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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/05/07 Permalink
    Tags: celebrities, ,   

    10 of The Best Political Thrillers Ever 

    When a former president writes a book, the world pays attention. When a former president writes a novel, things get really interesting. Partnering with none other than James Patterson, one of the greatest thriller writers of all time, former president Bill Clinton has cowritten The President is Missing, in which the president of the United States disappears, shocking the world and setting in motion an unpredictable swirl of events. The book is full of the sort of details only a president would know. and considering its unique combination of an expert author and a man who knows all the inside scoop (he had access to the NSA and CIA for years, after all), we could not be more excited. Here are ten more incredible political thrillers you’ll want to read next.

    House of Cards, by Michael Dobbs
    The book that inspired the British TV show that in turn inspired Netflix’s very first original series, this is the story of Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip, a cynical, manipulative politician determined to become Prime Minister. He’s willing to use every secret he knows, every pressure point he can find, and every dirty trick in the book to secure his own rise to power—and in the process confirms just about every dark and terrible thing you thought you knew about politics. Dobbs drew on his extensive real-life experience in British politics for the books, and the result is an electrifying vision of how exceedingly violent governing can be behind closed doors.

    The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon
    Condon’s 1959 novel is a paranoid classic, born at the beginning of the Cold War, that continues to influence people today (the fact that Homeland has a similar concept is a testament to the evergreen nature of the device). Soldiers captured during the Korean War are tortured and brainwashed, and one, Shaw, is programmed to fall into a hypnotic state when he sees his trigger—the Queen of Diamonds during a game of solitaire. He’s programmed to forget his orders once he regains consciousness, and thus is the perfect hidden assassin, who can pass any interrogation or test. His own ruthless, power-hungry mother is his KGB handler, and relays orders to assassinate the president in order to secure the office for the vice president, who will order martial law and request emergency powers as a puppet of the Soviets. It’s creepy, tense, and still shockingly modern—and in a bizarre real-life twist, some believe author Condon subtly cribbed from Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, number 8 on this list.

    The Constant Gardener, by John le Carré
    You might think of le Carré as a writer of espionage novels, but politics encompasses espionage and crime as well as law-making and foreign policy. His novels are as much about the secret tension between ruling and governing, and the crimes committed in the name of patriotism and realpolitik, as they are about skulduggery and moles. In The Constant Gardener, an unremarkable man with a remarkable wife is jolted out of a mediocre political career when his spouse is killed, and he determines to find out why she was murdered, and by whom. For the first time in his life he’s willing to take chances—and if there’s one thing the secretive world of politics can’t stand, it’s people who have nothing to lose. The end result is a pitch-perfect thriller.

    The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth
    The Cold War politics of this classic thriller are long gone, but Forsyth’s novel (winner of the 1972 Edgar Award for Best Novel) still carries the punch of a meticulously researched story set in a very real world. It’s a novel of agonizing anticipation: first, as we follow the slow, careful preparations and planning of the titular Jackal, hired to assassinate the President of France; then, as we follow along with the equally painstaking detective work of the man charged with identifying the Jackal as time runs out. The twin stories of detective and assassin remain separate right up until the moment the Jackal takes his shot, and it’s this element of cat-and-mouse between a devious killer and a brilliant agent—plus the elevated stakes of global politics—that make this a book that still resonates today. Forsyth was working in Paris when he wrote it, and used that firsthand knowledge to choose his setting. In fact, rumor has it the assassin’s sniping spot can still be located—with the precise view described in the text.

    The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
    Clancy’s breakout novel is set at the hot height of the Cold War, but it remains a classic political thriller because it perfectly combines thrilling spycraft, visceral action, an insider’s view of behind-closed-doors political maneuvering, and global stakes. Clancy’s expert grasp of each of these aspects makes this story of a rogue Soviet submarine captain planning to steal the experimental sub he’s been assigned to and defect to the West—and the young CIA analyst, Jack Ryan, who tries desperately to convince everyone from the president down that this isn’t the Soviet Union starting World War III—just about the Platonic ideal of a political thriller. Rumor is Clancy’s grasp of top-secret technology rattled the FBI enough that they paid him a visit, and anyone who reads the book will believe it.

