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The Men (and Women) Who Knew Too Much: History's Most Notorious Spies

Nobody knows spies like Ben Macintyre. With Double Cross, Agent Zigzag, and Operation Mincemeat, the London-based author established himself as the master chronicler of spooks and subterfuge, a biographer of the most eccentric personalities ever to dwell in the shadows of diplomacy. (Macintyre is also a regular dweller of our Best of the Month lists.) His latest, A Spy Among Friends, tackles the story of the man who may have been the most damaging double-agent in history: Kim Philby, Britain's top spy-hunter charged with catching Soviet moles, who all the while spilled deadly secrets to the Soviets themselves.

We couldn't think of anyone more qualified than Ben Macintyre to ask for history's most notorious double-crossers, and unsurprisingly (spoiler alert) Philby made the list.

 

A Spy Among Friends

 

History's Five Most Notorious Double-Agents

by Ben Macintyre

The FBI has coined an acronym to describe the motivations of the spy: MICE, which stands for Money, Ideology, Coercion and Ego. Some spies are inspired by simple greed; others by pure conviction. But the greatest spies of all are a driven by something that defies categorization: a love of espionage, an addiction to the thrill and danger of subterfuge, and a dedication to this most fickle of professions for its own sake. The most successful and notorious spies in history have all possessed this peculiar quality: they each fell in love with spying itself, and remained besotted, prepared to take the most appalling risks to remain one step ahead in the lethal espionage game. These are the most dangerous spies of all, because they cannot be controlled by money or blackmail, by appeals to their vanity or ideology. They do it for love of the game.   

Eddie Chapman
Chapman was a burglar, con man, and gangster in pre-war London, who happened to be in prison in Jersey when the Nazis invaded the Channel Islands. He struck a deal with the Germans to spy against Britain in exchange for his freedom. Trained at a spy school in occupied France, he was parachuted into Britain in 1942, and immediately defected to British intelligence. For the rest of the war, he spied for Britain, while pretending to spy for Germany. The British code-named him “Agent Zigzag,” because they could never be sure whose side he was on. The Germans never realized the game he was playing, and even awarded him the Iron Cross for services to the Third Reich. After the war, Chapman immediately returned to a professional life of crime.

Richard Sorge
Ian Fleming, the creator James Bond, considered the half-German and half-Russian Richard Sorge to have been “the most formidable spy in history.” A committed communist, Sorge spied for the Soviets in Japan at the start of the war, supplying vital military intelligence gleaned while ostensibly working as a journalist. He even informed Moscow that Japan was not planning to attack the USSR, which enabled the transfer of Soviet troops from the east to defend Moscow and changed the course of the war. Sorge was eventually betrayed, captured by the Japanese secret police, tortured into confessing, and hanged in November 1944. In 1964 he was recognized as a Hero of the Soviet Union.  

Juan Pujol
Pujol was a Spanish chicken farmer, who managed to get himself recruited as a German spy at the start of the war while always intending to spy for the Allies. He is one of the very few spies in history who set out to become a double agent.  Ensconced in a safe house in London, Pujol (codenamed Garbo, on account of his acting abilities) not only supplied reams of false information to the Germans, but invented no fewer than twenty-nine additional sub-agents, all of whom were entirely fictitious, and wholly deceptive. He was one-man band, with a huge, invented orchestra. Pujol was, in a way, a spy-novelist, creating an imaginary world and then luring his German spy-masters into the illusion that it was real. He played a pivotal role in the run-up to D-Day, successfully convincing the Germans that the invasion would come at Calais, and not Normandy, thus tying up thousands of German troops. After the war, he took on a false name, and vanished into obscurity.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow
Greenhow was not technically a double agent, since she only ever spied for one side (the Confederates during the Civil War), but she was undoubtedly America’s most successful woman spy. Socialite, diplomat and secret agent, she ran an extensive spy network in Washington, DC, during 1861, helped to bring about Union defeat in the First Battle of Bull Run. Betrayed and captured, she was imprisoned for five months and then deported to Richmond. Undaunted, she then represented the Confederacy on a diplomatic mission to France and Britain, and was drowned after her ship ran aground on the return journey. Greenhow was a ferocious ideologue, but a most effective spy: “Instead of loving the old flag of the stars and stripes, I see in it only the symbol of murder, plunder, oppression, and shame,” she said.
 
Kim Philby
The notorious British spy and KGB agent was recruited to the communist cause in 1934, and went on to achieve something no other spy has managed: he got himself recruited by the enemy spy-organization, namely Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6. By 1944 he had become head of the Soviet counter-intelligence section of MI6, responsible for attacking Soviet espionage around the world, exposing Russian spies and breaking up the USSR’s spy rings. In other words, he was in charge of hunting people like himself. Tipped as the future head of MI6, he used his position to extract a multitude of secrets from his friends in British and American intelligence, and did spectacular damage by betraying everything to Moscow. Hundreds, if not thousands, died as result of Philby’s betrayals, for which he never expressed a single word of remorse.

Philby was the most remarkable example of a spy acting, in the end, out of pure love for the game of espionage. Philby was a master spy, addicted to the thrill of betrayal, whose willingness to manipulate and double-cross his friends allowed him to survive uncaught for three decades, and then escape to Moscow to spend the rest of his days. Philby is the greatest double agent in history.

