Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Books: Eclectic Mix Of New Titles Out Today

There are many exciting books, on a variety of topics that are sure to pique your interests, that are being released today: Ghosts of Honolulu: A Japanese Spy, A Japanese American Spy Hunter, and the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor, by Mark Harmon and Leon Carroll, Jr.; Einstein In Time and Space: A Life in 99 Particles, by Samuel Graydon; Borderline: Defending The Home Front, by Vincent Vargas; The Fatal Alliance: A Century of War on Film, by David Thomson; The Risk It Takes To Bloom, By Raquel Willis; Killing The Image: A Champion's Journey of Faith, Fighting, and Forgiveness, by Andre Ward, with Nick Chiles; The Twist of a Knife, by Anthony Horowitz; and I Wouldn't Do That If I Were Me, by Jason Gay. 

Ghosts of Honolulu: A Japanese Spy, A Japanese American Spy Hunter, and the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor

By Mark Harmon and Leon Carroll, Jr.

Harper Select; hardcover, 272 pages; $29.99; available today, Tuesday, November 14th

Mark Harmon is a longtime actor most known for playing Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the hit show "NCIS" for 18 seasons, while also serving as Executive Producer. Harmon's other television roles include "St. Elsewhere," "Chicago Hope," for which he and his costars received two Best Ensemble SAG Award Nominations; and "The West Wing," for which he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. His movie credits include Lawrence Kasden's "Wyatt Earp," "Stealing Home," in which he starred with Jodie Foster, and Carl Reiner's smash hit, "Summer School." Before his acting career, Harmon was a quarterback at UCLA, and the National Football Foundation recently honored him with their highest honor, the Gold Medal, which made him the first to receive both that and the Scholar Athlete Award.

Leon Carroll Jr. is the technical advisor for "NCIS," following his 20-year career as a Special Agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. He served in seven different locations, including tours as a Special Agent Afloat on the USS Ranger (CV-61) and as the Special Agent in Charge of NCIS offices in the Republic of Panama and the Pacific Northwest. Before his distinguished NCIS career, Carroll Jr. was a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps, as he served on active duty for six years and three years in the Marine Corps Reserves, attaining the rank of Major.

In Ghosts of Honolulu, Harmon and Carroll Jr. tell the story of a U.S. naval counterintelligence officer, Douglas Wada, who worked to safeguard Pearl Harbor, and Takeo Yoshikawa, a Japanese spy ordered to Hawaii to gather information on the American fleet, and how their hidden stories were exposed on a morning of bloodshed that changed the world forever on December 7, 1941.

War clouds with Japan were gathering and the islands of Hawaii have become battlegrounds of spies, intelligence agents, and military officials, and the island's residents are caught between them. Douglas Wada was the Japanese American agent in naval intelligence, and his experiences in his native Honolulu include posing undercover as a newspaper reporter, translating wiretaps on the Japanese Consulate, and interrogating America's first captured POW of World War II, a submarine officer found on the beach. Takeo Yoshikawa is a Japanese spy who operated as a junior diplomat with the consulate who collected vital information that went straight to Admiral Yamamoto.

Their dueling stories anchor the gripping depiction of the cat-and-mouse games played between Japanese and US military intelligence agents, as well as a mercenary Nazi, in Hawaii before World War II broke out. Also caught in the upheaval are Honolulu'a innocent residents, including Wada's father, who endure the war's anti-Japanese fervor and a cadre of intelligence professionals who have to prevent Hawaii from adopting the same destructive mass internment camps as California.

Harmon and Carroll Jr. scrutinize long-buried historical documents to bring to the forefront this true-life NCIS story of deception, discovery, and danger in the high stakes game of naval intelligence where it was hard to define what was real.

Einstein In Time and Space: A Life in 99 Particles

By Samuel Graydon

Scribner; hardcover, 368 pages; $30.00; available today, Tuesday, November 14th

Samuel Graydon is the science editor at The Times Literary Supplement who has published short fiction and has been longlisted for an Alpine Fellowship. 

This new biography of Albert Einstein that Graydon has written has 99 intriguing vignettes about the man, a mosaic that captures the essence of the person, with all its contradictions, who reshaped our understanding of the universe. It found its inspiration in Craig Brown's mosaic biography "Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret."

