The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot -- The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom,by Blaine Harden et al, Viking '15, $27.95, 290 pages, ASIN #0670016578. Index, bibliography, notes, timeline, grouping of b&w glossy images.
In a brief Q&A, author Blaine Harden and Ken Rowe (formerly North Korean fighter pilot No Kum Sok) discuss the writing of this book:
Q. Why read a book about North Korea to the 1950s?
A. Because North Korea is frozen in time. In fundamental ways, it is still the 1950s in North Korea. The same family is in charge. The same dictatorial rules are in place. The same gulag enslaves citizens. The Great Leader, Kim Il Sung, invented North Korea in the 1950s as a family dictatorship and then succeeded in doing what no other totalitarian leader has done. He stopped time itself. His son and his grandson have presided over the world's longest-lasting totalitarian state. By understanding who Kim Il Sung was and how he invented North Korea, with the help of Stalin and Mao, readers can easily grasp why the current leader (Kim Jong Un, the thirty-something grandson) behaves the way he does. The belligerence, the paranoia, the nukes, the human rights horrors -- it all snaps into place, if you read The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot.
Q. Why is North Korea still so nutty over all these years? Why is it so wildly angry at the United States.
A. Two reasons. First, every dictator needs a Great Enemy. He needs to frighten his people with the specter of a powerful, relentless and blood-thirsty boogeyman. And he needs to stage an endless drama, one that shows him protecting the innocence, goodness and purity of his people from that enemy. For the health and longevity of Kim family dictatorship, that enemy is the United States. A permanent life-and-death struggle against the Americans justifies the family's existence. It also gives them a perfect excuse for the rottenness of life in North Korea -- the lack of food, the lack of electricity, the lack of freedom. Simply put: it's all the Americans' fault.
Author Blaine Harden formerly served as The Washington Post's bureau chief in East Asia and Africa and was the Post's bureau chief in Warsaw during the collapse of Communism and the breakup of Yugoslavia and in Nairobi, where he covered sub-Saharan Africa. He lives in Seattle.
A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear -- A Maisie Dobbs Novel, Harper '15, $26.99, 309 pages, ASIN #0062220551.
From the dust jacket:
"Spring 1937. In the four years since she left England, Maisie Dobbs has experienced love, contentment, stability -- and the deepest tragedy a woman can endure. Now, all she wants is the peace she believes she might find by returning to India. But her sojourn in the hills of Darjeeling is cut short when her stepmother summons her home to England: her aging father, Frankie Dobbs, is not getting any younger.
"On a ship bound for England, Maisie realizes she isn't ready to return. Against the wishes of the captain who warns her, 'You will be alone in a most dangerous place,' she disembarks in Gibraltar. Though she is on her own, Maisie is far from alone: the British garrison town is teeming with refugees freeing a brutal civil war across the border in Spain."
Author Jacqueline Winspear has written numerous novels, including four bestselling Maisie Dobbs novels. The first book in that series, Maisie Dobbs, was also nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and was a New York Times Notable Book. She lives in California.
The Looting Machine by Tom Burgis, PublicAffairs '15, $21.16, 352 pages, ASIN #1610394399.
"Opposite the New York Stock Exchange, at what the tourist information sign calls the 'financial crossroads of the world,' the stately stone façade of 23 Wall Street evokes the might of the man whose bank it was built to house in 1913: J.P. Morgan, America's capitalist titan," writes author Tom Burgis in his new book. "The exterior is popular with Hollywood -- it doubled as the Gotham City stock exchange in the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises -- but when I visited in late 2013 the red carpet lay grubby and sodden in the drizzle blowing in off the Atlantic. Through the smeared glass in the shuttered metal gates, all that was visible in the gutted interior where once a vast chandelier glittered were a few strip lights, stairways covered in plywood, and a glowing red 'EXIT' sign.
"Despite its disrepair, 23 Wall Street remains an emblem of the elite, a trophy in the changing game of global commerce. The address of the current owners is an office on the 10th floor of a Hong Kong skyscraper. Formerly the site of a British army barracks, 88 Queensway has been transformed into the mirrored towers of Pacific Place, blazing reflected sunlight onto the financial district. The sumptuous mall at street level, air conditioned against the dripping humidity outside, is lined with designer boutiques: Armani, Prada, Chanel, Dior. The Shangri La Hotel, which occupies the top floors of the second Pacific Place, seven towers, offers suites at $10,000 a night."
Author Tom Burgis has been reporting for the Financial Times for eight years, including as a correspondent in Johannesburg and Lagos, and won the FT's 2013 Jones-Mauthner Memorial Prize for his exposes on corruption.