and the executive hierarchy that ushered in a succession of self-proclaimed modern-day prophets. Guinn naturally focuses on Vernon Wayne Howell, a young man hungering for spiritual guidance. Believing that God “communicated with him,” he eventually transformed himself into David Koresh, the final leader of the Branch Davidian religious cult. Described as a man obsessed with the apocalyptic teachings of the book of Revelation, he demanded loyalty and frequently cited Scripture to justify his reprehensible behavior. His preoccupation with amassing fully automatic artillery for a looming “battle” drew the attention of federal officials. After an investigation, they attempted a surprise raid, but a leak put Koresh and his followers on high alert, leading up to the seven-week impasse. In riveting detail, Guinn describes the high-tension ordeal, drawing on a wealth of new information, including several eyewitness accounts. As the author did in previous reports on Charles Manson and Jonestown, Guinn dives deeply into his subject to present a vivid combination of well-researched facts, personal testimonials, and controversial perspectives. A convincing and chilling coda to this investigation is the correlations Guinn draws among the Davidian compound raid, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

An engrossing report on David Koresh and the endurance of cult culture.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781982186104

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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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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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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