Operation Mindfuck: QAnon and the Cult of Donald Trump, by Robert Guffey*****

It was my daughter, a woman in her early twenties, that explained QAnon to me. When she was done, I watched her face for signs that I was being played. Nope. I repeated it back to her, because surely nobody would be dumb enough to believe anything so far-fetched. Instead, she told me that this is it, and that a number of U.S. senators and other highly placed politicos swear it is all true.

My thanks go to the author for the review copy.

If you are still dazed from this business, then Robert Guffey has written a book just for you. In readable yet well researched fashion, he lays it all out: where it began, who, why, how. He can’t make it go away for you—or me, for that matter—but he can make the whole bizarre business a bit less confusing.

As with most nonfiction, this book has its limitations. It won’t persuade anyone that believes in this myth, and Guffey doesn’t try. And he doesn’t have a plan or a recommended way forward out of this morass. But sometimes it helps to pull a thing out of the attic, dust it off and see what it actually is, and he does a fine job of that. The tone is congenial, and at times, darkly funny.

One thing I appreciate is his view on censorship:

These days, the inability to deal with reality as it exists—and not as one wishes it to exist—is the   biggest challenge facing the right and the left. The reaction to QANON, pre-insurrection, is the perfect example of this trend toward puritanical solipsism. The attitude seems to be: If we block out (or “deplatform”) people with whom we disagree, then the Evil Nasty Ones will magically—poof!—disappear simply because we can’t see or hear them anymore. Like tossing a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West or running a lightsaber through some cloaked asshole at the end of a Star Wars film. I hate to break it to you, kids, but that’s not the way the real world works.”

Sometimes it helps to have basic information, and if that’s what you’re looking for, this book is what you need. Get your fire lit, your cup of coffee (or something far stronger,) curl up (in fetal position, if necessary,) and prepare to learn.

Love Is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement****

Just in time for Dr. King’s birthday! This lovely biography by Sandra Neil Wallace introduces a little-known leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Diane Nash. Nash fought for equal rights for people of color, and had a significant part in the changes that were won.

My thanks go to Simon and Schuster for the copy I received for review purposes. This book is for sale right now.

Most of us have never heard of Nash, who was active during a time when Black people and women were sometimes overlooked, and at other times, excluded in historical narratives. She grew up in the South side of Chicago, where there were many skin colors and cultures, but not many Caucasian people. It was when she went to college in Nashville that she gained firsthand experience of Jim Crow laws, which required separate (and generally inferior) facilities for African-Americans. And Diane was having none of it.

This sumptuously illustrated picture book details the key stages of her development and achievements. My one concern is with the references to “love” in the title and text which are never explained. Is the love in reference to her religion, a philosophy, or something else? The word is thrown in there several times with no context at all. If her mission was to bring change about using nonviolent methods, as Dr. King chose to do and encouraged others to do as well, it is not mentioned. Did she see Gandhi as a role model? We aren’t told. Instead, it appears that the word is injected to sanitize, to offset the word “fight,” perhaps because this story is written for young people. But children aren’t stupid, and without any cohesive portrayal of Nash’s character and underlying motivation, I fear they may forget her. Literature has power, and so although I am glad to see Nash introduced to young people, the effect is diluted when proper character development—which is necessary, even in a children’s picture book—is not provided.

That said, the literacy level is perfect for upper elementary students, and would also make a fine read-aloud for a teacher to frame a single lesson around. It would also be first rate for a sub plan, and teachers know that’s something we always need on hand.

Bryan Collier is the illustrator, and his artwork fills every inch of every page, with the text superimposed on top of it. This is lush, gorgeous work that elevates the story with its presence.

Recommended for classrooms, libraries, and to parents and other guardians of children in grades 4, 5, and 6.

The Last Hill, by Tom Clavin and Bob Drury***-****

In 2021, Clavin and Drury published Blood and Treasure, an outstanding biography of Daniel Boone, several American Indian tribes, and their relationship to the American Revolution. When I saw a chance to hear their new audiobook titled The Last Hill, I jumped on it. And the early portion of it convinced me that I was missing too much by listening but not seeing, so then I went back and requested the digital version as well. My thanks go to St. Martin’s Press, Macmillan Audio, and Net Galley for the review copies. This book is for sale now.

