An engaging work of World War II history.

HITLER'S SECRET ARMY

A HIDDEN HISTORY OF SPIES, SABOTEURS, AND TRAITORS

A prolific British documentary filmmaker and author pursues the documentation released between 2000 and 2017 by MI5 and other entities that reveals the mostly secret convictions of a considerable number of British spies during World War II.

Despite what England has publicly presented—that the so-called Fifth Column was a myth and the threat of “enemies within” just hysteria—Tate (Pride: The Unlikely Story of the True Heroes of the Miner's Strike, 2018, etc.) returns to the record to tell a different story. He underscores three elements: that the majority of spies for Nazi Germany were not German immigrants but British citizens; that those punished were of lower class than the aristocratic ringleaders at the top; and that much of the evidence of convictions was buried or covered up for decades. Tate looks at several espionage networks, many developed in small towns around regular kinds of people who became radicalized by infiltrations of resourceful German intelligence agents in Britain in its plan to invade the country in the late 1930s. Britain did not have a functioning anti-espionage law until August 1939, when Parliament enacted an Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, allowing a classification system (regarding the level of threat) for non-naturalized Germans living in the country. By May 1940, the House of Commons passed the Treachery Act, dispensing the death penalty for treason. The pool of big fish, “the key pillars of British society,” contained plenty of rabid anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi figures, such as Oswald Mosely and his British Union and Archibald Ramsay and his Right Club, which was plotting a coup to replace the government with Nazi sympathizers. While the latter retained his seat in the House of Commons, many little fish were severely punished, even hanged. From the internment of suspects, the British eventually turned to a more covert form of entrapment: the sting operation. In true documentarian fashion, the author relentlessly brings forth evidence that has long been buried.

An engaging work of World War II history.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64313-077-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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