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A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal
by Ben Macintyre
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.08
88 used & new from $13.09

5.0 out of 5 stars How Did Britannia Rule the Waves?, November 6, 2014
It is strange that my first reaction to Macintyre's book brought out in me disgust for the so-called British upper class and their "Old Boy" networks. Apparently, being serious alcoholics did not disqualify upper class Brits from taking charge of delicate spy operations. When these Upper Class Brits were boys, at least in the in the past, they were physically abused in their public (what we would call private) schools to toughen them up. Instead of growing up to demonstrate their toughness, they become empty-headed adults who, when they partied, got extremely drunk, told ribald jokes, and discuss cricket. In the afterword, written by John le Carre , he writes: "Alcohol was so much part of the culture of M16 [British Intelligence] in those days that a non-drinker in the ranks could look like a subversive or worse"[P. 298]. It is obvious that alcoholism and spying do not go hand in hand. Apparently, it did not bother the British. I have not read any books about the NKVD or KGB (the Soviet spy agencies) and, for all I know, they were drunkards among them as well. However, when they goofed there were always the Gulags (the concentration camps in Siberia) and frequently outright torture and executions.
If the author's portrayal of the British Upper Class, besotted, shallow, valuing friendship with other "Old Boys" over competence and duty, is accurate, how did Britannia manage to Rule the Waves? Interestingly, the villains obtain their jobs by "dropping hints" in the right places, without any preparation for intelligence work or proof of competence.
The British intelligence apparatus was made up of incompetent men, all members of the Upper Class. On page 27, the author describes the Head of section V. "Major Felix Cogwill was the model of the old-style intelligence officer: a former officer in the Indian police, he was rigid, combative, paranoid, and quite dim. Trevor-Roper dismissed him as purblind, a paranoid, disastrous megalomaniac."
Having gotten this off my chest let me return to the plot itself. There were four (possibly one more) British double agents working for Moscow, all former students at Cambridge. In the 1930's, all of them became communists and, through connections, wound up in the British spy organizations. None was as influential or served the Soviets longer than Philby. As a spy, he was extraordinarily lucky to avoid discovery, protected by his connections, and was the last one to seek refuge in Soviet Russia. As a young Cambridge student, he espoused the communist cause. How much he knew about communist ideology is not clear. In any case, he was not a great intellectual. However, he loved to deceive and as a double agent served both his masters well. From Macintyre's book, one gets the impression that the game of double agent and the enormous risks involved in playing it were more interesting to Philby than ideology. The only time the Russians gave Philby money was when he was temporarily dismissed from his spying activities and could hardly support himself and his large family.
Philby's betrayal of his country (and, as collateral damage, the U.S.) cost the lives of numerous people from various countries, including Soviets agents who had defected to the West. In Philby's mind, this was just part of the game. Making things even worse, Philby knew that due to Stalin's paranoia, a number of his Russians controllers, whom he liked and respected, were recalled to Russia to be tortured and executed. The author does not mention Philby's role in the Korean War. He was privy to the allies' plans in South Korea, reported them to Russia, who transmitted the information to China. This gave the Chinese a tremendous advantage after joining the North Korean cause.
At times, Macinyre's description of Kim Philby is contradictory. He had a great deal of charm, the author claims, enhanced by his occasional stammer. Yet, according to the author, most of the time when he partied, he was either very drunk or semi-conscious due to alcohol. The author writes that he was "a tender father." Yet when the time came to flee, he left his wife and five children to fend for themselves not arranging for their welfare. Since he had been close to exposure a number of times, it is strange that he would raise such a large family that would be completely impoverished and disgraced after his downfall. To give the devil his due, however drunk he was, he never divulged any secrets.
He and Nicholas Elliot, also in the British intelligence service, were very close. Their careers were similar though Elliot probably regarded Philby as his mentor. When Philby was partially exposed and temporarily fired from his spying work, Elliot supported him, and his large family, financially. When the day of reckoning arrived, it became Elliot's task to travel to Beirut to extract a confession from Philby. The reason Philby had not been recalled to London was to avoid alerting him to any danger, thus giving him a chance to abscond from the scene as the three other Cambridge spies had done earlier. Appointing Elliot as his interrogator brought with it another mystery, that is, was it to give Philby a chance to flee rather than confess his transgressions to his close friend.
The first interrogation of Philby resulted in a confession. Philby admitted that until 1949, he had been a member of the Communist party and had given information to the Soviets. He named a few accomplices. Mainly the ones who had already been exposed. As soon as Elliot obtained the confession, demanding more information, threatening Philby with criminal charges if he failed to do so, he flew to the Congo, letting another person finish the questioning. The second interrogator loved skiing. All week long, it had been snowing heavily in Lebanon's mountains, and the interrogator decided to go skiing during the weekend. Philby's house was not watched and his phone was not tapped. That gave the Soviets an opportunity to smuggle Philby out of the country on a Russian freighter. A while later, Philby turned up in the USSR to a warm welcome. He was given Russian citizenship and the government even issued a stamp in his honor.
Elliot's interrogation of Philby had been tape-recorded. Unfortunately, Elliot left the window open during this procedure. The street noises made it all but impossible to understand major parts of the recording. All the British had was a brief written confession, ending in 1949, with mostly irrelevant information. The main question is whether Elliot deliberately botched the interrogation, giving Philby the opportunity to flee or whether the British intelligence services wanted him to vanish. The enormous scandal would have come on top of another major spy outrage. We will never know. Many records have disappeared and some are still classified.
The theme of the book is British Upper Class friendships. To his dying day, Elliot maintained that his interrogation of Philby was professional and that his trip to the Congo was essential. Philby died in Russia. To their credit, the Russians tried to rehabilitate him from his alcoholism but with little success. His wife stayed with him briefly but then returned to England. The author does not reveal what happened to his children. The reader gets the impression the Philby really did not care. The story of the Cambridge spies and the utter incompetence of British intelligence is so bizarre that, were it fiction, it would be a silly story. The work has been meticulously researched, is interesting, well written, and makes for good reading.


Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self
Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self
by Alex Tizon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.57
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Confusing Book, October 8, 2014
Many years ago, I wrote a book called "Philippine Diary: A Gay Guide to the Philippines." Naturally, I was interested in Tizon's work though, obviously, he does not cover the same topic. However, both of our books deal with Filipino culture and here we come to different conclusions.
The author seems to deal with a number of different issues, often lumping them together. The first is his childhood and adolescence in the U.S., where he experienced a lot of discrimination because of his physical shortness and general discrimination against him as an Asian. The second issue is discrimination against Asians in general, again because of their physical size (even if they happen to be tall, according to the author). The third is his lament that older Caucasian men marry younger Asian women, but the opposite (older Asians marrying younger Caucasian women) does not happen. The author himself is not a great success with Caucasian women though he is well educated, bright, and his manhood is of average size. He even supplies the exact metrics of his male organ to prove this point. Fortunately, it is not below average. Finally, at the very end of the book, he concludes that Asians, too, have considered themselves superior to other races, and cites the example of the Chinese who believed for quite a few centuries that they were superior to all other nations.
In my opinion, the author would have done a better job had he confined himself to Filipinos, rather than discussing Asians as a group jumping from Chinese men to, of all Asians, the Hmongs. The Hmongs, a tribal society, were victims of the Vietnam War. In Laos, where they had cooperated with the U.S., they had to flee to refugee camps in Thailand when the Vietnam War ended. Many of them obtained political refugee status and, eventually, wound up in the U.S.
While there is some controversy whether in ancient times Filipinos migrated from Malaysia (the other branch to Indonesia), it is certain that the Filipino culture developed quite differently than any other Asian way of life. Most of the Philippines became a Spanish colony for 333 years. The Spaniards converted almost the entire population to Catholicism, and Spanish vocabulary took over a large percentage of the many native languages .Filipino intellectuals wrote in fluent Spanish. The national hero of the Philippines, Jose Rizal, wrote his "Mi Ultimo Adios," in Spanish, before the Spaniards executed him. After the Spanish-American War, Filipinos did not gain their promised independence but, rather, following a savage war (on both sides) against their new colonial masters, the Philippines, became semi-autonomous. They gained their full independence only in 1946. American culture and the English language made new inroads into Filipino life. Until fairly recently, the "medium of instruction" in public schools was English. Overall, Filipino society and mores are different from all Asians societies. Comparing them to other Asians or Pacific Islanders is a gross oversimplification. As far as I am concerned, they are the friendliest people to foreigners. This kind of friendship is not true in most Asian countries.
The author laments that elderly, rich Caucasians marry young Filipina women. I do not know what is going on the minds of these old Caucasians. However, I do know (and the author should know this better than I do) why young Filipina women marry rich Caucasians. Filipino family ties serve as a secure safety net and, simultaneously, as an intolerable burden. Before discussing this point, a word about Filipino character.
Filipino children are brought up to be helpful young boys and girls, observe how their elders run the household, and follow their example. Early on, they learn to memorize precisely where and how things are arranged and do it *exactly* this way .Respecting one's elders is an unbroken rule, though the extremely respectful language is not always followed by deeds. Filipinos, unlike Americans, are much more open to physical touching (not necessarily sexual), which makes Filipina women caring nurses and Filipino men excellent helpers to disabled patients. These endearing characteristics are sometimes misinterpreted as servility. The obverse side of the coin is that when Filipinos are pushed too far they are prone to run amok (a Malay word of Portuguese origin) expressing frenzied anger, which may end in an extremely violent way. This is exactly what happened to the author's father.
