TURNING THE TIDE

ONE MAN AGAINST THE MEDELLIN CARTEL

From journalist Kirkpatrick (A Cast of Killers, 1986) and novelist Abrahams (Pressure Drop, 1989, etc.) comes a crisply narrated story of how an American college professor took on one of the world's biggest drug-smugglers in a scenic Bahamian resort. In many respects, this is a story about a hero fighting for a virgin's honor—only here the hero, Robert Novak, set out to protect the ``virginal island'' of Norman's Cay. On a scuba-diving sabbatical, with the intention of tackling only the island's notorious hammerhead sharks, Novak instead came face to face with psychotic drug kingpin Carlos Lehder, then a top member of Colombia's Medell°n cartel. Pressured by Lehder to leave the island, Novak, who'd turned without success to the Bahamian police, was subsequently contacted by the DEA to spy on the drug smuggler. Compared to Lehder and his cold and crafty maneuvers, Novak appears here as an officious do-gooder facing mounting ``disorientation in a corrupt world where no one could be trusted.'' But his penchant for ``doing the right thing'' paid off when one night, against orders, he donned scuba gear and entered the shark-infested waters to spy on Lehder, eventually witnessing the organization of a large airborne drug-smuggling operation—a sighting leading to enough incriminating evidence to drive Lehder off the island. (Today, due to unrelated events, Lehder languishes in an American jail.) Kirkpatrick and Abrahams tell their story with cinematic precision (film rights have already been sold), using the lush, exotic landscape as the perfect background for their suspenseful, moonlit tale. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: June 28, 1991

ISBN: 0-525-24998-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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