A nuanced treatment spirals through the crucial years of CIA operations.

SHADOW WARRIOR

THE LIFE OF WILLIAM EGAN COLBY

A thorough biography of “the ultimate subversive” that probes the shadowy U.S. intelligence efforts through the Vietnam War.

Arguably part of the problem or part of the fix, CIA operative William Colby (1920–1996) was intimately involved in the questionable clandestine practices of the U.S. intelligence service in Southeast Asia, as well as instrumental in the reforms stemming from the “family jewels” revelations of 1974-1975, when he was ultimately forced out as director. Woods (History/Univ. of Arkansas; LBJ: Architect of American Ambition, 2006, etc.) looks at a complicated individual who was at heart a liberal activist, schooled in the ideas of unconventional warfare championed by his father, a military man and instructor. An only child in a deeply Catholic family, Colby also gravitated toward the Army. From key training in World War II’s Jedburgh Operation, Colby became part of the newly minted CIA, swept up in the “mortal danger” presented in Soviet communism, and sent first to Scandinavia, Italy, then Vietnam by 1959, when the “people’s war” was heating up. Covert action against North Vietnam was approved by President John F. Kennedy and carried out enthusiastically by Colby and others in a “counterinsurgency think-tank” in Saigon, ultimately undermined by the military ascendancy in Washington. An increased compartmentalization of the CIA led to clandestine operations around the world, encouraging a rogue atmosphere within the agency. Woods carefully sifts through Colby’s involvement in the Phoenix Program and his short-lived tenure as DCI, where he implemented reforms that would ultimately get him fired by Henry Kissinger.

A nuanced treatment spirals through the crucial years of CIA operations.

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0465021949

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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