As with all of Johnson’s work, a highly readable, deeply researched look into a little-explored corner of history.



The logo of modern capitalism isn’t properly the dollar sign but instead the skull and crossbones.

Wide-ranging as always, Johnson, author of such bestsellers as Everything Bad Is Good for You and How We Got to Now, locates the origins of our current dog-eat-dog economic condition in the actions of a flotilla of 17th-century pirates. Led by a mutineer named Henry Every, six ships converged at the mouth of the Red Sea, just where modern pirates gather today, to raid the fleets of the declining Mughal Empire. They attacked one huge ship that had the misfortune of having a cannon misfire even as a lucky shot from the pirate fleet took down the main mast. Aboard was a fortune in diamonds—and a harem that the pirates, as might be expected, treated as their own. The attack set in motion a number of things. For one, the British East India Company, sensing weakness, moved to secure a foothold in India while thwarting Parliament’s regulatory efforts to weaken the power of that early corporation. For its part, the British government declared Every and company to be enemies of mankind to be killed upon sight. Every disappeared, but some of his shipmates were not so fortunate. Johnson writes with vigor and evident fascination for Every and his exploits—that foundational mutiny, for instance, “one of those rare moments from history where we can re-create an almost second-by-second account of the actions.” His equation of their “radical dream of economic and political liberation” with the behavior of modern moguldom is arguable, but the predatory, sociopathic nature of the pirates is surely not. This makes it ever stranger that Every, now almost unknown, should have been a rock star in his day, and especially in a media-innocent time when brigands such as Walter Ralegh and Edward Teach commanded much public notice.

As with all of Johnson’s work, a highly readable, deeply researched look into a little-explored corner of history.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1160-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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