Gumshoe 101: Your Guide to Becoming a Self-Made Detective

Deborah Halber's new book The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases, digs into the underground network of self-made detectives working to solve mysteries of unidentified human remains, using modern tools to put names and faces to thousands of John and Jane Does--often in unofficial competition with the police, as well as each other. Here Halber offers her guide to becoming a successful shamus for the Information Age.

Skeleton Crew

 

Essential Tools and Tips for Becoming a Successful Private Investigator

by Deborah Halber

Just to be clear, I would make a lousy PI. A reviewer noted that in my newly released narrative nonfiction book, The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases, my writer’s voice is "inflected with the gritty timbre of a noir detective; it’s hard not to imagine her spitting the words out of the side of her mouth." I’d say in real life I’m more bumbling TV gumshoe than ace detective Philip Marlowe. More Columbo or Cloiseau than Veronica Mars.

Maybe that’s why I’m in such awe of the web sleuths. The real-life Sherlock Holmes wannabes you’ll meet in my book have the patience of a ox, the attention to detail of a neurosurgeon and the visual acuity of a shark, which, I’m told, can detect glimmers ten times weaker than anything humans can see. One self-proclaimed amateur sleuth has such a spot-on visual memory that she’s able to peruse dozens of photos of missing people and compare them in her mind’s eye to facial reconstructions of unidentified human remains. Another tirelessly combs through records of persons reported missing in the general vicinity of a discovered body, working her way outward in concentric circles through counties, cities, states.

Also key is the ability to look at grisly photos without running screaming from your computer or face-planting in a dead faint onto your keyboard. There are repositories of images--artists’ reconstructions, vivid color portraits, crude pencil sketches, cartoon-like illustrations, and distorted clay dummies sporting wigs, like something out of a beautician’s academy for the hopeless--a Facebook for the dead. There are also actual morgue photos barely Photoshopped into presentability. It takes a strong stomach--or a fascination with the macabre--to click past “may be disturbing for some viewers.”

Once you’ve narrowed your search--noting, say, this missing person from Wisconsin looks a lot like that facial reconstruction of remains discovered in Florida--you get to delve into the details. Height? Weight? Scars or tattoos? There’s a mind-numbing mountain of data to sift through--and any given data point is not necessarily accurate. A website devoted to Princess Doe--an unidentified young homicide victim found in Blairstown, New Jersey, in 1982, her face bludgeoned beyond recognition--lists almost 100 potential matches, all young women loosely fitting her description, all reported missing after 1975. The amount of work involved in sorting through these leads would be daunting for even the most seasoned detective.

 

Phoenix unidentifieds


Yet the problem is formidable and well worth the benefits of crowdsourcing: The National Institute of Justice estimates that some 40,000 unidentified remains--the population of Wilkes-Barre or North Miami Beach--are stowed in the back rooms of morgues, crematoriums or buried as Jane and John Does in potters fields. No one in the medicolegal community seems to “own” the Does, but web sleuths using sites such as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) and the Doe Network have “adopted” well-known ones such as Princess Doe; the Lady of the Dunes in my home state of Massachusetts; and the Boy in the Box, found murdered in Philadelphia in 1957.

Many of the web sleuths are motivated by a genuine desire to help families of the missing. Dig into the attributes of the most successful and efficient web sleuths and you’ll find people whose motives are pure, whose diligence is noteworthy, and whose eyes are much sharper than mine.

Photo Essay: How Did the Statue of Liberty Get Built?

LibertyElizabeth Mitchell's myth-busting Liberty’s Torch--a Best Book of the Month for July--is a hoot of a story packed with entertaining cameos by Victor Hugo, Ulysses Grant, Thomas Edison and more. At center stage is the maddeningly egotistical artiste, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a snobbish boor who disliked America and her "subpar" people, yet, through persistence and will, found a home for his statue in New York Harbor.

In advance of Independence Day, we asked Mitchell to share a few photos and anecdotes from her rigorously researched tale of how a sculptor’s obsession became a nation's icon.

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We take it for granted that the Statue of Liberty belongs in the New York harbor. But if it were not for one driven man, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, this globally recognizable symbol would never have seen sunrise over the city.

Bartholdi dreamed up the idea of the colossus, he pitched, pleaded, sweated, and schemed to get her built. My new book, Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty, tells this tale of one man battling obstacles and accidents to make his unusual vision a reality.

It helped that Bartholdi birthed this creation during an era when artist, inventors and engineers constantly tried to one-up each other. He had seen the colossal statuary in Egypt, the sphinxes and pyramids, and he wanted to also create something that would last for eternity. All he had to do was solve the mechanical feats, clear the fundraising hurdles, and keep everyone alive in the process.

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1) Here is Bartholdi, looking like Dave Grohl. He was spunky, funny, emotional, and a huge egotist. He alone came up with the idea of the Statue of Liberty and set out to convince France and America to build it. He wasn’t so much in love with America as he was entranced by the idea of crafting a massive statue. He did appreciate that America had successfully created a democracy while his France struggled violently for the ideal.

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2) He originally designed the piece for Egypt, for the mouth of the Suez Canal, but the deal fell through so he went looking for other locations. At the time, America was showing new growth after the Civil War, taking on constructions like Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The cross continental railroad had just been completed. The nation seemed a likely candidate to absorb the plan that had failed elsewhere.

