DEVIL’S BARGAIN: STEVEN BANNON, DONALD TRUMP, AND THE STORMING OF THE PRESIDENCY By Joshua Green


I was reading Joshua Green’s Devil’s Bargain when the news broke that Trump had fired Steve Bannon. Now that I’ve finished the story of Bannon and Trump’s relationship, I can confidently predict that Steve Bannon will continue to raise hell in the coming months. Joshua Green shows how Bannon’s background in the military and at Goldman Sachs prepared him to espouse the “nationalist” vision that he ultimately sold to Trump during the Presidential campaign. With the help of Dark Money and mysterious billionaires and Russian hackers, Bannon helped pull off the most astounding Presidential campaign upset in modern political history!

Steve Bannon, like many of the Trump Inner Circle, is a quirky guy. He’s made movies, built an Alt-Right media empire, and planned to “farm out” the war in Afghanistan to private defense contractors like Blackwater (Bannon’s firing put the kabosh on this nutty idea). We haven’t heard the last of Steve Bannon. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Preface ix
1 “It Will Take a Miracle” 1 (22)
2 “Where’s My Steve?” 23 (26)
3 Bildungsroman 49 (18)
4 “A Dangerous Way to Look at the World” 67 (26)
5 Nobody Builds Walls Like Trump 93 (26)
6 The Alt-Kochs 119 (18)
7 A Rolling Tumbleweed of Wounded Male Id and Aggression 137 (24)
8 “The Traffic Is Absolutely Filthy!” 161 (18)
9 “Honest Populism”. 179 (20)
10 Burn Everything Down 199 (26)
11 “The FBI Has Learned of the Existence …” 225 (12)
Afterword: Kali Yuga 237 (6)
Acknowledgments 243 (6)
Notes 249 (16)
Index 265

GIRLS TRIP


I went to the Regal Theater with the intention to see Detroit, but the events of the past week so befuddled me and bummed me out I went to see Girls Trip instead. Yes, it’s raunchy. Yes, it has a predictable plot. But Girls Trip features a strong cast: Ryan (Regina Hall) is a successful author of self-help books who is the keynote speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Sasha (Queen Latifah) who is struggling financially with a celebrity web site, Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) who is a single mother living with her mother, and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) who is wild and freaky is the straw that stirs this movie.

These four friends come together after a five-year absence to rekindle their friendship as they deal with their personal problems. Ryan’s husband, Stewart (Mike Colter) is cheating on her with a younger woman (Debrorah Ayorindle). Sasha and Dina have financial problems, and Lisa is fighting loneliness.

There are some wild scenes in this movie. No one who sees it will soon forget the zip-line episode. Or Dina instructing her friends on sexual techniques utilizing fruit. Girls Trip made me laugh, which is just what I needed during these Dark Times. GRADE: B

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #437: A CENTURY OF GREAT SUSPENSE STORIES Edited by Jeffrey Deaver


As the 20th Century was ending, there was a flurry of “Best of the Century” anthologies published just as the 21st Century was dawning. One of the better examples of these anthologies is Jeffery Deaver’s A Century of Great Suspense Stories. Just check out the Table of Contents and you’ll see most of the key suspense writers of the 20th Century are represented in this book. If you’re a fan of suspense fiction, you’ll love this anthology. Copies are available on-line for a pittance. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction / Jeffery Deaver
Gentleman in the lake / Robert Barnard
Life in our time / Robert Bloch
Batman’s helpers / Lawrence Block
Girl who married a monster / Anthony Boucher
Wench is dead / Fredric Brown
Cigarette girl / James M. Cain
Matter of principal / Max Allan Collins
Weekender / Jeffery Deaver
Reasons unknown / Stanley Ellin
Killing Bernstein / Harlan Ellison
Leg man / Erle Stanley Gardner
One of those days, one of those nights / Ed Gorman
Missing: Page thirteen / Anna Katharine Green
Voir Dire / Jeremaih Healy
Chee’s witch/ Tony Hillerman
Interpol: The case of the modern Medusa / Edward D. Hoch
Quitters, Inc. / Stephen King
So young, so fair, so dead / John Lutz
Nor iron bars / John D. MacDonald
Guilt-edged blonde / Ross Macdonald
Red clay / Michael Malone
Poetic justice / Steve Martini
Very merry Christmas / Ed McBain
Among my souvenirs / Sharyn McCrumb
People across the canyon / Margaret Miller
Benny’s space / Marica Muller
Heartbreak house / Sara Paretsky
Stacked deck / Bill Pronzini
Adventure of the dauphin doll / Ellery Queen
Burning end / Ruth Rendell
Carrying concealed / Lisa Scottoline
Little house at Croix-Rousse / Georges Simeonon
Girl behind the hedge / Mickey Spillane
Fourth of July picnic / Rex Stout
Lady Hillary / Janwillem van de Wetering
This is death / Donald E. Westlake