Ostensibly, a Filipina woman may make a more submissive wife to a rich Caucasian. However, she may sacrifice herself for the welfare of her clan. When she becomes a citizen of a foreign country, by virtue of her marriage, it is incumbent upon her to bring her relatives to her husband's country, and help them make a decent living in their new home. They, in turn, will bring over their relatives. Recently, I read an article about Torshvn, a group of remote Danish Islands north of Scotland, probably with unpleasantly cold weather, and far away from any major city. For some reason, there are more males than females there. The men import their brides all the way from the Philippines. Once these women become Danish citizens, they, and other family members, can move to Denmark where living conditions are much better than in their home country. Moving to another country does not diminish the love most Filipinos feel towards their homeland (and its food!). They return often, laden with gifts for a multitude of family members who have no compunctions about demanding specific presents. (Like washing machines, computers, etc.)
Filipino culture obliges relatives - often distant - to help their family members. They are willing go abroad and take on the obligation of helping their families. They say that the second language of children in Saudi Arabia is Tagalog, because of their Filipina nannies. Recently, I watched a Hebrew/Tagalog film ("Transit) where Filipina women, and a lesser extent men, worked as caregivers, babysitters, gardeners in Israel. Sometimes their status is legal, often questionable, and, at times, illegal. The main actor is an almost five-year- old Filipino boy who is an illegal immigrant. (Mysteriously, had he been five he would have been legal.)
In the 1970s there was a big scandal in Japan when women protested at the airport the "Sex Tours for Men to the Philippines," offered by a Japanese company. Giving in to the protest, the company eliminated the word "Sex." Japanese men have enough outlets in their own cities for sexual dalliances. For instance, there are "Love Hotels," in most cities. They are expensive, elegant, and willing to host a couple for a few hours. No questions asked, no documents presented. Why would Japanese men have to travel to the Philippines for sex? Because the women they meet in the Philippines are virtual girlfriends for a few days. Such experiences Japanese visitors cannot obtain in their own country and, for this matter, in any other place.
Having worked with Filipina women in various capacities, I would consider them more aggressive than Filipino men. The servility that Tizon attributes to them is part of their role. When push comes to shove, these women know how to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, this is not true when they are posted to certain foreign countries. This is a risk these women assume willingly in order to help their families financially.
It is difficult to understand the point of "Big Little Man." Does the author commiserate with himself for being a short Asian and found wanting by Caucasian women? Does he lament the lack of political success of Asians? (At this writing, the male mayor of San Francisco and the female mayor of Oakland are both Asians.) Does he feel sorry for the young Filipina women who marry tall and rich Caucasians instead of short Asian men? Of course, there is some truth in his observations. When I saw the TV series "Hawaii Five-O" in the 1980s, I was struck by the fact that the detectives were all Hawaiian natives, but their commander was a tall white non-Hawaiian man who, in the mind of the producer, was much smarter (and manly?)in position to handle Honolulu's mobsters.
The subtitle of the book is "In Search of My Asian Self." I wish the author had titled it "In Search of My Filipino Self."