This meaty yet readable book details the fight for Castle Hill, a strategically essential location that leads into the core of Nazi Germany. Several entire American divisions had tried and failed to take it, and so General Eisenhower ordered the Rangers to go in. Rudder’s were the most elite, battle-hardened unit of the already elite group known as the Rangers. Led by Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder, they were ordered to fight to the last man, if necessary, and they very nearly did; 130 special operatives, as they were known, ascended the hill, and only 16 were left standing when it was over. Nobody there knew that Hitler’s Wehrmacht had been given nearly identical instructions, as it was through here that a massive number of German troops were slated to descend through the gateway and conclude the Battle of the Bulge for the Axis powers.

The most interesting and enjoyable part of this book, for me, was in the first chapters, where we see the contrast between the misleadership early on, when the Rangers were being trained in rural Tennessee, and that which Rudder provided. The troops were sent on marathon marches without canteens, and their superior officer would be driven alongside them, where they could see him relaxing in his seat and drinking as much water (or whatever?) as he chose. Some men quit; others died.  There were also war games, including “…the pit fighting competitions” that took place in a three foot deep, forty foot square hole in which “…entire platoons jumped in to attack each other like ancient Spear-Danes, screaming lusty war cries that echoed throughout the camp…by the ordeal’s conclusion, the sawdust looked as if it had been coated with red paint and the pit itself smelled like the inside of a leper. Afterward, the medical team—whose members were not spared the crucible—found themselves treating gashes, sprains, dislocations, and a no-inconsiderable number of broken bones, sometimes their own. At the end of these long days the Rangers returned to their tent city too exhausted to make the two-mile, round-trip walk to the barracks showers.” Angry servicemen, when they finally scored passes to the nearest town named Tullahoma, brawled with the locals and left the bars and taverns with splintered wood and broken glass. Lieutenant Colonel Saffarans had to go.

When “Big Jim” Rudder came in, the pit fights vanished and he marched alongside his own men, not for just a portion of the hike, but for the whole thing. When his feet became blistered, he waved away the medics and took care of himself. Soon morale improved, and so did the quality of the troops.

As we move from training to the European theater, I see less information that I didn’t already know. It’s not badly done, but I was so inspired by the earlier portion that I felt a little let down. I am also chagrined—though this is not the authors’ faults—at the casual way that the US Army threw its soldiers into the line of fire. Why could they not soften the area up before sending these poor men to the slaughterhouse? There were 260,000 grave markers in the hold of their transport ship. Whereas I have never been a proponent of nuclear war, it does seem to me that if someone was going to be hit with the bomb, Hitler’s minions were likely very strong candidates; the Japanese that were nuked at Nagasaki and Hiroshima were nearly beaten already, and the bomb was nearly superfluous. And I’ve said it in earlier reviews but I’ll say it again: it’s too bad that the U.S. Military treated white enemies gently, and its nonwhite ones ruthlessly.

Do I recommend this book to you?  If you are looking for just one book about American forces in World War II, this is probably not the one you’re looking for. It’s specific to just one part of Germany and just one hill, so it’s better suited to those that already have the basics mastered.

I might not recommend it at all, as I personally was offended by some of the remarks intended as humorous in reference to local women, as well as women in the service. Whereas I have no doubt that the misogynistic jokes told here are legitimately jokes that were told back then, there are some things that don’t bear repeating, and surely not in detail. I also wasn’t crazy about the clipped bro-speech of the narrator in the audio version.

For this reason, I recommend the printed version over the audio, for those that are interested.

Marked for Life, by Isaac Wright, Jr. *****

Marked for Life is the legal memoir of Isaac Wright, Junior, and it is a compelling story. At age 28, Wright was framed as a “drug kingpin,” though he had never used or sold drugs, and when he rejected the plea deal offered him, he was convicted and sentenced to life plus seventy years. Through his own efforts, he was able to prove his own innocence and regain his freedom. This book is for sale now, and you should get it and read it.