A FINE MESS: A GLOBAL QUEST FOR A SIMPLER, FAIRER, AND MORE EFFICIENT TAX SYSTEM By T. R. Reid


Our country’s tax system is an abomination. The system favors the Rich and powerful. The actual collection of taxes falls disproportionately on the shrinking Middle Class. Unfairness and inequality are the hallmarks of our current tax structure. A Fine Mess shows how our tax system could be modified and streamlined and made more effective for all of us. T. R. Reid shows how difficult and complicated solutions to our current tax problems will be. If the Republicans and Trump couldn’t deal with Health Care, Tax Reform will completely befuddle them! Do you pay too much in taxes?
GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Prologue: Every thirty-two years
Policy laboratories
“Low effort, Low collection”
Taxes: what are they good for?
BBLR
Scooping water with a sieve
Flat broke
The defining problem; the taxing solution
Convoluted and pernicious strategies
The single tax, the fat tax, the tiny tax, the carbon tax, and no tax at all
The Panama papers: sunny places for shady money
Simplify, simplify
The money machine
Epilogue: The Internal Revenue Code of 2018.

BROADCHURCH, SEASON THREE FINALE [BBC America]


I watched the first two Broadchurch series including the “American” version. They dealt with the death of a young boy. If you’re a fan of police procedurals, you’ll find these Broadchurch episodes compelling. In Broadchurch 3, the two lead police investigators played by David Tennant and Olivia Colman, investigate the sexual assault of a local middle-aged woman in the fictional, close-knit coastal town of Broadchurch in Dorset, England. Everyone in this small community has secrets and slowly Tennent and Colman discover them.

No explosions, no kung fu fighting, just intelligent investigation of a brutal crime. This is supposed to be the series finale, but I’m hoping Broadchurch returns to deliver more suspense and thrills. GRADE: A

MAN UP [DVD]


Patti Abbott recommended Man Up a week ago so I tracked down a copy at my local public Library. Diane and I watched Man Up over the weekend and enjoyed many laughs at the twists and turns of the plot in this funny movie. Lake Bell plays a 34-year-old journalist who is being pressured by her family to start dating again. Her last relationship ended badly. Just by chance, Lake Bell’s character is mis-identified as a “blind date” by Simon Pegg’s character. Bell plays along and comedy mayhem results. You might remember that Simon Pegg plays “Scotty” in the Star Trek movie reboots, but he’s a frustrated marketing manager in Man Up. If you’re looking for 90 minutes of fun, Man Up will tickle your funny bone! GRADE: A-

THE GIVERS: WEALTH, POWER, AND PHILANTHROPY IN A NEW GILDED AGE By David Callahan


We live in an age of billionaires. The Givers shows that many moneyed people are giving back. Bill and Melinda Gates operate the richest foundation in the world. They’re focused on improving health all over the world but especially in Africa. Warren Buffett is contributing billions to the Gates Foundation (why reinvent the wheel). On the other hand, the Koch Brothers distribute their billions to conservative causes. As income inequality increases, many institutions will be beholden to rich donors to fund their activities. Our tax system favors the wealthy and what they do with their money will affect all of us. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Prologue: The Great Power Shift
Chapter 1: The Coming of Big Philanthropy
Chapter 2: Who Are These People?
Chapter 3: Grandmasters
Chapter 4: Super-Citizens
Chapter 5: Disrupters
Chapter 6: Leverage Points
Chapter 7: Advocates
Chapter 8: Networkers
Chapter 9: Heirs to Influence
Chapter 10: The New Medicis
Chapter 11: Agents of Wealth
Epilogue: Balancing Act
Acknowledgments
Notes
A Note About the Author