Male Sex Work and Society
Male Sex Work and Society
by Victor Minichiello and Scott
Edition: Paperback
Price: $45.00
29 used & new from $32.28

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Attempting a Scientific Research Into a Taboo Subject, September 19, 2014
I believe this is the first book that has been published describing male sex workers historically and in modern times in various parts of the world. It deals with society’s attitude towards male sex works from ancient times to the present; to write a comprehensive work on this subject would be a monumental task requiring many volumes.

The editors collected the research literature that was available to them. This leaves out a lot of pertinent information. For instance, in Europe, it describes society’s attitude in Ireland but not in the United Kingdom, and in Germany, it deals with foreign workers but not with native Germans. It almost lets the reader believe that all male sex workers in Germany are foreigners. However, this is the first attempt to cover so many diverse cultures on as a research project. Unfortunately, even countries that border each other treat male sex work differently.

I have written a number of books about male sex workers in many countries (e.g., “Sex Workers As Virtual Boyfriends”). These are anecdotal rather than scientifically researched books. Male sex workers are not a particularly good subject for scientific research. Because of the straight and gay disapproval of male sex workers, many of the latter tend to lie, especially about their income. In theory, if a barista can earn many times more per hour as a sex worker than at his regular job, that would be enough economic justification to become one, provided *he* doesn't mind doing it. However, many sex workers will allege that they make a small fortune doing their work. This, they believe, will legitimize their new profession.

I commend the editors for having included chapters describing male sex work on various continents and with different traditions and laws. The Muslim world was left out of the collection, which is a pity. However, research in these countries would be next to impossible, endangering the researcher and the interviewees. The authors describe at length the enormous changes for the better that modern technology (the Internet and the cell phone) have made in the profession of male sex workers.

A few personal observations: On page 167 Scott, one of the editors, points out “[that] the deviant status of the client and the male sex worker . . . [present] . . . a threat to the social order. It is extremely rare, however, for non-street-based male sex workers to report client-perpetrated-violence. “ In the vast majority of cases, the clients are the victims in such encounters. The *male* sex workers are usually younger and in better physical shape than their clients, and if homophobia enters the picture they are likely to be the homophobes. In 1997, a high society sex worker serial murderer by the name of Cunanan went on a murder spree of his clients, ranging from Los Angeles to Miami, ending with the killing of designer Gianni Versace. In the end, he committed suicide. The reason for this rampage has never been discovered.

On p. 229: “ [I]t does appear that male sex workers as a population are more vulnerable to mental health problems.” Relatively short interviews with male sex workers are not likely to reveal that *because* of their mental health problems (and, all too often, drug addiction) they entered this profession. (This statement holds true only for relatively affluent countries). It has been my observation, often based on a long acquaintance with male sex workers, that for many complicated reasons they became sex workers because of their mental problems. Many do not have the discipline or the inclination to work regular hours, be subjected to supervision, and deal with customers and co-workers day in day out. A male sex worker may start his working day in the late afternoon or even later and can afford to drop a “john” if he dislikes him. During short encounters, the mental problems of sex workers do not matter that much to the clients. Some sex workers are addicted to buying clothes and gadgets. Even if they hold a regular job, they are compelled to do sex work to sustain the buying habits.

