The richly detailed account of a courageous woman’s life.

A World War II heroine comes to light decades after the war.

Mrazek, a five-term congressman and award-winning novelist, illuminates a lesser-known and appalling area of the war: life in the Philippines after the 1941 Japanese conquest. Born of an American father and Filipino mother, Florence Finch (1915-2016) attended an American-run school in Manila. As a young woman, her secretarial skills earned her jobs at the Army-Navy YMCA and then as administrative assistant in the U.S. Army Department of Intelligence. She married an American sailor in 1941. With the Japanese conquest in December 1941, her job vanished, and her husband died in battle a few months later. Concealing her American connections, she obtained a job with the Japanese-run Philippine Liquid Fuel Distribution Union, which controlled all energy resources for the island. It is historically accurate to describe Japan’s behavior in the occupied Philippines as loathsome, and Mrazek offers numerous accounts of the brutality. Civilians received rough treatment, and the awful conditions in prison and internment camps were no secret. Inmates lived in squalor and on a starvation diet. “There was never enough food for everyone,” writes the author. Soon after beginning work, Florence began forging ration coupons to obtain fuel, which was then sold on the black market to buy supplies for the prisoners and the resistance. Arrested in October 1944, she endured terrible torture, rape, and starvation until American forces arrived in February 1945, when she was 78 pounds and near death. After her recovery, she moved to the U.S. and married. The remainder of her life was less traumatic, and she died at the age of 101 with many honors, including the Medal of Freedom. Apparently a member of the history-is-boring school, Mrazek tells his story in a novelistic style with invented dialogue and access to everyone’s thoughts. Despite the fairly lowbrow style, he capably describes significant, dramatic events.

The richly detailed account of a courageous woman’s life. (2 maps)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42227-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020



Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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