OVER MY HEAD

June 17, 2017


Over My Head is an extremely rare look into the workings of an injured brain from a doctor’s perspective.  It is a true story of a young doctor’s battle to overcome a debilitating head injury and build a new life.  The book is an inspiring story of how a medical doctor comes to terms with the loss of her identity and the courageous steps (and hilarious missteps) she takes while learning to rebuild her life. The author, a 45-year-old emergency-room doctor and clinical professor of medicine, describes the aftermath of a brain injury eleven years ago which stripped her of her beloved profession. For years she was deprived of her intellectual companionship and the ability to handle the simplest undertakings like shopping for groceries or sorting the mail. Her progression from confusion, dysfunction, and alienation to a full, happy life is told with restraint, great style, and considerable humor.

I’m not going to spoil the story for you but eleven (11) years ago, Dr. Claudia L. Osborn was riding her bike with a roommate, Dr. Marcia E. Baker.  It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Detroit with just about perfect weather.  Due to a fairly narrow road, they were riding in tandem with Marcia in front and leading the way.  A car made a right turn onto the road they were riding and swung much too wide to avoid hitting the ladies.  Marcia saw the car first and managed to navigate to the shoulder of the road where she “dumped” her bike.  Claudia was not that lucky.  The car hit her head on. She traveled over the hood, over the cab, over the trunk and landed on her head.  She was taken to the emergency room but the damage had already been done.

The beginning of her post trauma period is consumed with behaviors we so often see in this population; denial, depression, and frustration.   I am sure the medical profession has patients coming in after such an injury with unrealistic plans to return to exactly the same life they had beforehand?  Their all- consuming drive is to go back to who they were, to the life they lived before the injury, when in reality all around can see that will not happen.  However, everyone around is afraid of what will happen if they ever give voice to these concerns.  So there emerges an unspoken conspiracy to not put voice to the facts that serve to block the full return to a former life, in fear that these comments might be as traumatic as the actual injury was.

One symptom above all seemed to override nearly everything in Dr. Osborn’s recovery and this was a profound short-term memory deficit.  What many consider a simple errand, buying two or three things at the store turns into nightmare after nightmare for her.  In those instances when she would get to the correct store, she might find the first thing she had set out to purchase, then end up not remembering the other two things she needed.

Claudia might actually remember to get all the things into her basket to realize at the checkout counter she had not brought her money, or not being able to find her car after getting all of those things done correctly and having to wait until the parking lot cleared out to find her car.

Although from Michigan, Claudia ended up enrolling in a treatment program at the Head Trauma Program of New York University’s Rusk Institute, which included physiatry and allied rehabilitative specialists.     This book clearly demonstrates the roles that others play in working her acceptance of the new person who emerged after the head injury as well as helping to deal with her severe depression.

Those important in Claudia’s life serve as tremendous examples about what to do and not to do in supporting and helping an affected person.  Her mother is very supportive from the beginning but demonstrates many of the expectations that it will be ok in time and life will return to the way it was before.  Claudia also has an amazingly understanding life partner who seemed to know just the right times to back away and give Claudia the time and distance to discover who she was.  Accepting these evolving expectations from their relationship allowed them to come through the event and long recovery still together.  So often this is not the story.   As soon as it becomes evident that the injured party will not return to whom they were before the injury, the physically undamaged person leaves the relationship.    This story is a powerful message to those life partners and family of head injured patients everywhere about life after such an injury.

I can definitely recommend this book to anyone who has personally had a head injury or to anyone who has had a family member with a serious head injury.  For that individual, a “new normal” must be sought and accepted.

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THINKING FAST AND SLOW

June 13, 2017


Thinking Fast and Slow is a remarkably well-written book by Dr. Daniel Kahneman. Then again why would it not be?  Dr. Kahneman is a Nobel Laureate in Economics. Dr. Kahneman takes the reader on a tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think.   System One (1) is fast, intuitive, and emotional.  System Two (2) is considerably slower, more deliberative, and more logical.   He engages the reader in a very lively conversation about how we think and reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we tap into the benefits of slow thinking.  One great thing about the book is how he offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both the corporate world and our personal lives.  He provides different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.  He uses multiple examples in each chapter that demonstrate principles of System One and System Two.  This greatly improves the readability of the book and makes understanding much more possible.