The book is worth reading as an introduction to a subject. No doubt, future edition will provide broader information. However, any research in this area probably will not give a completely accurate picture of male sex workers. The latter are not interested in providing it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 25, 2014 8:25 AM PDT


Return to Me (The Restoration Chronicles) (Volume 1)
Return to Me (The Restoration Chronicles) (Volume 1)
by Lynn N. Austin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.97
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Historically Incorrect Novel, June 19, 2014
“Return to Me” is a biblical novel describing the return from Babylon to Judea of the Jews who had been exiled after the destruction of king Solomon‘s temple (588-520 BCE). Unfortunately, the novel contains many linguistic and historical errors. The plot is based the on the Book of Ezra in the Old Testament. Ezra would have delighted any bureaucrat. The book features many long lists of chronology, genealogy, and endless records of property brought from Babylonia to Judea. Unfortunately, the author weaves her plot based on the Book of Ezra without confining herself to his period.
The author uses the title “rabbi” often. However, in the Hebrew concordance of the "Tanakh" (the Old Testament) there is no mention of this noun. At that period, there still were no rabbis. Worse, the author also refers to “rebbe” Daniel. Yiddish speakers borrowed this noun from Hebrew over 1,500 years after Ezra’s period. The yeshiva (a school for the interpretation of the Old Testament) to which the author refers continually would come into being a few centuries later.
The Old Testament was not yet complete in Ezra’s time. Whether boys who had attained the age of thirteen would have celebrated their bar mitzvahs, reading the weekly portions of the bible in those days, is highly questionable.
Lynn Austin uses the Hebrew (borrowed from the Aramaic) aba for father, saba for grandfather, safta (should be with a “v’ – savta- not as it is spelled in the book) for grandmother. For mysterious reasons, she boycotts the Hebrew noun Ima for mother, using the English term instead. There is no logical explanation for this!
It is strange that the author does no mention at all the antipathy of the pre-exile prophets for the priests and their form of worship. Mostly, the prophets disdained the daily priestly temple sacrifices of animals, urging real charity and justice instead of empty ceremonies. “Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to Me.” (Isaiah1:13).
Some forty thousand men, women, and children made the arduous journey from Babylon to Judea in the first batch of returnees. It must have been a huge operation to feed this multitude on a daily basis. How this task was conducted is not described in the Book of Ezra. It would have been a wonderful opportunity for Austin to enrich her novel by using her imagination to describe how this undertaking was carried out.
In my opinion, a historical novel should be more than a TV episode. In addition to a good plot, it should immerse itself *accurately* in the period it describes. In this task, the author has not succeeded.


Fifty Shades of Grey (The Fifty Shades Trilogy)
Fifty Shades of Grey (The Fifty Shades Trilogy)
by E. L. James
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.97
2309 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A Plot That Need Psychological Explanation, November 7, 2013
It would serve no purpose to rehash the plot of the book. However, I would like to make a few points about it.

First, the sado/masochistic contract between Christian Grey and Anastasia is not as unusual as some reviewers think. Similar contracts can be found on the Internet. These documents serve no legal purpose (Christian's comment that his lawyer insists on it is ludicrous) but they reinforce the dom/sub relationship.

Second, as a broad generalization, usually very powerful people (like Grey) are secret submissives rather than doms. Their submissiveness serves as a "relaxation" from their onerous duties. For example, a number of ministers of the United Kingdom government, certainly powerful men, have lost their positions because it was discovered that they had paid prostitutes to . . . spank them.

Third, some people (men and women) are masochists who are not even aware of their condition. For instance, women who marry abusive men, divorce them, and remarry a similar characters. Or men who manage constantly to lose their jobs in spite of their capabilities. On the other hand, there are overt masochists who seek out their abusers and vice versa. It is relatively rare for a woman like Anastasia, with no masochistic tendencies, to fall for an out-and-out sadist, in spite of his stunning looks and intellect. (A number or reviewers have commented that how Grey acquired his great wealth or his perfect musical abilities is not adequately explained). It is clear from the plot that Anastasia is not trying the sub routine for Grey's enormous wealth. Then why is she willing to put up with Grey's outlandish demands?

What the plot lacks is psychological insight into Anastasia and a coherent explanation of Christian Grey's psychological development. That he was a sub as a teenager to a much older woman, and enjoyed that role, does not explain how he became a dom to women his own age.


Generic Toothbrush Heads for Braun Oral-B EB17-4
Generic Toothbrush Heads for Braun Oral-B EB17-4
Offered by Red Mall
Price: $3.44
8 used & new from $2.75

4.0 out of 5 stars An inexpensive substitute, January 30, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The generic brushes are much less expensive than the brand names. On the whole, they function well. However, from time to time, they detach from the toothbrush holder. Not a serious problem.

