Scott remains a footnote, but Coram’s book is a pleasure for fans of military aviation history.

DOUBLE ACE

THE LIFE OF ROBERT LEE SCOTT JR., PILOT, HERO, AND TELLER OF TALL TALES

Military biographer Coram (Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine, 2010, etc.) continues his campaign of restoring heroes-turned-footnotes to historical memory.

There’s no question that Robert Lee Scott (1908-2006) was a character; there’s also no question that, in the larger scheme of World War II, he was a minor player. The character business provides the author with plenty of entertaining anecdotes: as a young man from Macon, Georgia, for instance, Scott earned a Boy Scout merit badge in aviation for building a model airplane: “But a model was not ambitious enough for Rob, and so he built a glider, almost full-sized, and covered it with canvas cut from the tent of a traveling evangelist preacher.” Whether the preacher missed the cloth we do not know, but Scott would always protest that the glider experiment was the only time he ever crashed an airplane. A frozen pipe kept him from earning an AWOL charge, a lucky break that Scott credited to the deity: “The Big Sky Boss was on the job.” Flying with Claire Chennault and the Flying Tigers, Scott accumulated on-the-ground experiences and aerial kills alike, cultivating an unlikely alliance with Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the first lady of China, who had spent six years in Macon and was, Coram writes in genre cliché, “the original steel magnolia.” Scott helped Chennault agitate for a strong American presence in the Chinese theater, writing a wartime memoir whose title was for a long time a catchphrase: God Is My Co-Pilot. As Coram writes, Scott also played a role in the political maneuvering that led in the immediate postwar period to the establishment of a separate Air Force independent of the Army. Throughout, the author writes competently but without much flair; what carries the story is the subject, who had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, especially when it came to shooting down Japanese planes.

Scott remains a footnote, but Coram’s book is a pleasure for fans of military aviation history.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-04018-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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 wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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