VINEYARD ENIGMA: A MARTHA’S VINEYARD MYSTERY By Philip. R. Craig


Philip R. Craig wrote a very popular series of novels set on Martha’s Vineyard and this mystery is Book 12 of 19 in Craig’s Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Series. Vineyard Enigma is narrated by retired policeman J. W. Jackson. Jackson finds himself involved in a search for two ancient soapstone eagles that are collector’s items from Africa. Since Martha’s Vineyard is home to rich art collectors, there’s a very good chance the stone eagles are nearby.

Then a corpse is found without a head (dubbed “The Headless Horseman”). And J. W. Jackson finds the body of an art dealer. Someone takes a shot at J. W. (but fortunately for the series, they miss). If you’re in the mood for a mystery with lovely local scenery and intelligent detection, I recommend this volume in Philip R. Craig’s Martha’s Vineyard series. Perfect book for the beach! GRADE: B

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE [DVD]


Generous Beth Fedyn sent me this copy of Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It’s a hoot! As far as I know, this movie never showed up in Western New York in 2016. Now, it’s on DVD so it many get more attention (and access). Hunt for the Wilderpeople is basically a two-actor show: Julian Dennison plays a troubled teenager named Ricky in New Zealand and Sam Neill plays a grumpy old man who attempts to take care of Ricky. Because of events too incredible to describe, Sam and Ricky are on the run in the wilds of New Zealand (fabulous scenery!) while most of the law enforcement of the country is chasing them.

This movie could have been a disaster if the actor who was cast as Ricky was a dud. Julian Dennison is perfect as a kid with problems. Sam Neill has chemistry with the kid despite his crankiness. Fun and funny! GRADE: B+

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #436: THE VAN RIJN METHOD By Poul Anderson


Recently, Bill Crider reviewed an upcoming Science Fiction anthology, Infinite Stars edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. In his review, Bill wrote this about SF Titan Poul Anderson: “And there’s a good one by Poul Anderson, now nearly forgotten but a fixture in the digests of the ’50s when I was growing up. He wrote great space opera, fantasy, hard SF, historical novels, and more, and he was good at all of them. Now virtually forgotten, more’s the pity.” Those words motivated me to read The Van Rijin Method, an omnibus edition BAEN Books published back in 2008. It’s almost 700 pages of delight! The best part of this book is The Man Who Counts (aka, The War of the Wing-Men). Classic SF!

And, this volume includes one of my favorite Poul Anderson mystery stories, “Hiding Place,” where Van Rijn has to figure out who aboard a starship carrying zoo animals are the intelligent aliens (who disguised themselves in the cages). BAEN Books published six more omnibus volumes and I’ll be reviewing them over the next few months of FFB. Do you have a favorite Poul Anderson story? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
“PLANETS AND PROFITS: Introducing Nicholas Van Rijn and the Polesotechnic League” By Hank Davis

THE SATURN GAME

Introduction Wings Of Victory
WINGS OF VICTORY

Introduction Problem Of Pain
PROBLEM OF PAIN

Introduction Margin Of Profit
MARGIN OF PROFIT

Introduction How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson
HOW TO BE ETHNIC IN ONE EASY LESSON

Introduction The Three-Cornered Wheel
THE THREE-CORNERED WHEEL

Introduction A Sun Invisible
A SUN INVISIBLE

Introduction The Season Of Forgiveness
THE SEASON OF FORGIVENESS

Introduction The Man Who Counts
THE MAN WHO COUNTS

Introduction Esau
ESAU

Introduction Hiding Place
HIDING PLACE

CHRONOLOGY OF TECHIC CIVILIZATION By Sandra Miesel