PACIFIC NIGHTMARE

HOW JAPAN STARTS WORLD WAR III--A FUTURE HISTORY

Hong Kong resident Winchester—a Manchester Guardian correspondent whose nonfiction Their Noble Lordships (1982) and Pacific Rising (1991) dished up the House of Lords and the Pacific Rim respectively—treats the breakup of China as future historical fiction. Odd, but it works—and quite well. Presumably because Americans are too busy fearing Japan to have time to worry about China, the publisher is billing Winchester's first novel as being about ``How Japan Starts World War III.'' It's not. It's a thoroughly readable and well-studied scenario for the collapse of China-as-we-know-it following Britain's 1997 handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic. The disintegration begins with the Peking gerontocracy reneging on their promise to install a native governor in the former crown colony, sending instead a Maoist hard-liner from the puritanical north. The move backfires, thanks to advance notice of the treachery by government dissidents. Meanwhile, a Reuters correspondent—the channel from the progressive wing of the Peking foreign ministry to the departing Brits—makes it possible to prepare a counter strategy, and an ad hoc alliance of the Hong Kong Triads (organized criminals) and Western interests immediately begins to subvert the new rule. The fatal troubles for the Maoists begin in nearby Canton and its surrounding province, where years of capitalist ventures have created an economic boom and a hearty distaste for heavy-handed rule by dour northerners. The shooting of a dissident student ignites the smoldering southern resentment, and civil war erupts. As cities and provinces fall to the new Republican army, long-standing fear and loathing of the communists motivate surrounding countries to begin their own attacks on the panicked Maoists. North Korea falls, and the Japanese begin to look on China as they did in the 1930's, an attitude that does at last lead to direct confrontation with the Americans. Something new to worry about. Absorbing and always, thanks to Winchester's intelligence and firsthand knowledge, quite believable.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-55972-136-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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