Merely serviceable, offering few surprises—much less vigorously written than Michael Codella and Bruce Bennett’s Alphaville...

DANCING WITH THE DEVIL

CONFESSIONS OF AN UNDERCOVER AGENT

A retired undercover agent’s story.

Born into an immigrant family in New York and inspired by the well-publicized drug bust celebrated in The French Connection, Diaz assembled just the right background for police work in New York, including the ability to speak a couple of languages, a streetwise air and military service—though he made the error of admitting to an examiner with a bone to pick that he’d smoked pot once or twice. Still, he got in through the back door, joining the ATF and later working with the DEA. He entered service just in time to take down a once-renowned bad guy named Nicky Barnes. “With his broad shoulders, his handsome, sharply chiseled features, and his trademark tinted-gogglelike Gucci eyeglasses, he could have passed for a Hollywood actor or a fashion model,” write Diaz and co-writer Hirschfeld in this by-the-numbers moment. In memoirs of this sort, all bad guys are godlike, but their innate evil proves their undoing; Barnes is no exception, for he “was pure, unadulterated evil.” Working streets and informants, Diaz brought Barnes down, but not without having to deal with slimy lawyers and the inconveniences of trial by jury: “It was one thing to be out on the street, doing my dance with the devil. It was a whole other to be held accountable in court for what I had done.” Barnes disappears with a few dozen pages to go, whereupon Diaz ventures into less fraught territory, battling evil on a Hollywood soundstage and protecting the likes of Steven Seagal from the Ruby Ridge crowd.

Merely serviceable, offering few surprises—much less vigorously written than Michael Codella and Bruce Bennett’s Alphaville (2010), which covers some of the same ground.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4391-4882-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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