A Casablanca without heroes and just the thing for those who like their crime stories the darkest shade of noir.

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CITY OF DEVILS

THE TWO MEN WHO RULED THE UNDERWORLD OF OLD SHANGHAI

Fast-paced, plot-twisty true-crime tale of the kingpins of Shanghai’s Old City, land of miscreant opportunity.

The old “Terry & the Pirates” comic strip had it right: The mysterious East was just the place for an enterprising lawbreaker to homestead. So it was for a sad sack named Jack “Lucky” Riley, who changed his name after releasing himself on his own recognizance from a stateside prison. He skipped across the Pacific to the Philippines and “buddie[d] up with the Navy boys and jump[ed] a U.S. Army transport heading for Shanghai.” In his past life, Riley had boxed for the Navy, and he knew his way around a ring and a gaming table. It wasn’t long before he graduated from flophouse to better digs and began to run his own gambling empire, clashing with a tightly run syndicate of Viennese Jews headed by “Dapper” Joe Farren, whom the press styled as a kind of China-based version of Flo Ziegfield. Other figures, including tequila smuggler Carlos Garcia and New York mobster “Yasha” Katzenberg, enter and exit French’s (Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China, 2012, etc.) carefully constructed stage, each one up to no good. In addition to this suspenseful yarn, the author paints a striking portrait of a Shanghai on the eve of Japanese occupation, which would bring many a crime empire to its knees. Before then, foreign governments were as keen on divvying up the spoils as the gangsters were. Even if one jurist intoned that “we will have no Chicago on the Whangpoo,” French’s hard-boiled narrative makes it clear why Chinese partisans resented the presence of the foreign barbarians, to say nothing of unfortunate collaborators like Cabbage Moh, whose head ended up on a pole “as a reminder that nobody gets to play both sides in their Shanghai.”

A Casablanca without heroes and just the thing for those who like their crime stories the darkest shade of noir.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17058-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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