My thanks go to Net Galley and Macmillan Audio for the review copy. Listening to the recorded version is all the more powerful, because the author reads it himself. Readers should know that this book starts out painfully harsh, with the blow-by-blow events of the day he is arrested, and his subsequent treatment. There’s not a tremendous amount of physical violence, but the emotional toll could just about bring me to my knees; imagine how it must have been for Wright, who lived through it! I begin to fear that I will dread listening to it, and so I promise myself that this will be my car book; I will listen to it while I am driving around, and when I get home, I will turn it off. However, only the beginning is harsh, and once I am twenty percent of the way into it, it becomes so interesting that I quickly change my mind, and it joins me in the kitchen. So reader, don’t be afraid of this book. The rough part is all in the first few chapters.

Wright is targeted by corrupt local officials, who are under the misapprehension that he has a small fortune socked away in the safe in his bedroom. In fact, Wright is a successful businessman; he starts as a music producer, then moves into management, touring with Run DMC, and indeed, he and his family live well. Although he doesn’t say as much, part of me wonders if that is his crime, in the eyes of the local cops and courts: he’s a Black man with money. As soon as he is arrested, the shakedown begins. Give us the money, Wright, and we’ll make it all go away.

He doesn’t, and they don’t.

The most fascinating part of this is learning how a prisoner is able to study the law and represent himself. Obviously, not everyone is as literate and intelligent as Wright is; he makes himself indispensable to other prisoners by assisting them with their own cases also. His ability to juggle a lot of moving parts—his own appeal, his fellow inmates’ cases, and the rigors and restrictions of the prison system, along with the endless pressure on him from those that framed him—is impressive. A lot of his success lies in his perception of what other people want. What does the warden want? What do his fellow prisoners want and need? If this had been me, I don’t think it would have gone well. I’d have been good with the research and the paperwork, but I doubt I could have read the wishes and intentions of those around me as successfully as Wright has done. Ultimately, it is an inspirational story, and I highly recommend it to you.

The Battle Cry of the Siamese Kitten, by Philipp Schott*****

Philipp Schott is a Canadian veterinarian, and he’s very funny. This meaty compendium of essays runs the gamut, and the overall effect is a calming one, like the fish tank in your doctor’s waiting room, but more entertaining. My thanks go to Net Galley and ECW Press for the review copy. This book is for sale now.

I came to Dr. Schott’s work through the back door, so to speak. A friend on social media recommended a mystery he wrote, Fifty-Four Pigs. While I was requesting the galley for that one, I saw that this was also available, so I put in for it as well. I am glad I did, because while the mystery is pretty good, this little gem is even better.

I have never said this before without intending it as an insult, but I do so now: this book is great for insomnia. Here’s what I mean. I’m tossing and turning and after half an hour of that, studies suggest that one must give the battle up and go do something for a bit in order to reboot the brain. When we cannot sleep, it eventually upsets us, and when we are upset, it’s even harder to get to sleep.

When I am sleepless, I am too groggy to do much. I’ve had a sleeping pill, and my motor skills make me unfit to clean house or do anything else that is useful. Once my eyes are able to focus on text, reading is the obvious activity to breach the difficult night hours, but I cannot be certain I’ll remember what I’ve read the next day, and I’m not with it enough to take in complex literature or nonfiction. Thrillers are completely out; they’ll wake me up further, once I’m coherent enough to understand what I am reading.

When all is said and done, short stories or collections of essays, are the best, and Dr. Schott’s are particularly congenial. Each is engaging; a few are tear-jerkers, and while some are persuasive or informational, most are humorous. Although Dr. Schott’s practice is almost entirely there for house pets that are mammals—so, cats and dogs—he has a handful of essays describing cases where he has gone far afield. The zoo wants an ultrasound of that pregnant snow leopard? He’s on it! Beluga whales? YES!

