Against The Wind

A MEMOIR

Colorado memoirist VanHee recalls a troubled upbringing that led him to the ski slopes and drug scene of Aspen in the wild 1970s.

Now a Vail businessman and philanthropist, VanHee introduces himself at the outset as a classic 1970s American archetype: a young, quasi-hippie Aspen ski bum who sustained himself in Colorado counterculture partly with a dishwashing gig but mainly with drug dealing and supplying (and sampling) the resort city’s notorious narcotics buffet. Seeking to make the proverbial One Last Big Score and quit the scene, he and his cronies find themselves caught in a deadly avalanche; it’s from this metaphorical and real-life limbo, buried under an unknown quantity of snow and uncertain of the severity of his injuries, that VanHee flashes back over his life story. With a father who abandoned the household early on and an inattentive mother afflicted by a weakness for bad men, VanHee grew up bouncing between Colorado and Nebraska with haphazard supervision and a penchant for trouble. When sent to military school, he actually enjoyed the novelty of structure, discipline and athleticism. Still, personal demons and major missteps derailed his young life several times. Granted a miraculous reprieve from Vietnam service, he traded college for easygoing Aspen, where he savored communing with nature, the ski slopes, celebrities, camaraderie with friends who were also anti-war and—of course—the town’s thriving drug trade. Going from pot to peyote to LSD to cocaine (and seeing acquaintances succumb to heroin), VanHee spent much of the 1970s peddling narcotics, aware that the breezy ride was getting darker and nastier. While other addiction memoirs credit recovery to the likes of AA, religion or an author’s own mighty willpower, VanHee indicates that it was thoughts of his family, however badly flawed his parents might have been, that compelled him to turn his life around. In an afterword, he explains that writing an autobiography started as a way to bond more closely with the strong, stable household he now heads, a position once unlikely for an at-risk kid from a broken home. Though the lawbreaking and vice here may be too small-time for readers hoping for salacious true-crime thrills and a deep look at the higher levels of the drug trade, VanHee’s tale is a satisfying one, well-told and with a special appeal for regional markets in the western United States. Less skiing and drugs than one might expect but still a successful account of a bumpy personal run and ultimate redemption.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4820-6125-3

Page Count: 268

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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