Human irrationality is Kahneman’s great theme. There are essentially three phases to his career.  First, he and he coworker Amos Tversky devised a series of ingenious experiments revealing twenty plus “cognitive biases” — unconscious errors of reasoning that distort our judgment of the world. Typical of these is the “anchoring effect”: our tendency to be influenced by irrelevant numbers that we happen to be exposed to.  (In one experiment, for instance, experienced German judges were inclined to give a shoplifter a longer sentence if they just rolled a pair of dice loaded to give a high number.) In the second phase, Kahneman and Tversky showed that people making decisions under uncertain conditions do not behave in the way that economic models have traditionally assumed; they do not “maximize utility.” Both researchers then developed an alternative account of decision making, one more faithful to human psychology, which they called “prospect theory.” (It was for this achievement that Kahneman was awarded the Nobel.) In the third phase of his career, mainly after the death of Tversky, Kahneman delved into “hedonic psychology”: the science of happiness, its nature and its causes. His findings in this area have proven disquieting.   One finding because one of the key experiments involved a deliberately prolonged colonoscopy.  (Very interesting chapter.)

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” spans all three of these phases. It is an astonishingly rich book: lucid, profound, full of intellectual surprises and self-help value. It is consistently entertaining and frequently touching, especially when Kahneman is recounting his collaboration with Tversky. (“The pleasure we found in working together made us exceptionally patient; it is much easier to strive for perfection when you are never bored.”).  So, impressive is its vision of flawed human reason that the New York Times columnist David Brooks recently declared that Kahneman and Tversky’s work “will be remembered hundreds of years from now,” and that it is “a crucial pivot point in the way we see ourselves.” They are, Brooks said, “like the Lewis and Clark of the mind.”

One of the marvelous things about the book is how he captures multiple references.  Page after page of references are used in formulating the text.  To his credit—he has definitely done his homework and years of research into the subject matter propels this text as one of the most foremost in the field of decision making.

This book was the winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.  It also was selected by the New York Times Review as one of the ten (10) best books of 2011.

DANIEL KAHNEMAN:

Daniel Kahneman is a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is also Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Emeritus at the Woodrow Wilson School, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University, and a fellow of the Center for Rationality at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his pioneering work integrating insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty. Much of this work was carried out collaboratively with Amos Tversky.

In addition to the Nobel prize, Kahneman has been the recipient of many other awards, among them the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association (1982) and the Grawemeyer Prize (2002), both jointly with Amos Tversky, the Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists (1995), the Hilgard Award for Career Contributions to General Psychology (1995), and the Lifetime Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association (2007).

Professor Kahneman was born in Tel Aviv but spent his childhood years in Paris, France, before returning to Palestine in 1946. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology (with a minor in mathematics) from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and in 1954 he was drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces, serving principally in its psychology branch.  In 1958, he came to the United States and earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1961.

During the past several years, the primary focus of Professor Kahneman’s research has been the study of various aspects of experienced utility (that is, the utility of outcomes as people actually live them).

CONCLUSIONS: 

This is one book I can definitely recommend to you but one caution—it is a lengthy book and at times tedious.  His examples are very detailed but contain subject matter that we all can relate to.  The decision-making process for matters confronting everyone on an everyday are brought to life with pros and cons being the focus.  You can certainly tell he relies upon probability theory in explaining the choices chosen by individuals and how those choices may be proper or improper.  THIS IS ONE TO READ.