There’s one in which he waxes eloquent about the healing bond that occurs between the very elderly, particularly those in assisted living facilities, and elderly cats and dogs, and he decries the way most such facilities exclude pets; he advocates for a large scale effort to remedy this, including volunteer corps to assist with the extra labor that including these beloved beasties creates. He makes a strong case.

Funniest of all, however, is the title piece, in which he and his wife attempt to take their own cat to the office for shots and whatnot:

I don’t think we veterinarians appreciate how difficult it is to bring some cats to the clinic. Dogs are more easily fooled, only catching on once they get to the clinic door, but it is the rare cat who cheerfully saunters into their carrier, purring in euphoric anticipation of the double joy of a car ride AND a veterinary visit…

“Lucy, look! Extra treats today! And that special catnip mouse! Don’t you want to go in?                                                                                                      Her facial expression was clear: ‘How dumb do you think I am?’                         Play our cards wrong, and she could bolt for the cat sanctuary above the basement ceiling tiles.  The cats think of it as their secret rebel base; we know where it is, but we still can’t get them out of there.

 The pandemic has inspired countless previously petless households to seek out four-pawed companionship, and so, during the period when many businesses have suffered from a lack of customers, Dr. Schott has been even busier than usual. It’s lucky for us that he’s found the time to sit down and write these agreeable essays. In addition to aiding the sleepless, it’s a fine addition to a guest room or yes, the bathroom, because each entry is fairly brief, and the reader can be assured that they’ll have time to finish what they’ve started. Regarding the book, I mean.

Highly recommended.

The Cookie Bible, by Rose Levy Biranbaum***

Biranbaum is the author of The Cake Bible, a book that I used to own, never used, and finally handed off to my daughter. Had I realized this at the outset—and I should have, as it was included in the promotional blurb—I probably would have stepped away from this cookbook. However, cookies are generally an approachable baking project, and it didn’t occur to me that this author might provide recipes that are not.

My thanks go to Mariner Books and Net Galley for the review copy. This book will be available to the public on Tuesday, October 18.

My rating is a compromise, because recipes such as these will elicit a variety of responses, none more valid than another, and so I can see this collection as two stars for unpretentious and somewhat lazy souls such as me, and four stars for those looking for a tremendous challenge, or an opportunity to impress.

I was on a weight loss regimen during the warm months, looking forward to fall and the chance to get back in the kitchen and bake. I held onto this galley as a reward for all the weight lost, and I planned to test a couple of recipes before writing a review. That hasn’t happened, nor will it. I confess I didn’t understand what I was in for. These recipes are the sort one uses for a grand occasion if at all. If there’s a dessert auction on the horizon, or if you are simply looking to flex your baking muscles, or even intimidate other bakers, this book is your book. Be prepared to buy a LOT of ingredients that aren’t standard. Super fine sugar; candied lemon peel; brandy or freshly squeezed orange juice, strained; unbalanced hazelnuts! I believe I’d have to be unbalanced to attempt any of this. Fine sea salt; hulled sesame seeds; Muscovedo light brown sugar; sour cherry preserves. Mine are ordinary cherry preserves. Fail. Crystalized ginger. Oh, and once you procure your super fine sugar, you’ll need to grind it in your spice grinder. You have one of those somewhere, of course.

I found one recipe that I thought I could manage. There were 2.5 pages of densely printed instructions.  I could see that I was supposed to have 60-62% cacao dark chocolate, but after reading the recipe four times, I couldn’t find the place where I was supposed to have added it. I did find the place where I should have added something else on top of it, but as far as I am concerned, if the recipe isn’t clear after four readings, then it’s not clearly written.

Next!

Once again, if you have occasions when you are ready to pull out all the stops, you may like this thing, but do make sure you read your recipe well in advance, as I suspect you will have to special order tools and ingredients.

Not for me.

Elvis and Me, by Priscilla Presley****

Priscilla Presley is the ex-wife of the king of Rock and Roll. I was a teenager when he died, and neither I nor most of my peers were fans; in the event his name did come up, we’d invariably ask, “Wait. Do you mean young hot Elvis, or old pudgy Elvis?” But I do love a good memoir, and those written by or about musicians are high on my list. My thanks go to Net Galley and Macmillan Audio for the review copy. This audio version of the author’s 1985 memoir is for sale now.