Torch displ#8
3) Short on funds and public enthusiasm, Bartholdi built Liberty in pieces, exhibiting a bit at a time to raise money to create more. Here is the torch being shown at the World’s Fair in Philadelphia in 1876. At the bottom, Bartholdi set up a kiosk to sell souvenirs and tickets to the top.

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4) Bartholdi showed the head at the Paris Exposition of 1878. It arrived on a wagon from the workshop where she was created, having wended her way through the streets of Paris. People waved and sang the Marseillaise as the massive head passed.

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5) To test the design, the statue was first put together in a neighborhood in Paris near the Parc Monceau. People could pay a ticket to climb up and look over the rooftops.

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6) Liberty was inaugurated on October 28, 1886 in a heavy fog. Bartholdi himself tugged an enormous French flag from her face to reveal her to the world. A few weeks later, he ventured out in a nighttime rain to say goodbye to his creation. He told a reporter that he could no longer sense the immensity of her as he had when he was working on her in Paris. He said, “She is going away from me. She is going away from me.” She now belonged to America.

--Elizabeth Mitchell

The Wildest Books in America

Untamed Will Harlan’s new biography, Untamed, explores the remarkable and controversial life of Carol Ruckdeschel, a woman who eats road kill, stalks alligators, and lives in a ramshackle cabin on the wild Cumberland Island--the country's largest and most biologically diverse barrier island, off the Georgia coast--all in defense of sea turtles and the future of the park.

We asked Will for his perspective on environmental writing, as well as the books that inspired him to track down the story of the "wildest woman in America."

Untamed is an Amazon selection for 2014's Best Books of the Year So Far.


BEST VOICES OF ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING by Will Harlan

Nature writing can be pretty, and environmental books can be convincing, but I ultimately crave the raw emotion of fellow human beings struggling to find and protect their place in the world. The best environmental writing, I believe, is about people.

People are the problem and the solution. Good environmental writing reconnects people to nature—not through lectures, but through living, flesh-and-blood examples of courage and commitment. We feel the landscape through them.   

For years, I’ve tried to write about the tangled environmental politics of Cumberland Island. Finally, I realized that the best way to tell the island’s story was through the heartbreaking adventures of its most powerful personality. Carol’s experiences are more persuasive than any political argument.

Here are a few of my favorite environmental voices and books. Instead of preachy diatribes or flowery descriptions, they inspire me with gritty, gutsy characters—some legendary, some overlooked—who stand their ground and speak for the wild.

 

The Last American ManThe Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert


A modern-day pioneer living nearly self-sufficiently on a wild reserve in Appalachia, Eustace Conway embodies the ideals of American masculinity—ruggedness, courage, and independence. However, those hard-fought ideals have a price. Liz Gilbert shows us the tired, lonely man behind the bravado. A tough, buckskin-clad maverick hunts for the one thing missing from his mountain refuge: love.

 

 



Into the Wild Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer


Chris McCandless is either a stupid kid or self-reliant hero. As soon as he graduates college, he gives away all of his savings and wanders the wild, seeking adventure and an authentic relationship with the land—until he finds himself starving to death alone in the Alaskan wilderness. Barely able to lift a pen, he scribbles this final message, which continues to haunt and shape my own life: “Happiness only real when shared.”

 

 



Encounters with the Archdruid Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee


McPhee masterfully captures the nuances and complexities of the most influential modern environmentalist, David Brower, by shadowing him on close-combat crusades to protect America’s last wild places. But don’t expect classic confrontations with battle lines clearly drawn; Brower is far more kaleidoscopic. Like Brower himself, the book’s strength is in its subtlety, with finely drawn characters exquisitely presented in shades of gray.

 

 



Refuge Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams


Williams’ mother is dying from exposure to nearby nuclear testing, and wildlife is being wiped out by dams and development. In her unflinching memoir, Williams wrestles with life and death out in the wide-open Utah desert and seeks shelter where there is none.

 

 

 

 

Ecology of a Cracker ChildhoodEcology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray


Ray’s hardscrabble upbringing in a south Georgia junkyard is an unlikely start for an environmental luminary, but the rusted scrap heaps of her childhood are chock full of raw, resourceful characters—including an authoritarian father who locks his family in a closet and a snuff-dipping coon hunter who introduces her to the wild woods. Ray weaves her own story into the razed red-clay landscape and leads a rebellion to save the South’s last longleaf pine forests.

 

 



Desert Solitaire Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey


It’s definitely the most sermonizing selection of the bunch, but Abbey’s coarse, thunderous voice crying out for the wilderness still echoes across the desert he called home. Amid his nerve-tingling adventures as a park ranger, the monkey-wrenching anarchist unleashes forceful, full-blooded pleas for the last scraps of wildlands.

 

 

 



The Lost Grizzlies The Lost Grizzlies by Rick Bass


Grizzly bears had not been seen for 15 years in southern Colorado until a small group sets out to find them. Bass seeks more than bears, though; he is tracking his own wildness and the longings of the human heart, which only are revealed in the presence of something larger.


Author-Lawyer Alafair Burke's Favorite "Lawyers are People Too" Books

Our thanks to Alafair Burke for sharing her thoughts on the best and worst ("hearsay!") of legal thrillers and courtroom drama. Burke's latest novel is All Day and a Night, which again features her NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher. Megan Abbott (The Fever) called it “A masterfully plotted, psychologically complex thriller."