They were delivered in good order and speedily.


The Lawgiver: A Novel
The Lawgiver: A Novel
by Herman Wouk
Edition: Hardcover
142 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing "Novel", December 29, 2012
This review is from: The Lawgiver: A Novel (Hardcover)
Herman Wouk and I have grown old together. Over the decades, I have read most of his books. Some I liked better than others. However, in all of his novels he has been an excellent raconteur. Now in his nineties, he apparently has lost the skill of composing a story with an interesting plot. Wouk was interviewed about his new book by the AARP magazine. That is where I found out about his newest work. There are not many active authors 97 years old; the AARP sees him as a role model. With the lofty title "The Lawgiver," (Moses) I had great expectations for his newest work.
"The Lawgiver" is a fictitious report about making a film about Moses, with the author as a consultant. It consists of memos, emails, Skype conversations, summaries of discussions, recorded phone calls, tweets, and even handwritten snippets of notes. Wouk himself is not enchanted with the movie idea. However, an Australian multimillionaire and an Israeli film writer, among many others, are gung-ho to bring this film into being. While the role of the author in this project is being argued about, the various suggestions and proposed millions of dollars involved in this project are all meticulously recorded. Mostly, it is about the shenanigans of producing a successful Hollywood film. To my disappointment, the lofty title has been reduced to . . . an endless stream of messages.
After reading some fifty pages of the book, I grew bored and skipped to the last pages. The story eventually leads to a defined role for Herman Wouk as a consultant for this film. Since I have not been invited to take part in this monumental endeavor, I saw no reason to read the long "The Lawgiver" file that Wouk had compiled.
As always in Wouk's books, a Jewish component(s) is prominent. That is even true in the "Caine Mutiny," which has absolutely nothing to do with Judaism. To appreciate fully "Moses the Lawgiver", the reader needs a fair knowledge of Hebrew and Yiddish, an understanding a various Hasidic factions, the principles of Orthodox Jewish education of children, and the like. While the book is about a Moses film, certainly a Jewish subject, it would have been easier to read without the author's references to obscure Jewish subjects. I am certain that this point did not weigh on Wouk's mind. This is his way of writing.
Wouk's work bored me. The Hollywood machinations are not new revelations. However, probably many readers - I am not among them -would enjoy the endless gossipy correspondence Wouk records in tedious detail. With this in mind, I award the book three stars.


In the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari
In the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari
by Fabio Geda
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.81
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Touching Story of a Child Fleeing His Homeland, April 5, 2012
Fabio Geda undertook a challenging task: Recording the saga of a Hazara Afghan child in his own words. This would have been a difficult task for an author had he written about a child in his own country (Italy). However, the hero, Enaiatollah, is an Afghan, belonging to a minority which is the lowest on the totem pole, despised by the Taliban. This makes the story more complicated, considering that the author (really editor) is not familiar with the extremely convoluted conditions in Afghanistan.

Letting the boy tell his harrowing tale with very few questions from Geda makes the story even more touching. However, it would have been better if the author had added an epilogue explaining a number of important enigmatic occurrences in the book. The hero is old enough by the end of the story to give his own explanations, or speculations, about various aspects of his story.

After the Taliban murders Enaiatollah's teachers and closes his school, his mother smuggles him from his village in Afghanistan to Quetta in Pakistan, when he is (maybe) ten years old. In his village there were no birth certificates and his age, at various stages in the narration, is always a rough guess. She gives him a short moral lesson how to conduct his life and abandons him there. Without any connections, hardly knowing the language the people in this area of Pakistan speak, the little boy has to find shelter and a way to feed himself. The same scene repeats itself time and again, as he moves from Pakistan to Iran, thence to Turkey and Greece. Eventually, he reaches Italy, where he is granted asylum as a political refugee.

In all these countries there are professional smugglers who, for a price, will conduct people from one country to another. Most of the time, even the "reliable" traffickers expose their charges to horrendous dangers. Worse, sending children by dinghy from Turkey to Greece across the sea, is almost sure to cause them to die by drowning. In a way, the children are luckier than adults are, because they do not fully anticipate the dangers they would face.