Einstein had ninety-nine selves, and some are positioned non-chronologically to create interesting juxtapositions, which gives it a conversational feel when one idea sprouts another. There is the young Einstein who struggled academically, a slacker who failed every subject but math; a charismatic partygoer and a lothario who courted many women;  a flawed yet brilliant thinker; an avid supporter of the NAACP and a civil rights advocate, while at the same time, someone capable of great prejudice.

Graydon captures a man loved by many, known by few, and inspirational to a generation of young physicists. He reveals every corner of Einstein's world, from the false reporting that rocketed Einstein to fame nearly overnight, his effect on people he met merely in passing, even the remarkable posthumous journey of the famed physicist's brain.

Within these stories are some of the most remarkable people of the twentieth century, not just from the scientific world, but all walks of life, including Marie Curie, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, President Warren G. Harding, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka, Bertrand Russell, Niels Bohr, Mary Pickford, William Randolph Hearst, Luise Rainer, Werner Heisenberg, and Arthur Schrodinger.

Borderline: Defending The Home Front 

By Vincent Vargas

JOCKO PRESS, St. Martin's Press; hardcover, 320 pages; $30.00; available today, Tuesday, November 14th

Vincent Vargas is a Los Angeles native who served four years of active duty in the United States Army, with three combat deployments with 2nd Battalion of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. He then joined the U.S. Army Reserves, where he continues to serve as a drill sergeant. In 2009, he became a Federal Agent with the Department of Homeland Security and served as a Medic with the Special Operations Group. He is an entrepreneur, actor, writer, and producer who currently stars on the FX show, Mayans MC. He is happily married with seven children and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Borderline is Vargas' new book, and it looks at his life at war in the Middle East and as a member of the U.S. Border Patrol. It is an inside look at the border the United States shares with Mexico, 2,000 miles of our national border that's a thin line of underfunded, overworked, and underappreciated Border Patrol Agents who stand guard. 

It is a world that is dramatic, violent, and always controversial. From human trafficking to drug smuggling, Vargas has seen it all, and it is migrants who have mostly paid the price. It is the fate of these thousands of migrants that is at the root of the dilemma. 

While the migrant issue and border security is in the news all the time, very little time is spent on the humanitarian aspects of it, and the nation's leaders have turned the conflict into a political weapon. He cuts through the chatter to reveal the true human cost. Vargas' grandmother came to the U.S. as an illegal immigrant, displays heartfelt empathy for those entering the U.S. seeking a better life. He also captures the life of Border Patrol Agents, and recounts in novelistic style the many water rescues of migrants unable to navigate the treacherous Rio Grande River, as well as gun battles from both sides of the border and across the river with "coyotes," human traffickers, and drug cartel members.


The Fatal Alliance: A Century of War on Film

By David Thomson

HarperCollins Publishers/Harper Books; hardcover, 448 pages; $35.00; available today, Tuesday, November 14th

David Thomson is the author of more than twenty-five books, including The Biographical Dictionary of Film, biographies of Orson Welles and David O. Selznick, and the pioneering novel Suspects, which featured characters from film. He has been called "probably the very best film critic-historian currently writing" by Oscar-nominated director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich.

In the monumental new book, The Fatal Alliance: A Century of War on Film, Thomson explored how war and cinema have been inextricably linked since the film industry's earliest days, which led to the creation of the one of the greatest and most enduring movie genres.

Thomson praises many classic films and less-remembered cinematic versions of both World Wars, Vietnam, and many other conflicts of the last century, while also considering how the viewing public, as civilians, embrace depictions of violence on a graphic scale, such as the heart-stopping theatrics in Apocalypse Now and Black Hawk Down. Thomson sees this as a troubling conundrum at the heart of our love and war films, and what this reality says about us, our culture, and our changing sense of warfare and the past.

There is a deep dive into our highest-regarded war films, from The Bridge on the River Kwai to Saving Private Ryan to The Hurt Locker, exploring how these movies repeat patterns of misguided hopes and brutal reality. 

Horowitz writes, "Of course, war is a cold, ugly game. I'm sure you want to be clear about that, even if the endless insistence may spell out our derangement. We feel that disapproving way every time combat is posited, in parts of the world we still hardly know. It is a source of immense destruction, of cities and nations, lives and hopes. So you wonder sometimes where our race and civilization might have been without war...