    The Parallax View, by Loren Singer
    Singer’s 1970 novel, which was adapted into a film starring Warren Beatty that’s become a cult favorite, is delightfully terrifying. A journalist witnesses the assassination of a president, and years later discovers that the other people who were eye witnesses to the event are being killed off in mysterious ways. His investigation leads him to the Parallax Corporation, which trains political assassins as part of a massive conspiracy to control the world—a conspiracy that truly goes all the way to the top. The book’s plot is complex, but the sense that everything is not right with the world, that things are happening beyond our control or comprehension is, sadly, as applicable today as it was back then. Any time we lose faith in our leaders and entertain the notion that the country has been bamboozled on a national scale, this book should be pulled off the shelf and rediscovered.

    Absolute Power, by David Baldacci
    Baldacci’s audacious 1996 novel pivots off a salacious moment wherein a professional thief, having broken into the luxurious home of a billionaire, stumbles onto a two-way mirror giving him a view of the billionaire’s wife and the President of the United States having a affair. The sex turns rough, and the President’s Secret Service detail bursts in and kills the woman. The thief just barely manages to escape, but the Secret Service pins the murder on him, and a game of cat and mouse ensues as the president and his team try to cover up the truth. While conceived during the go-go Clinton years, this is another evergreen political thriller that combines a thriller plot with a plausible look at what authority decoupled from responsibility might look like.

    I, Claudius, by Robert Graves
    A historical novel? True, but also a razor-sharp story of political maneuvering in ancient Rome that involves not just murder and conspiracy, but also leverage, fake news, real policy, and power brokers. Claudius, who survives the violent reign of his nephew Caligula because he’s old and stammers—making everyone assume he’s no threat—is proclaimed emperor after Caligula’s well-deserved assassination, then proves to be smarter than anyone suspected. What makes this and its sequel, Claudius the God, so amazing is that Claudius—despite his intelligence and desire to be a “good” emperor with the ultimate goal of re-establishing the republic—is terribly flawed, continuously abusing his power in the most selfish of ways.

    Lions of Lucerne, by Brad Thor
    Thor’s first Scott Harvath novel opens with a bang: former Navy SEAL and current Secret Service agent Harvath is overseeing the president’s security detail in Park City, Utah, when a brazen attack leaves thirty other agents dead—and the president kidnapped. Harvath, disgraced and confused, goes on a one-man mission to piece together what happened and why, while the United States dithers and hesitates to meet the kidnappers’ demands, resulting in a presidential finger being mailed to the White House. While a bit more oriented towards the thriller side of things, that doesn’t mean Thor lacks a fine touch when it comes to the political side, which he renders in an equally exciting manner, leading to an explosive ending that’s not to be missed.

    The Ghost Writer, by Robert Harris
    Harris’ novel is a master class in tension. Former British Prime Minister Adam Lang is very late in turning his memoir in to his publisher—in part because his long-time collaborator and assistant has died in a terrible accident. To get the book back on schedule, a professional ghostwriter is hired to complete the manuscript. The ghostwriter struggles to figure out what’s true and what’s not so true in Lang’s notes, and then stumbles on evidence that implies the dead collaborator was actually murdered. As Lang is charged with war crimes, the stakes and the tension keep rising and the ghostwriter—appropriately never named—finds himself ensnared in the very dirty world of power and politics.

    The post 10 of The Best Political Thrillers Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 1:52 pm on 2017/03/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , celebrities, , , , , truth teller   

    In Nevertheless, Alec Baldwin Makes His Brand Brutal Honesty 

    On the third page of Alec Baldwin’s unvarnished new memoir, Nevertheless, he startles you with this: “I’m not actually writing this book to discuss my work, my opinions, or my life…I’m writing it because I was paid to write it.” That’s all the heads up you get that this isn’t your typical memoir. Yes, Baldwin does discuss his opinions, his work, and his life, but where memoirs often selectively reveal details designed to support a “branded” version of the author, Baldwin barrels through stories about his life with a raw intensity that really is “warts and all.” It’s a fascinating ride through a fascinating life and brain, and as you read you slowly begin to realize Baldwin isn’t hiding anything—nothing is off limits, even when it doesn’t make the revered actor look great.

    Childhood Miseries
    His statement about writing the book for money prefaces a lengthy section about his childhood growing up on Long Island, where his family’s continual lack of money caused immense stress in his home life. Baldwin’s descriptions of his childhood and teenage years are alternately heartbreaking and surprising. He describes his difficult early relationship with his mother, who struggled to accept the path her life took and an increasingly distant husband, and his complex relationship with his father, who was often shut off from his family emotionally. He talks about his early realization that he needed to earn money in order to do the things he wanted, and how that shaped—and harmed—his acting career. Most remarkably, he talks about going through his teenage years in a sort of haze, with almost zero memory of high school, of football practices, of anything.