The authorities in all of these countries are against foreigners who have no legal right to work in their countries. Nonetheless, the children do find work. In Greece, for instance, just before the Olympics, they are put to work to finish the preparations for the great event. In all countries, their treatment depends on who apprehends these workers. They are often beaten, sent to prison, or just held temporarily at a police station. These workers, whatever their legal status, perform vital functions in the economy of their "host" countries.

A few times, Geda does ask Enaiatollah to clarify certain points. However, as far as the reader is concerned, these are not as crucial as much more important items the author neglects. Two examples: The hero's mother takes very dangerous steps to make sure her eldest child is out of Afghanistan rather than live under the Taliban rule. He is very young at the time and cannot be given complicated oral instructions how to be reunited with his family at some point in the future. Written instructions would be too dangerous to carry, and it is not clear whether the mother can write. So her young son is left without a rupee to his name in a strange country to fend for himself. Interviewing the adult Enaiatollah it would have made sense for Fabio Geda to ask: "What do you think your mother had in mind when she abandoned you in Pakistan?" It is noteworthy that Enaiatollah reacts to his abandonment as an adult rather than a little boy. He weighs his options and makes whatever arrangement he can for food and shelter. It would have been worth asking the adult Enaiatollah how he had avoided a mental breakdown and, probably, starvation.

The second example is in the last chapters of the book. While the rest of the book covers the life of the hero in detail, once he is in Italy things move much too fast. For a boy who has studied in a village school for three or four years, who does not know the Latin alphabet, he manages to graduate from an Italian high school in a few years and is ready for a university. Somehow, he has also prospered financially. Now that the former boy is an adult, he can give a coherent account, how all of this has come to pass. In the author's epilogue, however, there is only a five-line paragraph explaining all these new developments.

"In the Sea There Are Crocodiles," is a touching book. Due to complex political, religious, and tribal circumstances, a very young child is forced to flee from country to country, under unspeakable conditions, to be able to survive. In the hero's case, he survives successfully and with dignity.


The King's Mistress: A Novel
The King's Mistress: A Novel
by Emma Campion
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.94
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Missing "H" word, November 4, 2011
"The King's Mistress" is charming historical novel describing the much-reviled mistress of Edward III, king of England, whom history has judged harshly. It is written in the first person by Alice, the mistress, from a woman's point view. There are endless descriptions of clothes, jewelry, decorations, furniture, and many other items that a male narrator might not have paid attention to. Alice's thesis is that the lives of women are governed by men folk so that much of what happens to her, good or bad, is not of her own doing. The book also portrays life in 14th century England - a time of plague, social upheaval, and deep religiosity - making for fascinating reading.

This work has been reviewed on Amazon by scores of readers. It will serve no purpose to repeat the outline of the plot. One point that has not been raised by the reviewers, or by the author herself, is the complete story of the murder of the king's father, Edward II. In this the author follows the convention of most historians. History books use meaningless clichés when referring to the life of Edward II. An old edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia states that Edward II expelled his son's best friend, Piers Gaveston, from England, because of the prince's "tendencies." Most history books refer to the animosity of the barons against Edward II because of the advantages he bestowed upon his "favorites." This is a silly adjective, since all rulers have favorites. Historians speak of "slights" his wife, queen Isabella, was subjected to by the king. What these slights were is left to the readers' imagination. (She eventually went to France, taking her son, later Edward III, with her. After she and her son returned to England, she, together with the barons, overthrew her husband, the king.) The prudish historians (and, unfortunately, also Emma Campion) refrain from using the term "homosexual" when referring to Edward II. These history books are not intended to be read by children attending Sunday school. One wonders why this word is more offensive than the frequent mention of torture, mayhem, endless wars, and many other horrible atrocities. Being the king's mistress, Alice is privy to the endless gossip in the king's many palaces. The extremely gruesome murder of the grandfather of three of Alice's children sired by Edward III would attract endless gossip. Half of the book deals with mysterious affairs between Alice's first husband and his Italian connections. These connections lead to murders and a kidnapping and also bring Alice into the royal court. Certainly, the story of the demise of the king's father deserves mentioning.