"Then ask why this terrible thing so entertains us that we cannot stop looking at it. This fun has gone so far beyond diligent attempts to record or re-create combat - the way real land is won and lost; the frailty of brave, uniformed men wilting under fire. That early stress on the physicality of war has given way to a cinematic takeover of combat in which the labor of engines and men in the mud has been supplanted by the smoothness of computers, the soaring of lethal flight, and the simplification of destroyed lives as animated shapes. This is how the acknowledged catastrophe in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930, and now again) turned into the childish zest of Star Wars (begun in 1977). But Star Wars was a long time ago already, and we have found new ways to do war that are as fabulous and exciting as a son et lumiere of the Somme or Stalingrad. Do you know what those places looked like - or are they all movie now?"

The Risk It Takes to Bloom

By Raquel Willis

St. Martin's Press; hardcover, 384 pages; $29.00; available today Tuesday, November 14th

Raquel Willis (she/her) is an award-winning writer, activist, and media strategist dedicated the Black transgender liberation. She has been the communications director for Ms. Foundation for Women, executive editor of Out magazine, and national organizer for Transgender Law Center. Her writing has appeared in Black Futures by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blain.

The Risk It Takes to Bloom is Willis' first book, a powerful memoir about her life of transformation and work towards collective liberation. She recounts with passion and candor her experiences through the Obama and Trump eras, and the possibility of transformation after tragedy and how complex moments can push everyone to take necessary risks. The publication of this work coincides with Transgender Awareness Week, November 13-19, and Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20.

Willis was born in Augusta, Georgia, to Black Catholic parents, and she spent years feeling isolated, even within her loving, close-knit family. There was little access to understanding what it meant to be queer and transgender, but that all changed when she attended the University of Georgia and she found the LGBTQ+ community there, fell in love, and explored her gender for the first time.

Raquel entered a career in journalism against the backdrop of the burgeoning Movement for Black Lives and new visibility of the trans community. After she hid her identity on the job, her increased awareness of violence plaguing transgender women of color, and the heightened suicide of trans teens, inspired her to come out publicly. She spent a few years working as a community organizer in Atlanta, Oakland, and New York, and emerged as one of the most formidable Black trans activists in history.

In 2017, Willis had her first big moment as she took to the podium at the National Women's March just after Donald Trump was elected president, ready to tell her story as a young Black transgender activist from the South. Even though her time was cut short, the appearance only strengthened her commitment to speaking up for communities on the margins.

AUTHOR APPEARANCE: Raquel Willis will be appearing with award-winning actor and author Elliot Page at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway) on Thursday, November 16 from 7-9 p.m. in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd floor. Tickets are $25 ($20 for members), and books will be available for purchase. Please click here for more information.

Killing The Image: A Champion's Journey of Faith, Fighting, and Forgiveness

By Andre Ward, with Nick Chiles

Harper Horizon; hardcover, 224 pages; $28.99; available today, Tuesday, November 14th

Andre Ward is a retired world champion and Hall of Fame boxer, as well as a licensed minister and youth pastor at his church, The Wall Christian Community in Livermore, California. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Tiffney, and they have five children. They live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and view writing as a passion and a ministry and they look forward to this being the first of many books.

In Killing The Image, Ward tells the gripping story of his unforgettable career, his rock-solid faith, and why boxing was never the biggest fight of his life. In the social media post Ward write to promote the book, he said, "We really want to inspire people to get up and go do something with their lives, and to know that if I overcame, and if I got through the obstacles and the struggles that I got through and I'm still standing today to talk about it, that you can do the same. In writing this book, the main thing I took away from the process was that my life in the midst of it all, was a beautiful struggle. I am just grateful that God gave me the opportunity to tell my story."

Ward was the undefeated heavyweight boxing champion of the world when he walked away from the ring and did not look back. He also was an Olympic gold medalist, and this memoir is a motivational, faith-building, and compelling story of how he overcame a broken childhood and broke destructive generational bonds, while forgiving those who hurt him, and moving toward hope. It led him to be known for his integrity outside the ring, his warrior's instinct inside it, and his unrelenting bond with the Gold who called him to his greatest victory.

The Twist of a Knife 

By Anthony Horowitz

Harper Perennial/HarperCollins Publishers; paperback, 384 pages; $19.99; available today, Tuesday, November 14th

Anthony Horowitz is a prolific author who has written the bestsellers Magpie Murders and The Word is Murder. His novel Trigger Mortis features original material from Ian Fleming, and his most recent Sherlock Holmes novel, Moriarty, is a hit among readers. His bestselling Alex Rider series for young adults has sold over 19 million copies worldwide. As a TV screenwriter, he created both the award-winning Midsomer Murders and the BAFTA-winning Foyle's War for PBS.    

