An intriguing exploration of Operation Wappen that gets bogged down by political tangents.

A writer offers the history of a failed CIA/MI6 coup in 1950s Syria.

It was not until about a half-century later that Maddock, a Marine veteran who participated in early Cold War operations, found evidence of his potential involvement in a planned joint CIA/MI6 coup in Syria code-named Operation Wappen. Fearing the encroachment of communism in the Middle East, the United States spent millions of dollars bribing Syrian military officers in anticipation of the forthcoming 1957 coup. After some of these officers told the Syrian government, the U.S. denied involvement, and, in the words of Maddock’s book subtitle, the failed overthrow became “A War That Never Was.” Though Operation Wappen is the author’s titular focus, the first half of the book attempts to place the attempted coup in the context of not just Cold War history, but also world history spanning nearly two centuries. The true origins of the Cold War are traced by the author to the death of Gen. George Patton. An entire chapter is devoted to espionage conspiracy theories, including cyanide spray guns, that question the official government account that Patton died in a car crash. While referencing problematic sources (such as Killing Patton by former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, and Wikipedia, which is cited throughout the volume), the work provides speculations about the general’s death that fit into the author’s personal Cold War recollections, which accompany his story of the failed Syrian coup. His other dissections of past events have a distinctly conservative ideological bent that may turn off some readers in his attempt to challenge modern “revisionist” historians hampered by “political correctness.” Maddock’s analysis of American history, for example, emphasizes the advantages held by an “advanced civilization” over “primitive” Native Americans while his appraisal of the Middle East bluntly describes “the 1300 Years’ War” between Muslims and the West. His examination of Operation Wappen, including his personal experiences with the Marines, adds a captivating chapter to the history of the Cold War in the Middle East. But it’s a story often muddled by politicized and sometimes irrelevant historical analysis.

An intriguing exploration of Operation Wappen that gets bogged down by political tangents. (afterword, index)

Pub Date: July 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64361-780-0

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Westwood Books Publishing LLC

Review Posted Online: April 30, 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



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

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