BIOGRAPHY:

Born in Louisiana in 1925, Elmore Leonard was inspired by Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. Leonard’s determination to be a writer stayed with him through a stint in the U.S. Navy and a job in advertising. His early credits include mostly Westerns, including 3:10 to Yuma. When that genre became less popular, Leonard turned to crime novels set in Detroit, Michigan, including Get ShortyJackie Brown and Out of Sight. The prolific writer died in Detroit on August 20, 2013, at age 87.

Famed Western/crime novelist Elmore John Leonard Jr. was born on October 11, 1925, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The early part of Leonard’s youth was largely defined by his family’s constant moves, which were the result of his father’s job as a site locator for General Motors. Not long after his 9th birthday, however, Leonard’s family found a permanent home in Detroit, Michigan.

It was in Detroit that Leonard got hooked on a serialization of the Erich Maria Remarque novel All Quite on the Western Front in the Detroit Times. The book became an inspiration for Leonard, who decided he wanted to try fiction writing as well. He wrote his first play that same year, when he was in fifth grade, and would go on to write for his high school paper.

After graduating from high school in 1943 and serving three subsequent years in the U.S. Navy, Leonard returned home and enrolled at the University of Detroit. As a college student, he pushed himself to write more, and graduated in 1950 with a dual degree in English and philosophy. Still an unknown, however, Leonard didn’t have the means to strike out on his own as a writer. Instead, he found work with an advertising agency, using his off time to draft stories—many of them Westerns.

When the popular demand for Westerns waned in the 1960s, Leonard focused on a new genre: crime. With stories often set against the gritty background of his native Detroit, Leonard’s crime novels, complete with rich dialogue and flawed central characters, earned the writer a group of dedicated readers. It wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that Leonard truly became a star. The man who never got enough publicity buzz, according to his fans, was suddenly appearing everywhere. In 1984, he landed on the cover of Newsweek under the label the “Dickens of Detroit.” Hollywood came calling shortly after, and many of Leonard’s novels were adapted into movies, including the crime smashes Get Shorty and Jackie Brown.

THE HOT KID:

That’s where we come in.  The title “HOT KID” refers to young Deputy U.S. Marshal Carl Webster, a quick-drawing, incredibly slick young man who wants to become the most famous lawman west of the Mississippi, and does little to hide his vanity. At fifteen (15) years of age, Webster witnessed the vicious Emmet Long shooting an officer in a drugstore robbery, but what rankled him the most is that Long snatched away Webster’s peach ice-cream cone and called him a “greaser.” Webster gets his revenge six years later by making Long the first in what will become an impressive list of vanquished outlaws, and he seals his fame with a cool catchphrase: “If I have to pull my weapon, I’ll shoot to kill.” (Funny how often he “has” to pull it.) Webster’s chief rival is Jack Belmont, the black-hearted son of an oil millionaire who’s out to show up his dad by knocking off more banks than Pretty Boy Floyd. Both stand to gain from the purple pen of Tony Antonelli, a True Detective magazine writer who follows the story as it develops, and plans to stretch his two-cents-a-word bounty to the limit.

In the “The Hot Kid” , bank robbers have become so common that “thief” seems close to a legitimate occupation, right alongside gun moll, bootlegger, and prostitute. Set over thirteen (13) years in ’20s and ’30s Oklahoma and Kansas City, the book is populated by characters looking to make names for themselves, joining legends like Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly, and John Dillinger in headlines and crime magazines across the country. In this world, notoriety means more than money, and that counts for figures on both sides of the law, who engage in a game of one-upmanship that has little to do with the usual interests of crime or justice. Though Leonard doesn’t sketch them as broadly as the colorful hoods found in his contemporary crime novels, the ambitions of these larger-than-life characters take on infectiously comical dimensions.

READER COMMENTS:

I certainly enjoyed the book and must admit it was my first Elmore Lenord read.  I do NOT know why I have not stumbled upon his works before since he has written eighty-seven books.  I think his is an acquired taste.  There is absolutely no doubt, at least in my mind, about his writing ability.  The very fact he has remained a “top read” over the years is a testament to his style being accepted by most avid readers.  He is concise and brief with rhetoric. He knows how to paint a story and keep the reader interesting.  This is not one of those books you cannot put down, but it is one you definitely want to finish.  In changing from Westerns to Crime, he maintains your interest to the point you really must find out how the darn thing ends.  I can definitely recommend “The Hot Kid” to you. It’s fairly short and will involve a couple of days on and off or your time.  READ IT.

