A bleak but thoughtful look at the curse of urban violence, both its causalities and its long-term effects.

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH

A TALE OF TRAGEDY AND REDEMPTION

A shocking tale of a mistaken-identity multiple murder and its aftermath.

Retired NFL All-Pro cornerback Alexander’s life story would be compelling on its own merits, without the disturbing tragedy at the center of this memoir. In 1984, as crack and gangs were overwhelming South Central Los Angeles, gunmen invaded the home of Alexander’s mother, killing her, Alexander’s sister, and two boys. Beyond his own anguish, the author notes how the crime’s “extreme nature shocked even the calloused inhabitants of South Central.” Although Alexander contemplated a vigilante hunt for the perpetrators, the investigation soon pinpointed several members of the Rolling Sixties gang, one of whom passed a note to a co-defendant following their arrest that was practically a confession. With three gangsters convicted and two sentenced to death, Alexander was left to brood on the case’s unanswered questions; supposedly, the killers were hired to attack the plaintiff in a lawsuit stemming from a bar brawl, yet they went to the wrong house. “Every detail had to align, fall just so, to produce this tragedy,” writes the author. While co-authors Gerould and Snipes (Criminal Justice/San Francisco State Univ.) bring an authoritative voice to the story’s legal and investigative aspects, Alexander lends gravity to his tale of personal tragedy by looking for broader narratives. He dramatizes his family history, noting that his parents’ generation fled Jim Crow for a middle-class life in LA, a promise eroded by segregation and crime. While castigating South Central’s gang culture for its nihilistic violence, he also notes its historical roots in racist “street terrorism, in addition to the governmental tactic of restrictive housing covenants.” Despite his anger, Alexander shows remarkable empathy by investigating the killers’ forsaken childhoods and lives in prison. Finally, observing, “I had gone from professional athlete to professional victim,” the author concludes by discussing his adoption of five Haitian orphans, a difficult ordeal with a more positive outcome.

A bleak but thoughtful look at the curse of urban violence, both its causalities and its long-term effects.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6576-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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