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Astute character reading and solid research combine with ingenious and stylish prose: a superior portfolio from a journalist...

Narrative nonfiction in the mode of A.J. Liebling and Ernie Pyle, from bestselling journalist Bowden (Black Hawk Down, 1999, etc.).

Diverse pieces in varying lengths, drawn from his files over several decades, range from quite proficient to excellent. The author’s prowess as a fly-on-the-wall police reporter is showcased in his story of a huge coke deal in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and in the longest piece here, the tale of a whoremaster informant and cops on the take in Philadelphia, Bowden’s longtime beat. (Formerly with The Philadelphia Inquirer, he is now national correspondent for The Atlantic.) The City of Brotherly Love is also featured in a Runyonesque yarn about an effigy of Rocky Balboa (Sly Stallone’s alter ego), and in first-rate profiles of Mike Schmidt, Phillies third baseman of 20 years ago, and recent Eagles center Hank Fraley. Bowden’s sportswriting talent extends to high-school football and basketball with equal verve and understanding, and even those unfamiliar with the fine points will enjoy his story of baseball’s great potato pick-off play. Moving overseas, the reporter provides a solid public-affairs backgrounder in a profile of Saddam Hussein before his capture. Bowden is also proficient in domestic political matters. His report on Al Sharpton’s feckless run at the Oval Office is pointed and current, though a dispatch from the Republican convention of 2000 seems slightly out of date, and a 1984 profile of Norman Mailer has whiskers. More substantial and current is Bowden’s considered analysis of the art and science of interrogation and the need to coerce information from prisoners. His reportorial range is wide, indeed, including coverage of the world’s oldest gorilla, the inelegant problem of bladder relief for female fighter pilots, charging elephants in Zambia, and charging linemen on the line of scrimmage. Throughout, Bowden’s reporter’s gut instinct serves him and this collection well.

Astute character reading and solid research combine with ingenious and stylish prose: a superior portfolio from a journalist who stays at the top of his game with remarkable consistency.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-87113-876-X

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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