Kroger’s assessment of the federal prosecutor’s problematic, overly powerful role in the legal system is well-rendered and...

CONVICTIONS

A PROSECUTOR’S BATTLES AGAINST MAFIA KILLERS, DRUG KINGPINS, AND ENRON THIEVES

A star federal prosecutor spills the dirt about the tough moral compromises his job required.

If Kroger’s life were a film, it would seem almost ridiculous: Rambunctious teen from the Houston suburbs signs up with the Marines for lack of anything better to do and ends up distinguishing himself in an elite Recon unit; graduates from Yale in philosophy, works as deputy policy director for Clinton’s 1992 campaign, then gets a degree from Harvard Law; winds up a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn chasing down counterfeiters, putting mob assassins behind bars and helping dismantle what was left of New York’s Five Families. A tough guy with a scalpel-like intellect and a streak of humility, Kroger tells his life story like it was no big deal. He truly doesn’t seem to mind that “federal prosecutors toil in obscurity.” Exhaustive and fair-minded accounts of several major trials he led show that those philosophy classes did not go to waste; Kroger constantly weighed the utilitarian needs of his job against Immanuel Kant’s directive to treat every human being with complete respect. A later stint in narcotics (he states quite plainly that the government’s drug policy is an abject failure) heightened his belief that no matter how good he was at his job, “sometimes it is impossible to be both a great prosecutor and a good human being.” By the time Kroger found himself prosecuting one corner of the sprawling Enron case, he had come close to complete burnout. The case prompts some accusations against the system that are surprisingly damning, particularly from a current candidate for Oregon attorney general.

Kroger’s assessment of the federal prosecutor’s problematic, overly powerful role in the legal system is well-rendered and crisply delivered, though it may be too sober for law-and-order junkies—the author is evenhanded almost to a fault.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-10015-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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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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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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