The relationship between Priscilla and Elvis took place in a completely different time, with completely different sexual mores and assumptions. That said, this was still a truly messed up pairing. Today, Elvis would probably be considered a predator, but within the context of the American South in the 1950s and early 1960s, he was regarded as a romantic, and women threw themselves at his feet. A quick online peek at old film and television clippings says it all.

Priscilla grew up in a strict but loving household. Her stepfather, the only father she knew, since her own died when she was an infant, was a military man, and so the family moved often. It was while they were stationed in Germany that one of Elvis’s employees saw Priscilla and invited her to meet with Elvis, who was doing his own tour of duty.

I have to feel for the bind her parents were in. On the one hand, she was just fourteen years old, and Presley was twenty-four, a grown man. On the other hand, if they refused to let her go, she would never have forgiven them; this was an invitation that literally millions of girls yearned for. Seeking a happy medium, her stepdad set boundaries: they were to be chaperoned, never alone together, and he wanted her home at a certain time. He groused about the fact that someone other than Elvis would be transporting her, but the reason was a legitimate one: Elvis could not drive himself anywhere without the car being mobbed. It was genuinely unsafe.

Rather than being the single event that the family anticipated, Elvis made their visits regular ones; when her parents balked, Elvis spoke to them personally, turning all of his charismatic charm on them, and telling them everything they wanted to hear. Most of it was untrue, of course, but the one thing he adhered to was not having sexual intercourse. During this time period, the Madonna-Whore dichotomy was alive and well, and any girl or woman known to have sex outside of marriage was likely to be ostracized by former friends and in some cases, family. It’s hard to imagine now, but at that time, no birth control pill had been invented, and a pregnancy outside of marriage was likely to ruin a young woman’s entire life.

Priscilla reads this memoir to us herself, and that makes it much more fun to hear. As we age our faces and our bodies change a lot, but our speaking voices change very little. Remembering some of the silly moments from that time, the author lets out a brief, girlish giggle, and it’s almost impossible to believe that she is now a grandmother.

Priscilla acknowledges that this was a monstrously unequal relationship. Elvis dictated whom she could talk to, what she wore, and sometimes even what room in the house she was supposed to be in. At one point, when he is going to be touring for months on end and she will be left at home with his grandmother, she goes out and gets a job. She’s so proud of herself. He makes her quit immediately. When he phones from the road, she had by God better be there. Priscilla compares this to Pygmalion. He has all the power, and she is in his thrall before she has even had a chance to grow up.

I have read two other Elvis biographies, and as dreadful as all of this sounds, the other authors were less gentle. In fact, this is part of Priscilla’s stated reason for deciding to tell her own story.

There are advantages to reading this particular biography. The official version of events is often what is published, but Priscilla is positioned to know the real story, more often than not. For example: when Elvis is drafted, the official story is that, although stars of his caliber are often offered soft assignments that involve singing to the troops, or making inspirational training films, Elvis insisted on doing the same job as every other American man.  On the other hand, Priscilla states that this is all his manager’s doing, because it will make Elvis appear noble. Enough new songs were taped in advance for there to be regular new releases on the radio throughout his tour of duty; toward the end, Elvis feigns illness because he’d prefer to be in the hospital being swarmed by nurses than marching around and getting dirty.

Her memory of Elvis, despite everything he put her through, is mostly a tender one. The spiral that led to his death, his issues with mental health, back before much was known, coupled with the immense number of strong prescription drugs he used to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night—or to NOT go to sleep at all, and just stay up, night after night—set him up for relationships with unscrupulous characters, and nobody could rein him in, because he was the King.

Recommended to those that like vintage rock music or well-written memoirs of famous musicians.

Liberating Lomie, by Saloma Miller Furlong*****

Saloma Miller Furlong is the author of two memoirs that focus on her decision to leave the Amish faith and community; this is her third. I received a copy for review purposes from the author; this book is for sale now.

