A lively history of a spirited woman.

THE PRINCESS SPY

THE TRUE STORY OF WORLD WAR II SPY ALINE GRIFFITH, COUNTESS OF ROMANONES

This spy wore Balenciaga.

Loftis, a lawyer and author of nonfiction espionage thrillers who last wrote about a Frenchwoman who spied for Britain during World War II, turns his attention to Aline Griffith (1923-2017), an American OSS agent based in Madrid. Not trusting Griffith’s multiple memoirs—including the romantically titled The Spy Wore Red and The Spy Went Dancing—which Loftis deems “historical fiction,” he mined her OSS files as well as other agents’ writings to create a brisk narrative filled with glamour, glitz, and mysterious characters. Having grown up in a small New York town, Griffith was eager for adventure. In 1943, at a friend’s dinner party, she told a handsome new acquaintance that she wished she could help in the war effort like her two younger brothers. Shortly after, she was recruited to train at America’s “first school of espionage,” and within weeks, she was assigned to go to Spain. Beautiful, bright, and apparently unflappable, she became a valued agent, carrying out missions, filing 59 field reports, supervising other spies, and tangling with German agents, Nazi collaborators, and enigmatic women, such as Countess Gloria von Furstenberg. Elegantly dressed, Griffith infiltrated high society, escorted by a roster of attractive admirers, including a famous matador and a Spanish aristocrat whom she later married, making her the Countess of Quintanilla. She lived, Loftis writes, “an extraordinarily multi-faceted life as a small-town girl, a model, a spy, a wife, a mother, a socialite, a fashion icon, and a celebrity.” She courted danger in order to serve her country, “then found the love of her life in a fairytale romance.” The author re-creates verbatim conversations and sumptuous settings in a narrative that often reads less like a spy thriller and more like a fairy tale, complete with Griffith’s many celebrity friends: Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy, the Duchess of Alba, and the Windsors, among them.

A lively history of a spirited woman.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982143-86-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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