Rigorous reporting reveals “America’s role in the deliberate violation of democracy” in newly independent African nations.

A deeply distressing history of CIA involvement in plots to eliminate certain regimes in Africa, particularly in the Congo and Ghana, just as the countries shook off European colonial rule in the mid-20th century.

Between the independence of Ghana in 1957 and the CIA–backed overthrow of President Kwame Nkrumah in 1966, the CIA made an intense, rapid infiltration into Africa. Though not well known to lay readers, this history comes vividly to life in the capable hands of Williams, the author of Spies in the Congo (2016), among other investigative works. Despite being democratically elected, the popular leaders Nkrumah of Ghana and Patrice Lumumba of Congo were vilified by U.S. officials, who were nervous about (fabricated) overtures to the Soviet Union. Ostensibly for reasons of national security during the Cold War—and to keep precious uranium and other minerals within American control—the CIA operatives swung into action, at President Dwight Eisenhower’s behest, orchestrating the 1960 coup d’etat in Congo, led by Chief of Staff Joseph Mobutu, which resulted in Lumumba’s assassination. Through interviews and meticulous archival research, Williams exposes the extent of CIA agents’ involvement, both American and African, delivering a consistently authoritative and astute narrative. She also shows the collaboration of businessmen such as Maurice Tempelsman, who had massive financial interests in Africa. These operations were not only dubious, but expensive. In fact, they “ranked as the largest covert operation in the agency’s history, costing an estimated $90-$150 million in current dollars,” and many were undertaken by so-called cultural organizations such as the Congress for Cultural Freedom, “a CIA front with an Africa programme based in Paris and with fingers in most parts of the world.” While the Senate’s 1975 Church Committee investigation into the Lumumba affair was rightly hailed as a major breakthrough in accountability, Williams emphasizes that the results are inconclusive due to missing documents and ongoing secrecy.

Rigorous reporting reveals “America’s role in the deliberate violation of democracy” in newly independent African nations.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6829-1

Page Count: 672

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021


The Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist (1900–45) collected his work from WWII in two bestselling volumes, this second published in 1944, a year before Pyle was killed by a sniper’s bullet on Okinawa. In his fine introduction to this new edition, G. Kurt Piehler (History/Univ. of Tennessee at Knoxville) celebrates Pyle’s “dense, descriptive style” and his unusual feel for the quotidian GI experience—a personal and human side to war left out of reporting on generals and their strategies. Though Piehler’s reminder about wartime censorship seems beside the point, his biographical context—Pyle was escaping a troubled marriage—is valuable. Kirkus, at the time, noted the hoopla over Pyle (Pulitzer, hugely popular syndicated column, BOMC hype) and decided it was all worth it: “the book doesn’t let the reader down.” Pyle, of course, captures “the human qualities” of men in combat, but he also provides “an extraordinary sense of the scope of the European war fronts, the variety of services involved, the men and their officers.” Despite Piehler’s current argument that Pyle ignored much of the war (particularly the seamier stuff), Kirkus in 1944 marveled at how much he was able to cover. Back then, we thought, “here’s a book that needs no selling.” Nowadays, a firm push might be needed to renew interest in this classic of modern journalism.

Pub Date: April 26, 2001

ISBN: 0-8032-8768-2

Page Count: 513

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001



A rousing, suspenseful adventure tale.

A harrowing expedition to Antarctica, recounted by Departures senior features editor Sancton, who has reported from every continent on the planet.

On Aug. 16, 1897, the steam whaler Belgica set off from Belgium with young  Adrien de Gerlache as commandant. Thus begins Sancton’s riveting history of exploration, ingenuity, and survival. The commandant’s inexperienced, often unruly crew, half non-Belgian, included scientists, a rookie engineer, and first mate Roald Amundsen, who would later become a celebrated polar explorer. After loading a half ton of explosive tonite, the ship set sail with 23 crew members and two cats. In Rio de Janeiro, they were joined by Dr. Frederick Cook, a young, shameless huckster who had accompanied Robert Peary as a surgeon and ethnologist on an expedition to northern Greenland. In Punta Arenas, four seamen were removed for insubordination, and rats snuck onboard. In Tierra del Fuego, the ship ran aground for a while. Sancton evokes a calm anxiety as he chronicles the ship’s journey south. On Jan. 19, 1898, near the South Shetland Islands, the crew spotted the first icebergs. Rough waves swept someone overboard. Days later, they saw Antarctica in the distance. Glory was “finally within reach.” The author describes the discovery and naming of new lands and the work of the scientists gathering specimens. The ship continued through a perilous, ice-littered sea, as the commandant was anxious to reach a record-setting latitude. On March 6, the Belgica became icebound. The crew did everything they could to prepare for a dark, below-freezing winter, but they were wracked with despair, suffering headaches, insomnia, dizziness, and later, madness—all vividly capture by Sancton. The sun returned on July 22, and by March 1899, they were able to escape the ice. With a cast of intriguing characters and drama galore, this history reads like fiction and will thrill fans of Endurance and In the Kingdom of Ice.

A rousing, suspenseful adventure tale.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984824-33-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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