I like to include reviews of others who have read this book.  I do this frequently. Remember, there is not much difference between a lump of coal and a diamond.  Everyone has their own perspective and that’s what I like to do with the comments below.

DAVID:   FOUR STAR:  My first Elmore Leonard novel. He’s a terse, pacey author, and The Hot Kid is pretty much Hollywood in a book, but a nicely-filmed Hollywood with engaging if not terribly deep characters.

ANDREW P:   FOUR STAR:  This book came to my attention in an unusual way. I just listened to the audible version of NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and at the end the author gives some recommendations on audio books. ‘The Hot Kid’ was one that he praised so I used my next audible credit on it.

EVA SMITH:  FIVE STAR:   In one of life’s little coincidences, I was sorting through books and came across two by Elmore Leonard. I’d read them so long ago that I’d forgotten most of the plot points and the writing was so good that I gave both of them a re-read. Mr. Leonard picked that week to die so I saw it as a sign that I should seek out more of his books. Just finished “The Hot Kid.” Excellent.

BENJAMIN THOMAS:  FIVE STAR:  Elmore Leonard is a writer after my own heart. He started with westerns and then turned to crime fiction, becoming one of the best-selling crime fiction writers of all time. When I saw the audio book, “The Hot Kid” on the library shelves this time, I just couldn’t pass it up because I knew I’d be in for a treat. I also needed a relatively short book this time so I could complete it before the end of the year.

JEFF DICKSON:  FIVE STAR:  A really, really good tale by Leonard. Story is of a hot shot U.S. Marchall (sp) in Oklahoma and Kansas City area during the depression years and one particular inept criminal he goes after. Highly recommended.

STEVE:  TWO STAR:  This might be my last Leonard novel. Starts out strong, but then the conversations begin sounding familiar. This is probably a good beach book for some, but I found that the writing was a bit too breezy, the dialogue a bit too hip. At this point in his career, I’m tempted to say Leonard can write these in his sleep, but there’s some nice historical details that shows he’s not on auto-pilot. For those who like Leonard, and his period pieces, check out a lesser known title, The Moonshine War.

As always, I welcome your comments.

BLACK LIGHT

March 25, 2017


Black Light is the second in a series of books written by Stephen Hunter with Bob Lee Swagger as the main character.  You might have seen the movie “The Shooter” which told the story of Bob Lee and how he was accused of being an assassin and how he exacted revenge on his accusers.   That was the first book in the Bob Lee Swagger series.

I do NEED TO TELL YOU, it is NOT a book for the politically correct.  If you are a snowflake looking for a safe place when offended, you will not be amused.  The language is “R” rated as well as text describing multiple acts of absolute violence.  The discovery of a young black teen-ager who has been raped and strangled to death is detailed and extremely gruesome.  FAIR WARNING.

Former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger has finally put his past behind him until he meets Russell Pewtie.  Pewtie wants to write a book about Bob Lee’s father, Earl, who was a state trooper in Arkansas. He died in a shoot-out in Blue Eye, Ark., in 1955.  The link between Pewtie and Bob Lee, ties the first three Hunter novels together. This link is that Lamar Pye, the escaped con who almost killed Pewtie’s father in Dirty White Boys, turns out to be the son of one of the men who killed Earl. Behind that death, lies a forty-year-old conspiracy somehow tied to the brutal murder of a young black teenager mentioned above.  Earl Swagger was investigating that murder on the day he died. The plot is fast-paced, well-constructed and builds to a pulse-pounding night ambush that echoes the finale of Point of Impact but that stands on its own as a classic one-on-one confrontation. Other echoes of the earlier novels sound as well, giving this one the feel of a recapitulation, or a farewell. But then Hunter has set a high standard for himself-and while this novel doesn’t match the escalating craziness of Dirty White Boys or the stone-cold efficiency of Point of Impact, it should seal his reputation as an author who not only can write bestselling thrillers, but write them exceedingly well.

