A rich portrait of a brutal age.



Biography of an African slave who rose to fame and fortune in 16th-century Japan.

Making his literary debut, Lockley (Nihon Univ. College of Law) teams up with Girard (Mary Rose, 2018, etc.) to create a fast-paced, novelistic history of Japan’s feudal past, centered on the life of Yasuke, who arrived in Japan in 1579 as the indentured bodyguard and valet of Alessandro Valignano, a wealthy and influential Portuguese Jesuit missionary. Drawing on abundant sources, including archival material, the authors offer a panoramic view of politics, sex, religion, and war. They recount in horrifying detail the massacre of African families and kidnapping of boys by Arab, Persian, and Indian slave merchants that resulted in Yasuke’s enslavement. Growing up in India as a boy soldier, he was “trained in violence, as well as comportment and service,” making him an appealing servant for the Jesuits, who fanned out across Japan, determined to save souls. Over six feet tall, strong and muscular, Yasuke was an intimidating presence and protector as the Jesuits battled religious and political factions in a nation beset by endlessly warring factions. Blood and gore ooze from the pages as the authors describe ruthless slaughter, beheadings, disembowelment, rapes, and torture. Ninjas, who “killed only for money, and had no honor beyond what they were paid,” were hardly the most vicious, and Yasuke proved himself a valiant fighter. Seeking favor with the mighty warlord Oda Nobunaga, Valignano handed over Yasuke as “a weapon bearer and novelty.” Delighted, the warlord awarded Yasuke the elite status of samurai. “You are my black warrior,” Nobunaga proclaimed. “The demon who will ride beside me into battle, the dark angel who protects me and my family.” Because black skin, although unusual in Japan at the time, carried “entirely positive” connotations, Yasuke became revered, and his prowess became legendary. “People in the streets did not only gape at him,” the authors write, “they bowed, heads to the earth, as they addressed him.”

A rich portrait of a brutal age.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-335-14102-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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 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...


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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