As a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Burke knows a thing or two about the law; she now teaches at Hofstra Law School. (And as the daughter of James Lee Burke, she also knows a thing or two about the written word). Burke's next project is a first-ever collaboration with Mary Higgins Clark. Their co-authored novel, The Cinderella Murder, is coming in November.

Alafair2
In 2004, a major editor at a major publisher told me, “Legal thrillers are out.” Having just published my first two novels, both featuring Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid, I desperately needed this death announcement to be premature.Alafair

Fast-forward ten years, and books featuring lawyers are thriving. Perhaps not coincidentally, publishers have also found a way to market books about lawyers without pigeonholing them as “legal thrillers” or “courtroom dramas.”

I first started fantasizing about writing a novel because of my frustration at the portrayal of attorneys in fiction, especially crime fiction. I was a huge fan of the genre, but found myself wanting to throw books across the room when attorneys arrived on the page, yelling “hearsay!” and “calls for speculation!” Evidentiary objections, jury selection, and cross-examinations might be real goose bump inducers compared to the average lawyer’s workday, but as ingredients for a page-turner? No, thank you.

In real life, few lawyers go to court. They delve into families, negotiating pre-nups, adoptions, and divorces. They merge and separate corporate entities. Even litigators spend a small percentage of their time in court. The vast majority of cases settle, which only happens after lawyers gather evidence, question witnesses, scour documents, and play chicken with their adversaries.

Michael Connelly understood this when he endorsed my debut novel by saying, “JUDGMENT CALLS expertly shows that the most gripping drama is not found in the courtroom but in the places where choices get made in the shadows cast by politics and corruption and human desires.”

FirmIn other words, when lawyers narrate a story, it’s still just a story, because lawyers are people too.  Here are a few of my favorite books that show the real lives of lawyers, outside the courtroom.

The Firm, John Grisham

Though Grisham’s A Time To Kill is one of the best courtroom novels I’ve read, The Firm captures an altogether different world, expertly portraying the pressures placed upon a junior associate at an elite law firm.

Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow

Turning the genre on its head, Turow tells the story of a career prosecutor charged with murder. He also masters the use of a (possibly?) unreliable narrator. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, read this back-to-back with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and draw the parallels.

TurowThe Alexandra Cooper series, by Linda Fairstein (The most recent installment: Terminal City)

It’s no surprise that Fairstein, who as supervisor for the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office broke new ground in the prosecution of crimes against women, also broke new ground in the depiction of prosecutors in fiction. Through Alex Cooper, she shows that the power of the prosecutor is not in the courtroom, but in the nearly unreviewable discretion they exercise outside of it.

The Mickey Haller series, by Michael Connelly (The most recent installment: The Gods of Guilt)

Much as Fairstein depicts the out-of-court life of Alex Cooper, Connelly delves into the life of defense attorney Mickey Haller. He’s neither true believer nor scoundrel. He’s just a really interesting guy who happens to be a lawyer.

KermitIn the Shadow of the Law, Kermit Roosevelt

In the way that atmospheric novels treat geographic setting as character, Roosevelt treats the law as a character here, both villain and protagonist.

The Emperor of Ocean Park, by Stephen Carter

I’ve got to include a book featuring a law professor at the center of a sprawling thriller. Yale Law Prof Carter provides a searing portrayal of both academic and judicial politicking.

Supreme Ambitions, by David Lat

This forthcoming novel lifts the veil on the prestigious but cryptic role of judicial clerks. The author, founder of the law-blog Above the Law (think: Entertainment Weekly for lawyers), is a rock-star among law-geeks (to wit, he coined the term “bench-slap,” which now appears in Black’s Law Dictionary).

It’s within this context that I situate my tenth novel, All Day and a Night, which tells the story of a wrongful conviction claim from the perspectives of both recurring character NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and a young defense attorney named Carrie Blank. It has been described as a combination of police procedural, courtroom drama, and psychological thriller. To defy easy categorization is the highest praise I can ask for.

    --Alafair Burke

Deborah Madison Imagines the Future of Food--and Her Masterpiece, Circa 2030

Veg-CookingI met Deborah Madison for lunch in Seattle the day after her third James Beard Award win--this time for Vegetable Literacy, an elegant compendium of edible plant families. But her current tour was devoted to the sequel to her first Beard winner, The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

The book's original incarnation (published in 1998) was a tour de force, with over 400,000 copies in print--including one stained, margin-scribbled copy that guided me through the first years in my own kitchen. But in recent years, we've seen such a dramatic expansion of vegetarian food choices, while tastes have become more adventurous and the appetite for simple, delicious vegetarian recipes has become so voracious that Madison decided it was time to give her classic a thoroughly modern revamp.

The result? A meatless masterpiece with 200 more recipes--over 1,600 in all.

Gone are soy milk and unhealthy oils like canola. New and old recipes incorporate newly available ingredients like non-dairy beverages, ghee, coconut oil, and ancient grains like spelt and a wider variety of quinoa. A slimmed down stir-fry section makes room for more simple sautes. And she calls out the healthier options you can find at now-ubiquitous farmers' markets. (See more about these changes in Madison's interview with The Washington Post.)

Madison and I are both ardent gardeners, so over lunch we inevitably talked about how changes in weather patterns will impact what and how we eat (and grow) in the near future.

