A crisply told tale fleshing out one of American history’s more intriguing footnotes.

JOHN BROWN'S SPY

THE ADVENTUROUS LIFE AND TRAGIC CONFESSION OF JOHN E. COOK

For 10 days, this unlikely spy was “among the most wanted fugitives in the history of the United States.”

The son of prosperous Connecticut parents, John Cook tried his hand at law, clerking and sales before attaching himself, more out of romance than principle, to the abolitionist movement. He fought under the notorious militia of Capt. John Brown in Bloody Kansas. In 1858, Brown dispatched Cook to Harper’s Ferry to gather information crucial to the plan to seize the federal arsenal, liberate slaves and take slave owners hostage. Following his capture after the failed raid and throughout the course of his trial, Cook’s betrayal of the locals (he fathered a child and married during his time in town) earned him an enmity exceeding even that felt toward Brown. When it became clear that he would repudiate Brown and name the old man’s “aiders or abettors” to save himself, Cook lost any support he might have received from Northern sympathizers. In this first full biography of any of Brown’s followers, Lubet (Law/Northwestern Univ.; Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial, 2010, etc.) is especially effective at capturing the courtroom drama surrounding Brown, Cook and their captured confederates. With sharp portraits of the lawyers, clear explanations of their various machinations and evocative descriptions of the legal proceedings, he brings to life the charges of treason and murder, the pleas for mercy and the poignancy of Cook’s pathetic confessions, insufficient for the prosecution, too little for the purposes of his defense, too shameless for Cook to maintain dignity, too detailed for Brown’s idolaters to bear. At age 30, the reckless Cook was hanged, mourned only by his wife and still-loving sisters.

A crisply told tale fleshing out one of American history’s more intriguing footnotes.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-300-18049-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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