Sunday, November 15, 2009

Some good books

The Volunteer: The Incredible True Story of an Israeli Spy on the Trail of International Terrorists by Michael Ross (Author), Jonathan Kay (Author)

Excellent memoir by a spy who worked for Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Very well written. The author, Ross, is a Canadian by birth, who went to Israel by chance, liked the country so much so that he chose to convert to Judaism, became a Israeli citizen and then chose to serve in Israeli armed forces and then in famous Mossad. In this book, the author very tactfully writes about his life in Mossad. As a former secret officer, it is not possible to write about all his work due to its sensitive nature. That's where the authors excel. It's indeed an art to write interestingly when your hands are tied by code of ethics. A great book if you like to read about real life spies and their lives.

The Company She Keeps by Georgia Durante - Simply incredible story of one gutsy woman- the author- Georgia Durante. I could not really imagine one single person could go through so many testing times, trials and tribulations in one life time. Georgia not only went through many such tests but also emerged stronger and wiser from each experience. 'That does not kill you only makes you stronger' is no more true than in Georgia's case. Georgia grew up in Rochester. She went on to become one of the top models in 1970s. She was the famous 'Kodak Girl' for several years. She worked in other show biz related stuff. However, while she was going through her life, she also ran into many interesting people and situations created by them. Can you imagine a top model getting involved with mafia characters? On top of it, getting married to someone who was a pretty big guy in mafia those days? How about being the get away driver on some heists? Georgia had all those experiences and came pretty close to death many times. Then when she thought she was finally out of mafia related mess, a psycho gets into her life and becomes totally obsessed with her. This psycho nearly killed her in his obsession for her. Police could not help much against this maniac. So, Georgia had to go back to mob to get some help to get rid of this guy. Then FBI which was after mob was after Georgia. They wanted to cut some deals too. If you do not cooperate with FBI, they can set mob against you by spreading rumors that you are working against the mob. If you do cooperate with FBI, mob will come after you. What did Georgia do and how she came out of it? Then Georgia's daughter, who grew up in such dangerous conditions, became a drug addict. Georgia really did not need this. So, she put her in some de-addiction center in Montana. In the mean time, she was having enough problems from her third husband. While she thought, she finally met a good man, he died in a plane crash. Since Georgia had trusted all her money with her last man, she does not ready access to her own money. So, she is almost destitute once again! This goes on and on again. Ordinary people would have surely given up but not this gutsy woman. Finally, things start to change for better for Georgia. She now runs a very successful movie related business employing several people. Finally her life has been back on track. This is truly an inspiring book. At the end, like anybody who has gone through so much in one life time, Georgia also gets philosophical. She delivers some good points about life and God's choices etc. All in all a great read! If you watch bollywood films, have you watched 'Chandni Bar'? You may find some similarities. That movie ends in tragedy and in this one there is some good happening at the end.

Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin - Last year's financial disaster on the wall street is a great material for writers. As expected, many books have already come and many more are in the process. As expected, many writers wanted to be the first to come out with a book that chronicled those heady some 60 days in September and October of 2008 when everyone thought the world (at least the financial) has come to an end. It did seem so. With a major bank failing everyday, shotgun mergers between banks brokered by federal government, banks being nationalized. Everyone asked what's going on and nobody really knew other than what we read in news papers. No complete picture. This book, really a big one in size, systematically chronicles the disaster as seen by some of the very people who were part of it. All credit to the author who has beautifully dramatized the book. You really get a ringside seat and watch the meltdown blow by blow. Great book!

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy by Turner William, Jonn Christian

Recently finished reading this book. Earlier, I was reading some books on late president John F Kennedy(JFK). Did not know much about his younger brother Robert F Kennedy. Was intrigued to learn that Robert Kennedy (RFK) was the man who made JFK the president by completely owning the management of JFK's presidential campaign. JFK knew his brother was probably the only person he could rely on for anything. So, he made RFK the attorney general in JFK's government.