I came away wondering what kinds of changes Madison would imagine making to a third edition of the book, if she revised it again in 2030, so I asked. Her answer is equal parts sobering and hopeful.  -- Mari

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Drought, climate change, genetic engineering, nanoparticles in our food—these are things that worry me. I lose sleep over them. 

I think it will get increasingly difficult to truly nourish ourselves, even if we don't eat corporate food. That won't be enough, because what won’t be sullied? I also fear that the USDA Organic label, already disappointing, will mean even less--although I hope that's not the case, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure it's not. In short, I don’t feel hugely optimistic about the world of food 15 years hence.

But there will be some things to welcome, like the return of common sense, the sharing of meals, and probably smaller portions, as there might not be such a crazy abundance. I suspect grain will have changed to some extent, with more farmers growing pre-modern wheat varieties. That's starting to happen now, and that's good. But this better wheat, like all foods, will cost more and be less reliably available.

The upside of that is that we’ll have to learn to really value, care for, and be grateful for our food. We'll have to be willing to spend more time with it, not rushing home to cook up just the tender, fast-cooking parts of meats and vegetables. This will be hard on working families with low-wage jobs, and those who can provide food for themselves by cooking or gardening will be the privileged ones. I hope that there will be more cooking in the schools and more opportunities for kids to cook, so that they can take charge of their health and their lives and those of their siblings and parents.

If I were updating Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone in 15 years, it would be a different book. It wouldn't be just vegetarian, for one. I think the quality of most plant foods will be so much lower—with the exception of that raised by those relatively few farmers who really know how to grow their soil—that meat will be necessary. But by meat, I don't mean supermarket chops and steaks, but better-raised, more wholesome and nutritious animals. Except for the wealthy, meat will be an occasional food, served in small portions (a good idea that’s already been explored), and it will include eating offal—the nourishing foods we've cast aside for so long. We'll be using bones to make stocks and broths.

Continue reading "Deborah Madison Imagines the Future of Food--and Her Masterpiece, Circa 2030" »

GOOOOOOL! Simon Kuper's Essential World Cup Reads

The World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world. Don't argue: the 2010 final featuring Spain and the Netherlands drew an estimated 700 million viewers worldwide. But for many Americans, the sport of soccer remains alien, inscrutable. No hands? Check. No time-outs (and corresponding beer runs/bathroom breaks)? Time your runs. "Nil-nil" scorelines? Sadly, but get over it. Soccer hairstyles? Absolutely. Unhinged announcers? GOOOOOOOL!

But the World Cup is upon us; Croatia face host and favorite Brazil in the first game*, kicking off the quadrennial tournament on June 12. For those who don't know their Zico from their Zlatan, we've asked Financial Times columnist Simon Kuper--himself the author of several excellent books on the subject--for his "Five Essential Books for Understanding the World Cup." (Fine manners precluded him from listing any of his own books, but Soccernomics, which has been described as soccer's answer to Moneyball for its sweeping empirical analysis of the world's game, would make any other list.)

Some of these are out of print, but can be found used through third-party sellers. They're worth the hunt.

* Even soccer-related subject-verb agreement can boggle New World minds like mine.


The Five Essential Books for Understanding the World Cup

By Simon Kuper

Here are the best nonfiction books in English to help you get a sense of what soccer is all about.

All Played Out All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ‘90

by Pete Davies

First published in 1990

Davies was a little-known British novelist when Bobby Robson, England’s then soccer manager, weirdly invited him to spend the World Cup of 1990 as a sort of writer-in residence to the England team. Davies shared a hotel with the players, got them to trust him, and wrote the book that started the 1990s' wave of serious soccer writing.

 

 

Only a GameOnly A Game?

by Eamon Dunphy with Peter Ball

First published in 1976

What it’s really like to be a journeyman soccer professional? The answer: not much fun. This is the classic account.

 

 

 

 

Fever Pitch Fever Pitch

by Nick Hornby

First published in 1992

This completely original book was the first to examine the apparently unremarkable experience of being a soccer fan. It became the most influential soccer book ever written. Among other things it offers a hilarious but true social history of Britain from the 1960s through the early 1990s.

 

 

 

I Am Zlatan I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic

by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Lagercrantz (translated from the Swedish by Ruth Urbom)

First published in Swedish in 2011

The best player’s autobiography of recent years: honest, with close-up, warts-and-all portraits not just of the great Swede himself but also of men like Josep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. In addition, it’s an immigrant’s tale surprisingly like Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint.

 

 

 

Brilliant Orange Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer

by David Winner

First published in 2000

The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano said, “Tell me how you play and I will tell you who you are.” Nobody has ever done that better for a country than Winner did for the Dutch. He’s also very funny.

 

 

 


Books by Simon Kuper

Soccernomics Soccer Against the Enemy Soccer Men Ajax, the Dutch, the War


See the full list.

Susan Jane Gilman on Everything You Never Knew About Ice Cream… and Then Some

Susan Jane GilmanTo write my novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street I had to research the history of ice cream and modern-day ice cream production in great detail. This, as you might imagine, was extremely taxing. Not only did I have to go behind the scenes of a Carvel Ice Cream store in Massapequa, NY, but attend a "master class" at the Carpigiani Gelato University in Italy. I then read extensively about ice cream and, of course -- just to make sure I'd grasped the basics --ate a monumental amount of ice cream, as well. Really.

