Monday, August 16, 2010
The PW review of Stranglehold; Jack London light and very, very dark
Ed Gorman, Minotaur, $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-53298-7
In Anthony-winner Gorman’s engaging second mystery to feature Chicago political consultant Dev Conrad (after 2008’s Sleeping Dogs), Dev steps in to help stumbling congressional incumbent Susan Cooper right her floundering campaign. A former army intelligence operative, Dev joins the campaign in Aldyne, Ill., where he has to deal with the candidate’s dragon lady stepmother, who uses the purse strings like a whip, and the opposition’s unscrupulous consultants, Monica Davies and Greg Larson. Susan’s efforts to conceal a secret from her past and fractures among her supporters don’t help. When Monica is murdered in her hotel room, saving the campaign may be the least of Dev’s worries. In addition to offering plenty of suspects and some nifty complications, Gorman makes campaign strategy, from dirty tricks to spin control, an integral, highly interesting part of the story. Dev’s strong showing in this sophomore campaign should guarantee that he’ll run again. (Oct.)
---------------Jack London: the good, bad, and repellant.
Jack London's Dark Side
A new biography confronts the good, bad, and repellant.
By Johann Hari
Posted Sunday, Aug. 15, 2010, at 6:59 AM ET
The United States has a startling ability to take its most angry, edgy radicals and turn them into cuddly eunuchs. The process begins the moment they die. Mark Twain is remembered as a quipster forever floating down the Mississippi River at sunset, while his polemics against the violent birth of the American empire lie unread and unremembered. Martin Luther King is remembered for his prose-poetry about children holding hands on a hill in Alabama, but few recall that he said the U.S. government was "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."
But perhaps the greatest act of historical castration is of Jack London. This man was the most-read revolutionary Socialist in American history, agitating for violent overthrow of the government and the assassination of political leaders—and he is remembered now for writing a cute story about a dog. It's as if the Black Panthers were remembered, a century from now, for adding a pink tint to their afros.
If Jack London is chased forever from our historical memory by the dog he invented, then we will lose one of the most intriguing, bizarre figures in American history, at once inspiring and repulsive. In his 40 years of life, he was a "bastard" child of a slum-dwelling suicidal spiritualist, a child laborer, a pirate, a tramp, a revolutionary Socialist, a racist pining for genocide, a gold-digger, a war correspondent, a millionaire, a suicidal depressive, and for a time the most popular writer in America. In Wolf: The Lives of Jack London, his latest biographer, James L. Haley, calls London "the most misunderstood figure in the American literary canon"—but that might be because he is ultimately impossible to understand.
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