Furlong hasn’t had the typical Amish childhood. In her earlier works, she explains that her father was unable to function normally; given to sudden, inexplicable rages, he was a frightening man when he was angry, and he was angry often. Sometimes his rages occurred at predictable times; other times, they came from nowhere. He was unable to do the necessary work to support the family, as is usual in Amish households, and Saloma’s mother, siblings, and Saloma herself had to scramble to pick up the slack. These things are described in Why I Left the Amish and Bonnet Strings. Her experience is also featured in two PBS Experience films, “The Amish,” and “The Amish Shunned.” These documentaries are available free of cost online.

None of Saloma’s books provides light reading; her experience is a brutal one, her childhood traumatic. She is assaulted numerous times, and some of these involve sexual assaults. She tells her mother, who does nothing to protect her. And so, if you are looking for a book that details the typical Amish life, its cultural and religious practices, what technology is acceptable and what is forbidden, and so forth, this is probably not the book you’re looking for, although the two documentaries mentioned above will provide a good overview. Instead, her books demonstrate what happens when an Amish household or some of its members are in crisis.

The extremity of her trauma is glaringly obvious by the fact that her first two memoirs completely overlook her mother’s own brutality towards Saloma, as well as her complicity in assaults by Saloma’s father and older brother. For more than fifty years, this author buried this part of her own trauma, the betrayal she experienced by the person most responsible for her protection as a child. Only recently has she permitted herself to acknowledge it within her own mind, let alone write about it. In the email she sent me requesting that I read and review this new memoir, she told me that she wishes there were a way to recall every single copy of that first memoir, because it omits so much. But I believe one can also read it, and for that matter, all three of these books, with the understanding that we learn as much by what is not said, as by what is.

Saloma’s decision to leave home, to abandon the culture that is all she’s ever known, is driven by two factors. The first and greatest, of course, is self-preservation, the need to find physical safety. But another strong motivator is intellectual inquiry. Amish girls do not attend school after grade 8. This isn’t a general rule; it’s an absolute one. In rare cases an exception may be made for a young man, if his course of study will ultimately benefit the community, but at the end of eighth grade, girls are done. Informal study and reading are also nearly impossible. Amish homes contain the Bible and essential Amish teachings; novels, art books, even resource materials have no place there. An Amish family member that is curled up with a book or newspaper is a slacker at best, using time that could instead be used to benefit the family. At worst, it is a sign of moral corruption, reading worldly content that is not necessary and may even be regarded as evil. No, Saloma couldn’t get away with such things; she once purchased a magazine subscription of the tamest variety, and that was allowed, though it was seen as strange.

Sometimes we know a book is good because of the thinking it inspires after we finish the final page. So it is for me here. I find myself wondering why there aren’t more Amish youngsters that are unable to turn away from the written word. Surely there are other bright, intellectually curious boys and girls that chafe at being forcibly wrenched from their education? Initially I assumed, as many non-Amish do, that most Amish youth might slip through the open door represented by Rumspringa, hit the road, and never look back, but I learned that this isn’t true. The overwhelming majority of Amish teens remain Amish all of their lives, and the majority that do leave, return home later and stay put. And so I wonder; have they simply bred for passivity? It’s a conundrum.

I am initially surprised by Furlong’s decision to use the same book cover here that she used on her first, but I believe it may have been done with an eye toward replacing the old memoir with this new one.

As for the writing quality here, I like the quality of her analysis, and so for those that enjoy a memoir with depth, I recommend this book to you.

Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional, by Isaac Fitzgerald***-****

I enjoy a good memoir, and so I was all in when I saw this singular work; my thanks go to Bloomsbury and Net Galley for the review copy. It’s by “the beloved founding editor of Buzzfeed Books,” but somehow, I either missed that part or forgot about it, so I read it and assessed it as if he were just some random guy, and ultimately, that’s probably the fairest way to do so anyway. This book is for sale now.