The things I have to do for my art. It's a wonder I managed to write my novel at all.

Still, after christening myself the founder of the "Susan Jane Gilman Institute of Advanced Gelato Research" and completing my book, I did come away with a whole assortment of cool, interesting facts about the 20th century ice cream industry:

Ice Cream Queen Cover1. No less than five different people claimed to have invented the ice cream cone at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. Four of these were Middle Eastern immigrants. One of them, Abe Doumar, called his invention "Syrian ice cream sandwiches." Using a waffle iron, he developed a cone machine after the fair; he later donated this to the Smithsonian Institution.

2. Prohibition proved to be a godsend for the ice cream industry. What were tavern-owners to do with their now-illegal barrooms and beer halls? They converted them into ice cream parlors. In 1920, one Brooklyn brewery even began selling ice cream in place of beer at Coney Island to make up for its lost revenue. By 1929, 60% of the nation's drugstores had installed soda fountains.

3. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Great Depression was devastating for the ice cream industry. It gave rise to "ice cream bootleggers," who produced a cheap, terrible product pumped full of air -- that did not adhere to the government's minimum manufacturing requirements -- and sold it under-the-table to ice cream outlets for less than the popular, mainstream brands.

4. In World War II, the United States government became the largest ice cream maker in history, producing 800 million gallons a year. Most other countries could no longer produce ice cream, due to shortages of milk, sugar, and infrastructure. But the U.S. military deemed ice cream "an essential item for troop morale" -- and so it dedicated all available resources to manufacturing ice cream on a grand scale for the military. It even commissioned two "Ice Cream Barges" -- dubbed "the world's first floating ice cream parlors." The ships' sole responsibility was to produce ice cream for the U.S.military. Their machines and crews pumped out almost 1,500 gallons every hour for distribution to troops across the Pacific theater.

Susan JaneGilman5. Even though Italy is thought to be the home of modern-day ice cream, during Wolrd War II, Benito Mussolini declared that ice cream was "too American" and banned the sale of ice cream throughout Italy, accusing the Italian people of being a "mediocre race of good-for-nothings only capable of singing and eating ice cream."

6. When rationing was lifted after the war, American began consuming ice cream in record amounts -- 20 quarts per person in 1946 alone. Today, the amount is even higher, though only slightly. Americans now consume about 22 quarts per person per year.

7. In the late 1940s, before there was a polio vaccine, public health experts in America noted that polio cases increased in the hot months of summer. Since people naturally ate more ice cream and drank more soft drinks in hot months, scientists jumped to the conclusion that sugar -- and particularly ice cream -- caused Polio. Eliminating sweets was recommended as part of an anti-polio diet. For several years, ice cream was erroneously believed to cause polio.

8. Baskin-Robbins originally conceived of their famous "31 Flavors" so that they could offer a different flavor for every day of the month.

9. Only New Zealanders consume more ice cream than Americans -- 27 quarts per person, per year.
The first ice cream to be certified kosher was Carvel Ice Cream, founded by Thomas Carvelas, a Greek Orthodox immigrant.

10. However, if you go to a Carvel Ice Cream store to research your novel, and you secretly believe that "research" means dipping your head beneath the soft-serve ice cream dispenser and letting as much chocolate ice cream as possible pour directly into your mouth, you will be disappointed. The proprietors actually won't let you anywhere near the soft ice cream machine unsupervised... even if you are the founder of the Susan Jane Gilman Institute of Advanced Gelato Studies.

YA Wednesday: Faeries and Falconers

Falconer250One of my favorite YA books this month is Elizabeth May's debut novel, The Falconer, the first book in a planned trilogy. A mash-up of a Victorian setting, faerie fantasy, and steampunk, I fell right into the world May created.  Her protagonist, Aileana, is a young woman straining against the rituals and requirements befitting a Victorian lady of her standing while she would much prefer crafting new inventions, many designed for her primary activity: hunting faeries and other nasty creatures surfacing from beneath the city.  There is suspense, romance (a bit of a love triangle), and Scottish lore in abundance and I can't wait for the next book. 

Best-selling author Jennifer Armentrout (her latest novel is the edge-of-your-seat thriller, Don't Look Back) interviewed Elizabeth May for Omni and got the scoop on faeries (good or bad?), living in present day Scotland, and more.

Jennifer Armentrout: Lady Aileana is a faerie killer? I thought fairies were good? Tell me more about the evil fairies!

Elizabeth May: Yesss! I love talking about faery lore! Friendly faeries are really a result of the Disneyfication of certain stories, so they’ve gotten a lot of great PR during the last century. The Falconer follows traditional Scottish lore, in which faeries are considered to be dangerous creatures that people should avoid at all costs. Some are considered “friendlier” and they help humans from time to time, but are still both temperamental and capable of a great deal of harm. The majority of faeries in Scottish lore tend to be considered evil; they slaughter on a whim, kidnap the helpless (including children and babies) and are capable of cursing people.

“Faeries” in stories were really something like a genus that consisted of a number of species, and all supernatural creatures in Scottish lore were considered fae. So there were faeries that were like vampires, werewolves, demons, spirits . . . and people wore charms to protect themselves from these creatures, and sometimes left offerings to appease them. Faeries were believed to be quick to anger, and their wrath capable of a great deal of destruction. These are the types of stories and ideas I kept in mind when I came up with The Falconer. I wanted to write about the types of faeries people felt the need to ward themselves against.