Edward II, after he was overthrown, was murdered by the insertion of a red-hot poker into his anus. Murdering kings was a particularly heinous offence since they were anointed by God. It would be better to find the dead body of the murdered king without telltale marks on his body. However, the king could have been poisoned without marks. It may well be that the manner in which he was killed was also symbolic. The subject of the king's murder is adequately covered in John Boswell's book "Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality," The University of Chicago Press,(1980), pp. 339-40.

Readers may well be disappointed that in 2009 the author followed the conformist approach of traditional historians who were too timorous to use the "H" word.


A Night of Long Knives (Hannah Vogel Novels)
A Night of Long Knives (Hannah Vogel Novels)
by Rebecca Cantrell
Edition: Hardcover
37 used & new from $1.20

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Beginning of a Catastrophe, August 25, 2011
The "Night of the Long Knives", a historical novel/mystery, has two aspects to it. One is the story of Hitler's liquidation of his potential rival, Röhm, and the leading members of the latter's organization, "The Brown Shirts" - the S.A. The other is the story of a woman trying to reclaim her adopted child.
The Röhm affair, a footnote to Nazi history, had devastating effects on thousands of German and Austrian homosexuals who were incarcerated in concentration camps. The exact numbers are unknown, for reasons I will discuss in the following paragraph.

Röhm started his Nazi career in the early 1920s. He was involved in the failed putsch (1924) that was organized by Hitler. Between the two of them, Röhm would have been a much more likely candidate than Hitler to take over Germany. He had been a World War I hero, holding the rank of major. (The author refers to him as a captain.) Hitler, a mere corporal in World War I, and an Austrian by birth, had much less going for him. However, he was more cunning than Röhm, and managed to personally arrest him for high treason, and liquidate him and the leading thugs of his Brown Shirts. Röhm and many of his followers, were openly homosexual. In Germany, unlike in many other European countries in those days, homosexuality was a criminal offence, under paragraph 175 of the criminal law. However, before the "Night of the Long Knives," it was practiced more or less freely in Germany. Of course, Hitler knew about Röhm's sexual inclination, but that did not bother him for a full decade (1934). However, after Hitler liquidated Röhm he gave the latter's homosexuality as one of the many reasons for the extra-judicial executions. Paragraph 175 was amended and subparagraph "a" was added. All sorts of sexual, or even semi-sexual, activities between men, became criminal offences. The Gestapo did not bother with legal niceties and shipped the "offenders" to concentration camps. The numbers are unknown, because this law was not abolished after the war. It had even been suggested in post-war Germany that homosexual concentration camp inmates serve the rest of their sentences in ordinary prisons. Naturally, few homosexuals came forward to recount their horrible experiences in the camps. Until relatively recently, historians rarely mentioned that there had been homosexual inmates in concentration camps. Many of the camps survivors, Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses, assorted political and religious leaders, often distinguished between themselves (innocent victims) and homosexuals who deserved incarceration.

The book's plot revolves around Röhm's homosexuality. Cantrell admits that some of her facts are fictitious and gives a list of them in an author's note at the very end of the book. I would suggest to the reader not to look at that note before finishing the book.

The other aspect of the book is the quest of a woman seeking her adopted child, Anton, allegedly fathered by Röhm. She had had experience as a crime reporter for a Berlin newspaper but fled abroad when Hitler started taking over the country. Her dead brother had been one of Röhm paramours. Because of her resemblance to her brother, Röhm wanted to marry her to prove that he was a good Nazi macho man. Many readers would wish that the heroine would find her adopted son through brilliant detective work rather than by being a super woman. She spends part of the night under the bed of a Gestapo investigator, is wounded twice by unsavory characters, endures all sorts of hair-raising hardships, but eventually succeeds in her mission. Many of her adventures seem implausible. Among the interesting vignettes in the book, is her flight from Brazil to Germany in a commercial German zeppelin.

Frankly, I was more interested in the historical descriptions than the narrator's adventures.


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