Fitzgerald has seen and done just about everything. His family life growing up is dreadful, and he is delighted to bail out of the screaming, wretched mess called home in order to attend boarding school. He is the scholarship kid, but he benefits plenty from the largesse of his classmates. Post education, he takes himself to San Francisco, with an entire continent stretching between himself and his family. Upon arrival, he continues his favorite pastime, drinking, which he began doing with his older brother when he was just twelve. His parents didn’t do it, so he figured it might be a good choice.

The promotional blurb says that this is the story of the author’s “search for a more expansive vision of masculinity.” Perhaps this is why I find it so hard to relate to. There are moments, though. A huge chunk of the first half in particular describes his affinity for bars, which he identifies as his safe spaces. My notes from the start of this segment say “Oh boy, I always wanted to read yet another alcoholic memoir.” Soon afterward, though, he says, as if reading my mind, that if we expect him to discuss the way he quit drinking, we’ll be in for a long wait, because he still drinks, though not nearly as much. That much was good for a chuckle. Then there’s another segment about his period with the porn industry. I confess I straight-up skimmed some of that, although again, there’s a moment, when he talks about the importance of consent, and how the porn industry, in his experience, is more careful and respectful of this boundary than anyone else he’s encountered.

The book is billed as being humorous, but this is a massive overstatement. Most of the content is dead serious. But then again—yes, you guessed it. There are moments.

What takes me by surprise, and happily so, is the message that he’s spent the whole book building toward, and I never see it coming until we’re there. I highlighted it in case I wanted to use it as a quote here, but that would be an epic spoiler. You didn’t know that memoirs can have spoilers? Oh yes. They can. And when I see this one, my disgruntlement fades and I am once again a perfectly gruntled reader and reviewer.

One aspect that I appreciate, and particularly appreciated during the rougher patches, is that the brief essays that, strung together, make up the memoir, make very short chapters, and they’re clearly marked. This is a terrific bedtime book, because I am able to find a reasonable stopping place when I need to turn out the light (or, as it happens, turn off my Kindle.)

If you’ve read this review and are interested, then I recommend it to you. I anticipate that men will enjoy it more than women.

Rogues, by Patrick Radden Keefe****

Patrick Radden Keefe is a much celebrated journalist with a list of honors and awards as long as your arm. He first drew my notice in 2019 with Say Nothing, his searing, meticulously researched book on The Troubles, that period of guerilla warfare in the North of Ireland, as its people tried (yet again) to break free of British imperial rule. That book rattled me to my core, and when I received a review copy for this book, I understood that there couldn’t possibly be another book as deeply affecting as his last. And I was right; it isn’t. It is, however, interesting in most places, and Keefe can write like nobody’s business. This book is for sale now; my thanks go to Net Galley and Doubleday for the galley.

Each chapter of this book is on a different topic; ostensibly, each is about a different rogue, or group of rogues, or—in one case—a whole family of rogues! However, there are a couple of chapters where that isn’t really true, and that is my strongest quibble with anything presented there. Most, however, are unquestionably about scoundrels. The first, about an obscenely wealthy wine snob who finds himself with some counterfeit wine, makes my blood boil. A private plane, burning enough fuel to melt the polar caps, or to transport a good many people to work for an entire year, is dispatched to fetch some wine. This one makes me cranky enough, and is lengthy enough, that I abandon it halfway in. The next, “Crime Family,” is a riveting expose of a notorious, yet strangely beloved Scandinavian kidnapper whose sister turns him in when she senses that he’s spiraling out of control. She owns five armored cars, because she knows her brother will never rest until one of them is dead. Chilling, indeed! Other favorites are about El Chapo, and about Mark Burnett, the promoter that turned Trump into The Apprentice, splicing and editing sufficiently to make the man sound coherent and businesslike. There is one about the Lockerbie bombing, and another about insider trading, that I tried to care about but couldn’t, so I skipped those. And there’s one about Jeffrey Epstein, too.

All told, this book is a meal. Even if you do as I did, and skip those that don’t spark your interest, this is a well written, worthwhile collection.

Recommended to those that enjoy well crafted journalism.