A worthy account of a valiant operation.


A lively account of heroism after the tumultuous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Americans celebrated when the Soviet military evacuated Afghanistan in 1989, leaving the government and its supporters to the cruel mercies of the victorious Taliban. Few cheered when America did the same last year, as U.S. leaders failed to keep their promises that they would not abandon their allies. Among those caught up in the chaos of the final months were interpreters, civil servants, and elite members of Afghan Special Forces, who worked closely with their American counterparts. Mann, a retired Green Beret with more than 20 years of international combat experience, builds his story around Nezamuddin Nezami, an Afghan commando who found himself trapped in the increasing chaos. Frightened for his family’s fate once the Taliban regained control of the country, he applied for a Special Immigrant Visa to the U.S., which never came. He appealed frantically to former comrades, including the author, all safely in America, often retired, and none highly placed. Stirred to action, they assembled an ad hoc collection of Afghan vets, CIA officers, USAID advisers, and congressional aides dubbed the Pineapple Express, and the group planned tactics, bypassed red tape to talk directly to overwhelmed officials under siege at the Kabul airport, and succeeded in extracting Nezami and his family. By this time, aware of appeals from other trapped Afghans, they managed to guide hundreds to safety before a terrorist bomb at the airport abruptly ended their work, leaving thousands behind. Mann delivers gripping accounts of a few successful rescues and admiring portraits of his Pineapple Express colleagues, but he is also careful to point out that America dishonored itself. In hastily abandoning Afghanistan, neither Presidents Trump nor Biden displayed more than token sympathy for the Afghan people. Particularly helpful for general readers are the timeline, cast of characters, and acronyms list.

A worthy account of a valiant operation.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00353-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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