Mr. Hunter, in my opinion, is a MASTER “wordsmith”. He demonstrates the remarkable ability to craft a story that could have multiple endings.  His writing style is very purpose-driven and gives the reader the sense of “I cannot put this down until I read one more chapter”.  In Black Light, the last three chapters leave you with the thought—“I did not see that coming”.  The ending is just that surprising.

I would now like to give you some idea as to reviews posted online from individuals who have read Black Light.  As you can see, readers are as enthusiastic as I about Hunter’s writing.

Mike Fench— Another 5-star book in the Bob Lee Swagger series! This book features Bob Lee looking into the death of his father, Earl, an Arkansas State Trooper shot in an attempted arrest of 2 killers. Kept me riveted from beginning to end WARNING: This book is far from being PC!

Rick– Some negative reviews have called ‘Black Light’ predictable, racist and violent. Yeah, what’s your point? Look, this is a book in Stephen Hunter’s ‘Bob Lee Swagger’ series. Swagger is an ex-Marine sniper in the south. He hunts bad guys. Violent? I should HOPE so!  As he so often does, and does so well, Hunter reprises characters from past novels. It’s like running into old friends (or enemies, as the case may be), but knowing these recurring characters is NOT a prerequisite for enjoying any of the Hunter novels.

Susan— And this one is the best Stephen Hunter yet. This guy can flat tell a story. Some of the plot is not even interesting (I’m just not fascinated by the intricacies of various guns) but even so, his stories are just so compelling.

Michael Burke— Never lets up for a minute you’re in it from beginning to end it hardly gives you time to breath. The writing is spare and still fulsome I enjoyed the pictures it paints of the Arkansas hills in the dust and sweat. And of several very interesting characters who I look forward to reading about in the future.

Christopher Bunn— Best thriller I’ve read in a very long time. Solid characters. Great motivations. Excellent pacing. Good dialogue. Very intriguing plot twists that advance with just enough foreshadowing and hints to keep you hooked, but not enough information to allow easy guessing. Perfect villain. Hunter knows what he’s doing. Refreshing to read a book that maintains all the way to the end, particularly these days. Rare thing.

Each to his own.  The reviews above are samplings of five star ratings that several readers have given this book.  I can certainly agree that Black Light is a book worth reading, if for no other reason, the writing style of Mr. Hunter is amazing.  A truly great author.

As always, I welcome your comments.

 

THREE DAYS IN JANUARY

January 31, 2017


In looking at the political landscape over the last fifty (50) years I can truly say I have no real heroes.  Of course, ‘beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder’.  Most of our politicians are much too concerned about their base, their brand and their legacy to be bothered with discerning and carrying out the will of the people. There are two notable exceptions—Sir Winston Churchill and President Dwight David Eisenhower.  Let’s look at the achievements of President Eisenhower.

DOMESTIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Launched the Interstate Highway System. Also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, this act came into effect on June 29, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it. It authorized $25 billion for 41,000 miles of interstate highways to be constructed in the United States.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed the Act that created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which provided for the peaceful and collaborative exploration of space.
  • The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. Launched the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which ultimately led to the development of the Internet. (Cry your eyes out Al Gore!)
  • Established a strong science education via the National Defense Education Act
  • Sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools
  • Signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote by African-Americans. After declaring that “There must be no second class citizens in this country,” PresidentDwight Eisenhower told the District of Columbia to use their schools as a model of integrating black and white public schools. He proposed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 to Congress, which he signed into law. The 1957 Act created a civil rights office within the U.S. Justice Department and the Civil Rights Commission; both departments had the authority to prosecute discriminatory cases and voting rights intrusions. They were the first significant civil rights laws since the late 19th Century.
  • Opposed Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy and contributed to the end of McCarthyism by openly invoking the modern expanded version of executive privilege.
  • Desegregated the Armed Forces: Within his first two years as president, Eisenhower forced the desegregation of the military by reinforcing Executive Order #9981 issued by President Harry Truman in 1948.