Jennifer Armentrout: You were born in the US but you live in Scotland now. How has living in Scotland influenced you as a reader and writer? What are some of the differences between Americans and Scots?

Elizabeth May: I’ve lived in Scotland for years now, so it’s definitely influenced me a great deal.  I grew up in a not-so-safe city in Southern California, amid a concrete expanse with very little green space and smoggy, brown air. When I moved to Scotland, it was completely different.  Though I still live in a city (Edinburgh), the atmosphere and the buildings have character and atmosphere that feels so much like something out of an urban fantasy novel. If you walk in the dark during late hours in Edinburgh, it feels very eerie, very haunted and sometimes even empty.

When I moved here I definitely noticed myself appreciating setting and sense of place more. The smells and seasons and changing from day into night. At first because it was all unfamiliar, and then later because it really affects the way the city and landscape looks and feels: from bright and friendly to grey and foreboding.  A lot of Scotland is like that. I start to notice when certain types of flowers bloom to cover the countryside, and how different the light is in summer and winter. Living here has given me the ability to travel all over the country – from the Highlands to the Isles – and take in the differences in landscape. There’s certainly a mood to Scottish cities and the country’s rural landscape that is inspiring for fiction.

As for differences: many, many, many. But I suppose the most immediate difference – at least for me – is how easy it is to strike up a conversation with people here. I’m a socially anxious person by nature, so I find it very difficult to meet new people, and yet I’ve had hours long conversations with strangers in pubs. No awkwardness, no contact info exchanged afterward. Just a bit of banter and a goodbye at the end.

JA:  You’ve gone from modeling for YA SciFi book covers to an author photo on the flap. How did become a cover model? I’ll bet you have good stories to share.

EM: It all started by chance. I used to have a really active and popular photography account on Deviantart, and a cover designer for Harlequin Australia saw my photos and messaged me about possibly using one for a cover. Honestly, I got so many weird messages through DA that I had no idea if she was legit. So I just forwarded her message on to the agent who handles my photos, and she followed through with buying the license for it. And that was my first cover. From there the covers just snowballed: a few more that year, then a dozen more the year after...I’ve been on almost one hundred covers internationally by now. Some of them I’ve seen and some I haven’t. I think the best part is when I end up on the repackaged covers for books I grew up reading, or on covers for authors I admire. I still get a fangirl thrill!Falconer_LJ_Smith_Cover

I read L.J. Smith as a teen, so I pretty much died when I found out I was on the cover of this one. One of my other photos (not of me) ended up on the Volume Three, as well. So exciting!

JA: Aileana and her mom are the original makers. How did you research inventing and tinkering? What’s your favorite invention in The Falconer?

EM: It was difficult to research certain inventions in the world of The Falconer, because they either don’t exist (the stitchers), or they’re still in the design stages (the lightning gun), or they’re beyond my knowledge of technical know-how (pretty much all of them, to be honest). Next to the historical information, the inventions took up a great deal of my reading time. Mainly, I started with a general idea of what I wanted and then researched accordingly.

For example, the lightning pistol Aileana uses was something I had in mind before I researched. But I wanted to have a general sense of how something like that would work (because Aileana would know exactly how it would work), so I looked into a lot of prototype ideas on the internet for lightning pistol designs. For other inventions, I merged ideas. Like with Aileana’s flying machine (which was definitely my favourite), which was a combination of Leonardo da Vinci’s designs for ornithopters and steam powered vehicles of the Victorian age.

Facloner_da_vincis_ornithopter This is the original da Vinci design, which was a single person ornithopter. It was the primary inspiration for Aileana’s flying machine.

I do have to say: researching for the inventions was so fun! I’m sure I’m on a government watch list for my searches (“how to make a flame thrower”!), but I learned a lot to make the technical aspects sound authentic.

JA: How would you have fared with all of the social restrictions on a young lady in Victorian Scotland?

EM: If modern me were suddenly plunked down into Victorian-era Scotland, I’d probably find it very difficult to adapt. The restrictions put on upper class unmarried ladies are so removed from contemporary Scottish society that my habits would probably be considered really uncouth and vulgar. But if I were brought up in the 19th century, maybe I would have bucked against certain societal expectations. Plenty of women in the Victorian-era challenged traditional women’s roles, and I like to think that if I were raised then, I would have been one of them.

JA: What books were your favorites as a tween and teen? What influence did they have on your writing?

EM: I grew up reading such a wide range of books in different genres. I loved fantasy novels by Garth Nyx, Charles de Lint, Mercedes Lackey, Anne Bishop, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Science fiction by Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Ray Bradbury. Historical romance novels by Julia Quinn and Georgette Heyer. I had a huge collection of books growing up; I went to the library every weekend and picked up new things to read. I’ve tried bits of everything, and I honestly believe that accounts for my habit of genre mashing. I had a review in Starburst Magazine that referred to The Falconer as “a Scottish-monster-hunting-steampunk-adventure-romance.” When I read that, it really struck me for the first time that instead of writing books in separate, distinct genres that I enjoy, I’ve formed a habit of spinning them together in my writing.

JA: Who would you cast in the movie version of The Falconer?

EM: I don’t really think of any actors when I write, but I loved Rose Leslie in Game of Thrones, and I think she would make a fantastic Aileana!

