An exhaustive and exhausting account for only the most committed fans.

THE REACHER GUY

A BIOGRAPHY OF LEE CHILD

A life-spanning biography of bestselling novelist and critics' favorite Lee Child.

Born James Grant in Coventry, England, in 1954, Child felt “so unloved as a child” that he devoured books about orphans. As an unsettled teen, he broke a rival kid's arm and played in a rock band. He worked in theater and studied law before settling in at Granada Television in the late 1970s, where he enjoyed success as a presentation director. Partly owing to his stance as a union organizer, he was fired after 18 years, becoming a writer "because he couldn't think of anything else to do." After turning out more than 20 thrillers featuring the hulking, Zen-like, all-American problem solver Jack Reacher, Child announced he would be turning over the series to his younger brother, mystery writer Andrew Grant, with whom he co-wrote the forthcoming Reacher book, The Sentinel. In her first biography, based on personal correspondence with Child, Martin offers a variety of intriguing stories about her subject. However, the narrative is so crowded with extraneous material (the author profiles seemingly anyone who ever knew Child) and so prone to redundancies and head-scratching allusions—e.g., the lasting impact of tennis great Chris Evert's "glow"—the reading experience becomes a chore. The publisher says that Martin had "disarmingly frank" conversations with her subject, whom she calls "Lee" or "Jim" throughout, but he is only superficially revealing, leaving her to hold up excerpts from his novels as mirrors to his soul. As for Child's exceptional style as a novelist, the fawning Martin offers little critical analysis beyond comparing him to Camus and Borges. "He feels, as much as thinks, his books into being," she writes, while noting his obsession with figuring out the right “ratio” among “overall number of pages, number of lines per page and number of characters per line.”

An exhaustive and exhausting account for only the most committed fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64313-586-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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