FOREIGN POLICY ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Deposed the leader of Iran in the 1953 Iranian coup d’̩tat .
  • Armistice that ended the Korean War: Eisenhower used his formidable military reputation to imply a threat of nuclear attacks if North Korea, China and South Korea didn’t sign an Armistice to end the three-year-old bloody war. It was signed on July 27, 1953.
  • Prioritized inexpensive nuclear weapons and a reduction of conventional military forces as a means of keeping pressure on the Soviet Union and reducing the federal deficit
  • First to articulate the domino theory of communist expansion in 1954
  • Established the US policy of defending Taiwan from Chinese communist aggression in the 1955 Formosa Resolution
  • Forced Israel, the UK, and France to end their invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956
  • Sent 15,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon to prevent the pro-Western government from falling to a Nasser-inspired revolution

ACCPMPLISHMENTS PRIOR TO BECOMING PRESIDENT:

  • Becoming a five-star general in the United States Army
  • Serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II
  • Serving as the supervisor and planner of North Africa’s invasion in Operation Torch in 1942-43
  • Successfully invading France and Germany in 1944-45, attacking from the Western Front
  • Becoming the first Supreme Commander of NATO
  • Becoming the 34th President of the United States for two terms, 1953 until 1961

All of these accomplishments are celebrated in a new book by Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney. Bret Baier, the chief political anchor for Fox News and talented writer Catherine Whitney, have written a book that comes at a timely moment in American history. I found a great deal of similarities between the transition of Eisenhower and Kennedy relative to the transition of Obama and Trump.  Maybe I was just looking for them but in my opinion they are definitely there.  “Three Days in January” records the final days of the Eisenhower presidency and the transition of leadership to John F. Kennedy. Baier describes the three days leading up to Kennedy’s inauguration as the culmination of one of America’s greatest leaders who used this brief time to prepare both the country and the next president for upcoming challenges.

Eisenhower did not particularly like JFK.  Baier writes: “In most respects, Kennedy, a son of privilege following a dynastic pathway, was unknowable to Ike. He was as different from Eisenhower as he could be, as well as from Truman, who didn’t much care for him.” Times of transition are difficult under the very best of circumstances but from Eisenhower to Kennedy was a time, as described by Baier, as being a time of concern on Eisenhower’s part.  There were unknowns in Eisenhower’s mind as to whether Kennedy could do the job.  Couple that with Kennedy’s young age and inexperience in global affairs and you have a compelling story.  During those three days, though, Eisenhower warmed up to Kennedy.  There was a concerted effort to make the transition as smooth as possible and even though Kennedy and his staff seemed to be very cocky, the outgoing President was very instrumental in giving President-elect Kennedy information that would serve him very well during his first one hundred days and beyond.

On January 17, 1961, three days before inauguration ceremonies, Eisenhower gave a notable and now-prophetic farewell speech in which he looked into the future, warning Americans about the dangers of putting partisanship above national interest, the risks of deficit spending, the expansion of the military-industrial complex and the growing influence of special interest groups on government officials.  Eisenhower’s concerns have become reality in our modern day with technology outpacing legislation and common sense to oversee development of hardware that can destroy us all.  This book is about those three days and brief time-periods prior to and after that very meaningful speech.

If you are a historian, a news junkie, or someone who just likes to keep up, I can definitely recommend this book to you.  It is extremely well-written and wonderfully researched. Mr. Baier and Ms. Whitney have done their research with each reference noted, by chapter, in the back of the book.  It is very obvious that considerable time and effort was applied to each paragraph to bring about a coherent and compelling novel.  It, in my opinion, is not just a book but a slice of history.  A document to be read and enjoyed.

