Sunday Book Reviews – 3/21/21

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

The Tempting of America by Robert Bork (1990, Free Press)

This is a book which offers no safe haven to contemporary political parties, despite having been written more than thirty years ago. It is a step-by-step reproduction of what can be isolated as the beginning of the contemporary politicization of judicial nominations by the man at the center of that nomination, Robert Bork. He outlines exactly how and why his nomination to the Supreme Court was derailed, and provides extensive notes both on what was said about him and the documentation which consistently rebuts those allegations.

Mingled with the autobiographical work and his corrections of the record are his thoughts on the dangers of allowing political agendas to override legal qualifications in the nomination process, particularly when those agendas are tied to knowingly false statements. While the book is replete with condemnations of the “new Left”, his explanations of the faults ring more true of contemporary Republicans than they do even of the Democrats: the abandonment of truth to pursue political agendas and the willingness to subvert our system of government. His warnings from 1990 seem prescient when considering the ever-greater prominence politics has played in the seating of judges and Justices, all the way up to the inconsistent and fundamentally unethical standard deviation on display between Merrick Garland and Amy Coney-Barrett, and the attempted coup of January 2021.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to walk away from the book with a positive view of the contemporary Democratic party. While he reserves some condemnation for Senator Edward Kennedy, who set the tone for his vilification, and then-imperiled Republican Senator Arlen Specter (Specter went on to win re-election in 1992 as an incumbent with less than 50% of the vote) who sided with the Democrats, he targets most of his ire at the man who headed the committee that promoted blatant falsehoods – including in the form of official reports – in the successful effort to demonize the judge, and the man who he viewed as singularly unethical and responsible for politicizing the judicial nomination process: Then-Senator Joe Biden.

It’s a book which is useful and informative. Between the documentation of misrepresentations and the dire predictions which have since become manifest, it’s more than a little fascinating. It’s simply not likely to leave people feeling satisfied with the current state of politics in America.

The Saint Sees It Through by Leslie Charteris (1947, Hodder & Stoughton)

The Saint was created in 1928 as a modern-day Robin Hood, a man who regularly crosses paths with some of the worst rogues and conmen on the planet and gives them their comeuppance, albeit not always via legal methods. During World War II the character turned his attention, as did many other popular heroes of the day, to fighting spies and Nazis.

The Saint Sees It Through marked the shift into the character’s post-war era. Having graduated from simple con games during World War II, the book finds the main character acting for a secretive but highly authoritative agency of the American government.

This is where The Saint books became progenitors of what would become the Men’s Adventure genre. The Saint – Simon Templar – becomes an international adventurer, fighting complex organizations and solving mysteries. It was a role he would fill for decades to come.

The author had developed his style by this point, which included irregular breaking of the fourth wall both by the narrator and the main character. It is a feature which provides a measure of distinction to the series, but which can be a bit jarring if unexpected. The acknowledgement of fiction conventions help to gloss over many of the obvious flaws in logical story progression: The Saint doesn’t need to use anything more than luck and bold moves during his investigations; pieces will fall into place for him without needing to be hunted, and all he is required to do is recognize them for what they are and what they mean.

This title also presents Charteris attempting to break with stereotypes. In it, he kills his first villainous woman and a gay man is presented as something beyond a simpering lackey. They’re baby steps, with descriptions and commentary in keeping with what might be expected from 1947, but they’re movement toward a greater depth of characterization for the series.

It’s a fun book and a fun series, provided one knows what they are likely to get from it.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.