JA: As a debut author, what’s surprised you about the process of publishing?

EM: Definitely what an emotional journey it is. I wrote a lot of manuscripts before The Falconer that never made it to publication, so I never went through the long process of cleaning them up and watching them change for publication. The Falconer went through so many different incarnations, so it was rewarding to see how different the final, complete draft is compared to the first one I ever wrote. Being invested in a single work for that long . . . it’s a really emotional thing for me to see it finally completed for people to read.

JA: How excited were you when you saw the cover of The Falconer?

EM: So excited! I’ve been blessed with great cover work for The Falconer that really brings out Aileana’s character and the feel of the book. I literally gasped aloud when I saw the cover. It was that perfect.

JA: I’m on the edge of my seat for the next novel in The Falconer series! How much of the trilogy is planned, and how much happens as you’re writing?

EM: Thank you! :D Such a great question! The largest plot points have been planned since I started working on The Falconer. I always imagined Aileana’s story would take place over three books, so I mapped out the major events in each book, as well as the final book’s ending, so I have a general sense of where I’m going. From there, the events in each book follow a very fluid outline. I know where I want the stories to go, and even have certain scenes plotted, but how I get there and how the scenes play out are very spontaneous. Working this way gives me an equal sense of structure and seeing how the characters guide me.

 Thank you so much for the lovely interview! It’s been wonderful!

Malcolm Gladwell Thinks Like a Freak

Malcolm GladwellIn the year 2000, Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference sought to explain the origins and patterns of social phenomena--fashion trends, crime rates, drug use--through the concept of ideas as viruses and epidemics, spreading through carriers and producing sometimes surprising results. (Hush Puppies as a hipster staple? I'd like to read his take on the Brooklyn Longbeard.)

The Tipping Point was a huge best seller and (along with Gladwell's subsequent books) created a new genre: a kind of popular social science of unorthodox thinking, supported by (but not buried under) data. These books trade easy and accepted assuptions for the often unituitive, unseen motivators of real-world behavior, all while entertaining readers.* Foremost among these was Freakonomics by a pair of Steves: Levitt and Dubner, which took the Gladwell method and turned it around, working backwards from raw data--through the scientific filter of an economist--to surprising and occasionally contentious hypotheses. (It, too, was hugely popular, spawning a super sequel with even more audacious ideas.) Their latest, Think Like a Freak, opens up their process, giving the rest of us a practical lesson in thinking like Freaks and applying it to everyday experience. So who better than Malcolm Gladwell to talk about the new book?

Learn about more Gladwell's latest, David and Goliath, available in paperback on May 15.

 


Think Like a Freak

Think Like a Freak

by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Hardcover | Kindle


David and Goliath

David and Goliath

by Malcolm Gladwell

Paperback | Kindle

Malcolm Gladwell on Think Like a Freak

In one of the many wonderful moments in Think Like a Freak, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner ask the question: Who is easier to fool—kids or adults? The obvious answer, of course, is kids. The cliché is about taking candy from a baby, not a grown man. But instead of accepting conventional wisdom as fact, the two sit down with the magician Alex Stone—someone in the business of fooling people—and ask him what he thinks. And his answer? Adults.


Stone gave the example of the staple of magic tricks, the “double lift,” where two cards are presented as one. It’s how a magician can seemingly bury a card that you have selected at random and then miraculously retrieve it. Stone has done the double lift countless times in his career, and he says it is kids—overwhelmingly—who see through it. Why? The magician’s job is to present a series of cues—to guide the attention of his audience—and adults are really good at following cues and paying attention. Kids aren’t. Their gaze wanders. Adults have a set of expectations and assumptions about the way the world works, which makes them vulnerable to a profession that tries to exploit those expectations and assumptions. Kids don’t know enough to be exploited. Kids are more curious. They don’t overthink problems; they’re more likely to understand that the basis of the trick is something really, really simple. And most of all—and this is my favorite—kids are shorter than adults, so they quite literally see the trick from a different and more revealing angle.


Think Like a Freak is not a book about how to understand magic tricks. That’s what Dubner and Levitt’s first two books—Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics—were about. It’s about the attitude we need to take towards the tricks and the problems that the world throws at us. Dubner and Levitt have a set of prescriptions about what that attitude comes down to, but at its root it comes down to putting yourself in the mind of the child, gazing upwards at the double lift: free yourself from expectations, be prepared for a really really simple explanation, and let your attention wander from time to time.


The two briefly revisit their famous argument from their first book about the link between the surge in abortions in the 1970s and the fall in violent crime twenty years later. Their point is not to reargue that particular claim. It is to point out that we shouldn’t avoid arguments like that just because they leave us a bit squeamish. They also tell the story of the Australian doctor Barry Marshall, who overturned years of received wisdom when he proved that ulcers are caused by gastric bacteria, not spicy food and stress. That idea was more than heretical at first. It was absurd. It was the kind of random idea that only a child would have. But Dubner and Levitt’s point, in their utterly captivating new book, is that following your curiosity—even to the most heretical and absurd end—makes the world a better place. It is also a lot of fun.

—Malcolm Gladwell
   

 

* I also credit The Tipping Point for helping end the era of the "business fable": Who Moved My Cheese, fish-tossing as a model for behavior in life and business, etc. If nothing else, we owe him that.

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