The Twist of a Knife, now available in paperback, is the fourth in Horowitz's inventive, witty 'meta' series, following The Word is Murder, The Sentence is Death, and A Line to Kill, where the author once again places himself into the story. 

The story opens when a theater critic is murdered a day after panning Anthony Horowitz's new play, and he is arrested for the crime. Only his ex-detective pal, Daniel Hawthorne, can prove his innocence, but will he do it? 

Long before that happens, reluctant author Horowitz told Hawthorne, "I'm sorry but the answer's no," that after three books they did together, he's splitting, and their deal is over. Anthony has other things on his mind, starting with his new play, a thriller named Mindgame, which is about to open at the Vaudeville Theater in London's West End. Hawthorne passes on a ticket for opening night.

Critics pan the play, in particular Sunday Times critic Margaret Throsby, who gave it a savage review and focused particularly on the writing. The next day, Throsby is stabbed in the heart with an ornamental dagger that actually belongs to Anthony, and has his fingerprints all over it.

Anthony is arrested by an old enemy, Detective Inspector Cara Grunshaw. She still hold a grudge from her failure to solve the case described in the second Hawthorne adventure, The Sentence is Death, and blames Anthony. Now, she is set on revenge. Thrown into prison and fearing for both his personal failure and his writing career, Anthony is the prime suspect. When a second theatre critic is found to have died in mysterious circumstances, the net closes in on him. Now, at his most desperate, it it clearer than ever that only Hawthorne can help him, but whether he takes the call is the big whodunit in another Horowitz classic.

I Wouldn't Do That If I Were Me: Modern Blunders and Modest Triumphs (but Mostly Blunders)

By Jason Gay

Hachette Books; paperback; $17.99; available today, Tuesday, November 14th

Jason Gay is the sports and humor columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and he was named the Sports Columnist of the Year by the Society of Professional Journalists in 2010, 2016, and 2019. He is the author of Little Victories, a New York Times bestseller, and a finalist for the 2016 Thurber Prize in American Humor.

In Gay's latest book, I Wouldn't Do That If I Were Me, which is now out in paperback, he lends his humor and insight to life in the face of overwhelming societal change that we never could have anticipated. These have affected parenthood, marriage, friendship, work, and play, and other aspects of the strange lives we find ourselves living.

There is a lot on how the pandemic lockdowns reshaped the world, as everyone was on edge and stuck at home, questioning everything, while trying to navigate a digital landscape that changed how we think, parent, coach, and live. The book is a series of interconnected personal pieces that allow Gay to take on this new state of being in a comedic way, as he looks for optimism and joy in the face of discouragement. 

There is the rowdy ride he took with his son, Jesse, down to the Daytona 500 in February 2020, with the race itself one that many people will remember where they were, while also having no idea what was to come a month later. 

"To see a car race in the flesh is to be reminded, as with many events, that television is a lousy substitute for the in-person thing," Gay writes. "Daytona, like all NASCAR fare, is cacophonously, molar-rattling loud. Earplugs are not a recommendation but a must, and I'm not talking about the doughy plugs you roll in your ears as you nuzzle into seat 35B. I'm talking about the type of ear-smothering cans that look like they contain transistor radios and get worn when you're chainsawing a redwood.

"President Trump, now in the house, does his thing. It's a brief speech, capped by the 'Gentleman, start your engines' bit, and then he steps inside his beefy executive limousine - nicknamed 'The Beast' - and takes a slow twirl around the track as the Daytona field follows behind.

"Jesse has never seen a president before. Now I'm thinking of him in his seventies being asked by a grandchild, 'When what the first time you saw a president?'

"'Well, I did see one drive slowly in a car around the track at the Daytona 500.'

"(Whereupon his grandkids will ask, 'People used to drive cars?')"

Other things Gay confides to the reader are his hilariously banal texts with his wife, and allows his mom to kidnap the family kit. There also are tales of the modest thrills of Little League parenting to reckoning with the impending death of a close friend. Put together, these vignettes are meant to run the gamut of modern life and how he approaches each of them with humility, grace, and some laughs. Those are three traits all people should have, and in this book, as in his Journal columns, that humanity shines through.

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