Absolute Monarchs -- A History of the Papacy by John Julius Norwich, Random House '11, $20, 512 pages, ASIN #0812978846. Index, bibliography, list of popes and antipopes, footnotes, maps, grouping of b&w and color glossy images.
From the back cover:
"In a chronicle that captures nearly 2,000 years of inspiration and intrigue, John Julius Norwich recounts in riveting detail the histories of the most significant popes and what they meant politically, culturally, and socially to Rome and to the world. Norwich presents such popes as Innocent I, who in the 5th century successfully negotiated with Alaric the Goth, an invader civil authorities could not defeat.
"Leo I, who two decades later tamed (and perhaps paid off) Attila the Hun; the infamous 'pornocracy' -- the five libertines who were descendants or lovers of Marozia, debauched daughter of one of Rome's most powerful families; Pope Paul III, 'the greatest pontiff of the 16th century," who reinterpreted the Church's teaching and discipline; John XXIII, who in five short years starting in 1958 instituted reforms that led to Vatican II; and Benedict XVI, who is coping with today's global priest sex scandal. Epic and compelling, Absolute Monarchs is an enthralling history from 'an enchanting and satisfying raconteur.'"
John Julius Norwich is one of Brfitain's preeminent historians and travel writers. He has written histories of Norman Sicily, Byzantium, Venice, and the Mediterranean.
The Finish -- The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden, Atlantic Monthly Press '12, $26, 264 pages, ASIN #0802120342. No index, bibliography, notes or illlustrations.
From the dust jacket:
From Mark Bowden, author of the multi-million copy best seller Black Hawk Down and the pre-eminent chronicler of our own military and special forces, comes The Finish, a gripping account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. With unprecedented access to key sources, including President Obama, Bowden takes us inside the rooms where decisions were made and on the ground where the action unfolded.
"On October 7, 2001, less than a month after the devastating attacks of 9/11, the United States invaded Afghanistan. They thought they had bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora, but then he vanished, and the trail went cold. Over the next 10 years, as Bowden shows, America found itself fighting a new kind of war against the scattered forces of al Qaeda, one which demanded a new approach.
"Step-by-step, Bowden describes the development of a tactical strategy to fight this war -- a fusion of intel from various agencies and on-the-ground special ops in a six-step plan called 'F3EAD) (Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, Analyze, Disseminate)'."
Mark Bowden has written 9 books. He reported for 20 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer and now writes for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and other magazines.
The Scarlet Contessa -- A Novel of the Italian Renaissance by Jeanne Kalogridis, St. Martin's Press '10 paperback, $14.99, 454 pages, ASIN #B006Z314RE.
In a brief Q&A, veteran novelist Jeanne Kalogridis discusses the writing of her new book:
Q. Do you scrupulously adhere to historical fact in your novels, or do you take liberties if the story can benefit from the change? And to what extent did you stick to the facts in writing The Scarlet Contessa?
A. This is the first historical novel of mine that contains an entirely fictional narrator (her love interest is fictional, as well). That said, almost all other characters (even minor ones), all settings, locales, and all historical events are as painstakingly accurate as I was able to make them. The research is by far the most difficult part of writing for me -- I check and double-check, make maps and find portraits of the characters. Caterina presented a special challenge becase so little has been written about her.
Q. You have already authored three historical novels about Renaissance Italy. The Borgia Bride, i, Mona Lisa, and, in part, The Devil's Queen. What was the inspiration for The Scarlet Contessa?
A. In researching The Borgia Bride, I came upon the story of Caterina Sforza. Her forceful personality and courage so impressed me that I vowed to write a novel about her someday.
Author Jeanne Kalogridis, who lives in California with her husband and two dogs, has written numerous dark fantasy and historical novels.