AMERICAN ASSASSIN

July 15, 2016


Over the years there have been very few books I could just not put down.  American Assassin, by Vince Flynn is one of those.  A very good friend “turned me on” to Flynn’s writing and I certainly owe him a big favor.  American Assassin is one of fifteen (15) books in the Mitch Rapp series and even though not the first written in the series, it’s the first you need to read.  Given below are the Mitch Rapp books:

  • American Assassin
  • Kill Shot
  • Transfer of Power
  • The Third Option
  • Separation of Power
  • Executive Power
  • Memorial Day
  • Consent to Kill
  • Act of Treason
  • Protect and Defend
  • Extreme Measures
  • Pursuit of Honor
  • The Last Man
  • The Survivor
  • Order to Kill

American Assassin goes into great detail as to why twenty-two (22) Mitch Rapp is driven to join the CIA as a field operative in the war on Middle-Eastern counter-terrorism. Flynn spends a great deal of time defining the process of weeding out individuals that eventually make the cut. From eight (8) recruits, only two survive, Rapp and an operative named Richardson. In doing so, Flynn develops a vivid picture of each fascinating character as they are introduced chapter by chapter.  This is one of the very best characteristics of the book; the depth of each character.  These people are definitely NOT saints.  There is no “turn the other cheek” in their mode of operation.

“Assassin” details Rapps first assignment as a rookie operative and takes us from Virginia to Zurich, to Moscow, to Beirut, to Hamburg.  We see the seamy side of terrorism as well as the wealthy and posh side.  We are introduced to Russian terrorists, morally deprived Swiss bankers, Palestine arms dealers, as well as CIA manpower driving specific programs to destroy Jihad activities.

BIO FOR VINCE FLYNN:

Vince Flynn is almost as interesting as his books.  Flynn was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1966. He graduated from the St. Thomas Academy in 1984 and the University of St. Thomas with a degree in economics in 1988. After college he went to work for Kraft General Foods where he was an account and sales marketing specialist.

In 1990 he left Kraft to accept an aviation candidate slot with the United States Marine Corps. One week before leaving for Officers Candidate School, he was medically disqualified from the Marine Aviation Program, as a result of several concussions and convulsive seizures he suffered growing up.  While trying to obtain a medical waiver for his condition, he started thinking about writing a book. This was a very unusual choice for Flynn since he had been diagnosed with dyslexia in grade school and had struggled with reading and writing all his life.

Having been stymied by the Marine Corps, Flynn returned to the nine-to-five grind and took a job with United Properties, a commercial real estate company in the Twin Cities. During his spare time he worked on an idea for his first book and for a series of books thereafter. After two years with United Properties he decided to take a big gamble. He quit his job, moved to Colorado, and began working full time on what would eventually become Term Limits, his first publication.

Like many struggling artists before him, he bartended at night and wrote during the day. Five years and more than sixty (60) rejection letters later he took the unusual step of self-publishing his first novel. The book went to number one in the Twin Cities, and within a week had a new agent and two-book deal with Pocket Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint.

Flynn was diagnosed with stage three metastatic prostate cancer in 2010, but continued to write his best-selling thrillers until he died at the age of forty-seven (47).  His death was a great loss to the publishing world and every individual looking for that next great book.  He left a great body of work that is enjoyed by individuals over the world.

I can definitely recommend this book to you. Remember—start with American Assassin.  Read that one first.

CLINTON CASH

July 10, 2016


I m absolutely convinced the best and most enduring writers are avid readers and they know how to research a project.  That statement certainly applies to Mr. Peter Schweizer.  Schweizer includes fifty-eight (58) pages of notes used to research and document the money trail left by Secretary Hillary Clinton, former-President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.  These notes are categorized by chapter with each fact being numbered as presented in the body of the work.  “Clinton Cash”, written in 2015, was the eleventh book by Schweizer and serves to investigate donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities, paid speeches made by Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the Clintons’ personal enrichment after leaving the White House, in 2001. All of his works to date are non-fiction, real life; political exposes unearthing corruption in governments and institutions in our country.  Let’s take a very quick look at Mr. Schweizer’s biography.

