Strange and powerful cop-fact, from a past-master of cop-fiction: the story of ten San Diego police officers assigned to patrol, on foot, at night, the cactus-filled, snake-infested canyons along the Mexican border. Not, however, to intercept aliens illegally entering the country—there were far too many—but to arrest the violent, sadistic bandits who preyed on the defenseless aliens in the canyons, The ten were the Border Alien Robbery Force (with the inevitable acronym), almost all Mexican-Americans, led by the super-macho Sergeant Manny Lopez ("I was bored. Real bored. . . . That's why I joined [the] task force")—who seemed to know no fear and whose men, as time went on, became more and more convinced he was both invulnerable and crazy. ("This bastard would draw on The Holy Ghost!") Night after night, dressed like winos, crawling around in the brush, grappling with "guys with knives and icepicks. . . guys who smelled like garbage," it began to get to the men in the BARF squad. "We were afraid to use our guns at first," said one. "We were still normal policemen." They didn't stay normal long. For one thing, the media found them: "Border shooting! Film at eleven!" Celebrity turned them into The Last of the Gunslingers. ("Think of it: ten little hardball lawmen, shooting down Mexican bandits. . . out there in the cactus and rocks and tarantulas. . . . If that wasn't a John Ford scenario, what the hell was it?"). And they worked hard in off-duty hours (drinking, police groupies) to live up to the image. On the job, they had more shootouts per month than most cops see in a lifetime, and they got crazier and crazier. Even war, thought one, made more sense than "seeking out armed men in the darkness"—the intimacy of it was terrifying. Ultimately they began beating up bandits they lacked cause to arrest, and not giving a damn about anyone or anything. (Manny to a bandit he's shot: "I hope you die of gangrene. . . . I hope it hurts like cancer.") When the bandits wised up and stayed on the Mexican side of the border, the BARFers ignored the international boundary, and an incident in which a Tijuana policeman was shot signaled the beginning of the end of the entire patrol experiment. Ironically, the BARF squad members paid the highest price: broken marriages, psychiatric problems, police careers that fizzled. "Maybe it would take a foreigner," Wambaugh suggests, "to know how typically American it was to thrust ten young men into a monstrous international dilemma with an implied mission to dramatize it." Tough, funny, and moving—with plenty of dead-on cop dialogue.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 1983

ISBN: 0553763253

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1983

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


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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