JFK did not live to complete his term. He was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. That's a different story. There are may conspiracy theories and what not. Just search on the net or try to search for books. There are way to many books on JFK's assassination. It is amazing that it close to 50 years since JFK's assassination, new information and books keep coming along. Anyway, RFK was devastated after his brother JFK's death. He went into shell for a while. He knew he could not continue as attorney general under Lyndon B Johnson who was vice president at the time of JFK's death and became the president afterwards. So, RFK put his life on slow gear for a while.

It always bothered RFK that he or nobody really knew who killed his brother JFK and for what. There were many theories. Cuban exiles might have done it because they were disgruntled at JFK for not supporting them enough to overthrow Castro. Mob might have killed JFK because mob helped him get elected and after becoming president he did not return favors. Soviets, Israelis and many more possibilities. RFK was always trying to find the real killers using his informal contacts and connections. Some powerful people who probably had something to do with JFK's assassination did not like RFK continuing to pursue his private investigation into finding out who assassinated JFK and for what.

RFK had presidential ambitions. But, not in 1968. Like everyone else, he thought Johnson would go for re-election. So, RFK thought he would run in 1972. But, out of the blue, to everyone's surprise, Johnson announced that he was not going to run. So, democratic ticket was wide open. Johnson had his favorite in Herbert Humprey. There was another candidate Eugene McCarthy. RFK was startled. He could not wait any longer. He had to run for the president of USA. So, he too announced his candidacy for democratic ticket. This disappointed others because he chose to do it very late after others had made plans thinking that he was not going to.

Deciding to run for democratic ticket in 1968 probably sealed RFK's fate. As said earlier, people knew that he was still investigating JFK's death on his own. He did not believe in the hogwash of Warren report  that parroted out what nobody believed about JFK's death. So, vested interests who were responsible for JFK's death were very concerned that if RFK became the president, he would go full speed and their fate might get in danger. So, it is said the powerful people started to plan a mission that would send RFK also to the place where they had sent his brother JFK for not playing well with those powerful forces.

RFK started doing well in democratic primaries. In a very short time, he got significant lead over his other democratic opponents. He had just won the all important California primary. After winning the California primary, he gave a speech to his cheering supporters at a hotel in Los Angeles. After the ceremony, he was getting out to go home. He was passing through hotel's kitchen to use the back door. Suddenly a man leapt from nowhere and pumped bullets into RFK. RFK was badly wounded. After a brief time at hospital, RFK was gone. Dead. Assassinated very much like his brother JFK was.

Well, authorities caught someone called Srihan Srihan. He was a palestinian american. They said he killed RFK because he was angry at RFK and America for supporting Israel against Palestinians. He was tried and sentenced to death. His sentence was later reduced to life. The man is still serving his time in some prison in California.

But, was RFK's killing that simple? This is the question the book tries to ask. It makes a case that Srihan was not the only person involved. Probably there were few more assassins. Because there were bullets fired at RFK from the front and back. Lone killer would not have been able to do so under normal circumstances. So, authors started investigating. They pursued conspiracy theories. Was Srihan programmed using hypnosis to act under the orders of his remote controller? This question gets very interesting when authors systematically explore the possibility using medical experts and some damning evidence found with Srihan. Srihan's note book and his mindless scribbling of hatred against RFK beg more questions if he was brain-washed. It is interesting that there was a novel and a movie based on the novel called 'Manchurian Candidate'. In the movie, same thing happens. A man with no motives is hypnotized  into killing the presidential candidates. Which came first? Novel or the conspiracy theory? By the way, Manchurian Candidate was re-made recently. Good movie to watch.

Lot of questions. Few answers. RFK's death did not generate as much curiosity as his brother JFK's death did. Soon after that americans got mired in Richard Nixon scandal. Nobody paid much attention to JFK and RFK assassinations.

Good book. It could have been a great political thriller if the writing style were more captivating. It reads more like a police report than a book. Gets boring at times. Thankfully, I read it on my Kindle. So, when I got bored I just asked Kindle to read it for me.


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