Filled with stories of cronyism and influence peddling, Denton’s riveting and revealing book will undoubtedly displease the...

THE PROFITEERS

BECHTEL AND THE MEN WHO BUILT THE WORLD

Investigative journalist Denton (The Plots Against the President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right, 2012, etc.) offers an ambitious “empire biography” of the Bechtel family and the secretive, privately held construction company–turned–diversified international conglomerate that has been “inextricably enmeshed” in U.S. foreign policy for seven decades.

In this incredible-seeming but deeply researched book, the author traces the phenomenal rise of the California-based corporation that became famous for building the Hoover Dam and went on to handle billion-dollar projects from the Channel Tunnel to the Big Dig; to construct airports, power plants, and entire cities; to cart away the wreckage of the World Trade Center and rebuild Iraq; to privatize America’s nuclear weapons business (assuming control of Los Alamos, etc.); and, in the end, to complete 25,000 projects in 160 countries. Now the world’s largest contractor, with offices in 50 nations, Bechtel, from 1999 to 2013, received $40 billion in contracts from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense. “Despite its fiercely antiregulatory, antigovernment stance,” writes Denton, “the Bechtel family owes its entire fortune to the U.S. government.” She describes the dizzying revolving door between Bechtel’s headquarters and the federal government: Bechtel executives that include John McCone, George P. Shultz, and Casper Weinberger have passed through, forging links with the CIA and other government agencies and leading to favorable contracts and subsidies. Whether in war-torn Europe, the Middle East, or elsewhere, it has always been “difficult to determine if Bechtel was doing favors for the US government, or if it was the other way around.” Parts of this mammoth story have been told before, but Denton has shaped it into a taut, page-turning narrative detailing the company’s machinations under five generations of family leadership. She concludes that the firm is “either a brilliant triumph or an iconic symbol of grotesque capitalism.”

Filled with stories of cronyism and influence peddling, Denton’s riveting and revealing book will undoubtedly displease the so-called “boys from Bechtel,” who refused to talk to Denton, referring her to the company website.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0646-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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