A captivating and convincing revisionist history.

COFFEE WITH HITLER

THE STORY OF THE AMATEUR SPIES WHO TRIED TO CIVILIZE THE NAZIS

A lively study of the “amateur British intelligence agents who…hoped to avert a second war in Europe by building rapport with the Third Reich politically, economically and socially.”

Throughout the 1930s, a clique of British aristocrats, scholars, and businessmen maintained friendly social contacts with prominent Nazis, including Hitler. Dismissed for decades as Nazi sympathizers, they have finally found a defender. That this book began as Spicer’s doctoral thesis should not discourage readers; the result of intense research, it’s a page-turner. Known mostly to history buffs, Spicer’s Germanophiles included Thomas Conwell-Evans, a Welsh political secretary and historian; Philip Kerr, a liberal politician, writer, and aristocrat; and Ernest Tennant, a wealthy businessman. Few in their circle sympathized with British Nazism; most denounced antisemitic outrages; all were horrified by the carnage of World War I and felt guilty about the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles. In their eyes, however, Hitler was a fervent nationalist whose goal of returning his suffering nation to prosperity and global status deserved a measure of sympathy. Nowadays, scholars display a more nuanced view of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement, but popular histories continue to deplore the word, and politicians employ it to justify wars from Suez to Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. Spicer emphasizes that his subjects did not aim to appease the Nazis but to civilize them. This was no secret. Many senior British officials dismissed these amateur agents, but the foreign service, starved for intelligence on Germany, took them seriously and often encouraged them. The author engagingly recounts a steady stream of social events, banquets, conferences, cultural exchanges, and semi-official visits among well-known British political figures and top-level Nazis. Although not fellow travelers, Spicer’s subjects bent over backward to see reason in Nazi policies and take advantage of Germany’s long-standing admiration of British culture, but they ultimately grew exasperated, concluded that Hitler was irrational, and supported war when it broke out.

A captivating and convincing revisionist history.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63936-226-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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Required reading for anyone interested in global affairs.

PUTIN

The author of authoritative books on Mao and Pol Pot returns with another impressive yet disturbing account of a dangerous world leader.

Events in Ukraine will spur sales of this thick biography, but any praise is well deserved, as Short offers an insightful and often discouraging text on the Russian president. Born in 1952 in Leningrad, he grew up in a tiny, shabby apartment shared with two other families. Entering the KGB in 1975, he left in 1991 to join Leningrad’s city government in the exhilarating aftermath of Gorbachev’s perestroika. Diligent and efficient, Putin rose to prominence and moved to Moscow in 1996, becoming President Boris Yeltsin’s trusted assistant and then successor in 2000. Russia’s constitution (approved under Yeltsin) gives its president far more powers than America’s, but Short shows how Putin’s KGB background lowered his inhibitions on imprisoning or murdering political opponents; as time passed, his word became law. The author has no quarrel with the accusation that Putin destroyed the democratic liberties that followed glasnost, but he also points out that, for most Russians, the 1990s were a time of crushing poverty, crime, and disorder. Early on under Putin, living standards increased, and the streets became safer. Few Russians admire the Soviet Union, other than its status as an empire and great power. Many Russians, including Putin, are angry about how the U.S. boasted of victory during the Cold War, gave advice but little else during the lean years, and broke its promise not to expand NATO to former Soviet nations, thereby stoking Russia’s long-standing paranoia about being surrounded by enemies. Putin’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and backing of secessionists in eastern Ukraine remain popular, and many Russians support the invasion of Ukraine despite its difficulties. Having read obsessively and interviewed almost everyone, Putin included, Short delivers a consistently compelling account of Putin’s life so far. Contradictions abound, and the author is not shy about pointing out frank lies from sources that include Putin as well as his enemies.

Required reading for anyone interested in global affairs.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62779-366-7

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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