A masterful account of the quintessential Nazi.



A gripping biography of an irrepressibly evil historical figure.

Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) was Heinrich Himmler’s right-hand man, an architect of the Holocaust known as “the Butcher of Prague.” Czech and Slovak resisters killed him in May 1942, and while his personal writing contains few insights, his wife, who survived him by 40 years, spoke freely during numerous interviews with biographer Dougherty, who died in 2013. In the introduction, Lehmann-Haupt writes that his job as editor was “to sharpen and highlight [Dougherty’s] all-but-tragic vision of Heydrich’s descent into profound evil.” The result is an engrossing biography that cuts away regularly to Heydrich’s wife as she delivers her version of events and freely expresses her opinion of her husband’s colleagues and superiors, including Hitler. Loyal to the end, she remained skeptical that he was a war criminal, preferring to see him as an earnest patriot in a dysfunctional system. As a child, Heydrich excelled at school and sports. He joined the navy in 1922 but was cashiered in 1931, apparently for dishonorable behavior. A fervent nationalist, he had joined the Nazi Party months earlier, and SS chief Himmler hired him to develop an intelligence service. At the time, the SS was a minor department that provided security for Hitler, but Heydrich proved a brilliant organizer, and by 1936, the SS controlled all of Germany’s police. Heydrich quickly acquired his fearsome reputation as the consummate Nazi bureaucrat: ruthless and, unlike most, uncorrupt and efficient. He persecuted Jews, organized the Einsatzgruppen that followed German armies invading Poland and Russia to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians, and often (but not always) treated Czechs without mercy as their governor. Nearly 600 pages of cutthroat Nazi political maneuvering added to genuine throat-cutting in Germany and throughout Europe would be excessive in less-skilled hands, but Dougherty, with the assistance of Heydrich’s wife and Lehmann-Haupt, has the right stuff.

A masterful account of the quintessential Nazi.

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-394-54341-3

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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