BIOGRAPHY:

Peter Franz Schweizer, born November 24, 1964, is an American author, academic, and political consultant. He is the president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) and a former William J. Casey Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.  He is also Breitbart News  Senior Editor-at-Large.

Peter Schweizer is the President of the Government Accountability Institute and obviously a best-selling author. He is a partner in the Washington, D.C. firm Oval Office Writers which provides speechwriting and communications services for corporate executives and political figures.

From 2008-2009 he was a consultant to the Office of Presidential Speechwriting in the White House. He has also served as a member of the Ultraterrorism Study Group at the U.S. government’s Sandia National Laboratory and is a former consultant to NBC News.

Schweizer’s early work at Jeremiah Denton‘s National Forum Foundation (NFF) focused on major fronts in the Cold War. He co-authored a National Review article with Denton’s son, James “Murdering SDI”, about the suspicious deaths of several European officials who supported the Strategic Defense Initiative.  While at the NFF, Schweizer also published a report titled “The Meaning and Destiny of the Sandinista Revolution”.

In 2012, Steve Kroft used Schweizer’s work as the basis for a blockbuster report on CBS‘s 60 Minutes about Congressional insider trading. Titled “Insiders: The road to the STOCK act”, Kroft relied heavily on Schweizer’s reporting in Throw Them All Out, which CBS independently verified, to demonstrate how members of Congress trade stocks unethically.   The book demonstrates how politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Spencer Bachus have inoculated themselves against criminal charges for insider trading.   The following year, Kroft revisited Schweizer’s work to create another 60 Minutes report on how members of Congress use the funds of their political action committees for private gain.

A year later, Schweizer authored another GAI report about the Obama administration, which said that Obama failed to meet often enough with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius during the height of the botched roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).   He publicized the report with a story for Politico titled “When Barry Met Kathy: Almost never, it turns out.”  Schweizer’s report relied on publicly available information about Obama’s schedule. Three months later, after making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of non-public documents, The Hill found evidence of multiple meetings with both scheduled to attend, including seven specifically about the ACA.

I hope you can see from his bio that he is a very serious writer and one not given to innuendo.  All pronouncements are well researched and documented.

CLINTON CASH:

Now let’s take a look at the book itself.

  • “Clinton Cash”—The untold story of how and why foreign governments and businesses helped make Bill and Hillary rich.
  • Published by Harper Collins
  • Copyright: 2015
  • 256 Pages
  • Eleven (11) chapters as follows:
    • The Lincoln Bedroom Goes Global
    • The Transfer: Bill’s Excellent Kazaka Adventure
    • Hillary’s Reset: The Russian Uranium Deal
    • Indian Nukes: How to Win a Medal by Changing Hillary’s Mind
    • The Clinton Blur(I): Bill and Hillary’s Global Nexus of Philanthropy, Power and Profit
    • The Clinton Blur (II): The View from Foggy Bottom
    • Podium Economics: What Was Bill Being Paid For?
    • Warlord Economics: The Clintons Do Africa
    • Rainforest Riches:  Hillary, Bill and Colombian Timber and Oil Deals
    • Disaster Capitalism Clinton-Style: The 2010 Haitian Relief Effort
    • Quid pro Quo?

I am not going into detail relative to the contents of the book because I know my readers,and you are one intelligent group of people.  You can figure it out from the chapter titles.  I don’t think Mr. Schweizer’s book would have that much significance because after all, Bill and Hillary are nothing more than opportunistic political types, but she is running for President of the United States.  If you look at Benghasi, the e-mail server scandal AND the fact that Secretary Clinton is running for the White House, do we really need another Clinton in the Oval Office?  Then again, what about Mr. Donald Trump?  We really may be in a mell of a hess vice versa, as my grandmother Westbrook used to say. I may just be writing in Elvis again this year.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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