    His Career
    Baldwin is compulsively self-deprecating about his skills as an actor. He frequently describes costars as brilliant and awe-inspiring, while considering his own work to be competent at best—and usually elevated by the amazing people around him. His acting career almost seems to have happened largely by accident; he was offered a role in a soap opera without even really trying, got an agent as a result, and within a few years is in California was being offered development deals by TV networks. Baldwin’s open about his insecurities—and about the bad decisions he made, largely for paychecks, that he now believes helped kill his chances to be a leading man. It’s rare for a hugely successful celebrity to admit they have so many regrets, and Baldwin’s honesty is thrilling.

    Inside Baseball
    Baldwin walks us through some of the more exciting moments in his professional career, too. He discusses being pushed out of the Jack Ryan movies after The Hunt for Red October, describing how he was outmaneuvered by a studio that wanted Harrison Ford’s box office pull (and Baldwin’s description of Ford is hilariously insulting). He also discusses the time he was sued by the studio while making the film The Edge with Anthony Hopkins, and his experience at Kim Basinger’s side when she was sued for breach of contract over Boxing Helena. And peppered between those big stories are a hundred smaller anecdotes—about working with specific people and the often dismaying day to day business of working in film, television, and theater. Through it all Baldwin is remarkably generous—most of his collaborators are described in glowing terms, and he falls in love with every other actor, actress, producer, or writer he meets. Baldwin name-checks plenty of below-the-line folks who are often forgotten in memoirs like this one, and doesn’t shy away from telling stories about producers who came on to him when he was a young actor, or giving us a brutally depressing blow-by-blow about the time he overdosed on cocaine and his struggles with sobriety ever since. He digs into his public mistakes, from the infamous voicemail he left his daughter, Ireland, to his often violent run-ins with photographers and tabloid reporters. In each, he offers explanations, but no excuses.

    The Big Picture
    Every life is a matrix of relationships, and Baldwin goes all in on both his marriage to Kim Basinger and where he thinks it went wrong, and touches on the bitter divorce battle that ensued and his positions on father’s rights and how he thinks the modern court system is broken—but only touches on them, because he has gone into much greater (and equally honest) detail on both in his book A Promise to Ourselves. He’s also surprisingly candid about his political stance and aspirations, referring several times to his desire early in life to go into politics, and admitting that he still contemplates running for office and has been approached in the past, most notably about running for mayor of New York City.

    Most remarkably, Baldwin uses one of his book’s last chapters to go into detail about his political beliefs and his experiences as an activist, a fundraiser, and an operative over the last few decades—a chapter that seems to be heading toward a major revelation as he builds the case that he has been plugged-in and politically active. Then he pulls back to ruefully discuss the most recent election and how he reacted to it. His concluding chapters discuss second chances, because Alec Baldwin is clearly a man who understands that he’s made many mistakes, and isn’t completely certain he deserves another shot.

    That sort of brutal honesty makes this one of the most remarkable memoirs you’ll read. Read it for the stories about working with Al Pacino, read it for the observations about the art of acting, or just read it for the hilarious joke that gives the book its title, or to find out what music will be played at Alec Baldwin’s funeral.

    Nevertheless hits shelves April 4, and is available for pre-order now.

    The post In Nevertheless, Alec Baldwin Makes His Brand Brutal Honesty appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2017/03/02 Permalink
    Tags: , celebrities, , , ,   

    5 Reasons We Can’t Wait to Read Alec Baldwin’s Memoir Nevertheless 

    Eventually, everyone famous writes a memoir, in part because famous people do tend to lead interesting lives, and in part because publishers know those memoirs will sell because readers want the inside scoop on being famous. The entertainment value of these memoirs varies widely, of course, from rote tellings to revealing journeys into the lives and minds of  flat-out hilarious, fascinating people.

    Alec Baldwin’s forthcoming memoir, Nevertheless, promises to be among the latter. In fact, it has been climbing up our “Can’t Wait to Read” lists for months now. With its April 4 release just around the corner, here’s why we’re counting down the days till we can get the book in our hands.

    The Zeitgeist
    Baldwin has been part of the entertainment landscape for decades now—he’s one of the most recognizable actors in the world, with of the most recognizable voices in the world, alongside an acting resume a mile long. From a humble childhood on Long Island he went on to soap operas, was at one time one of the hottest leading men in movies, and then became a surprise candidate for Funniest Man Alive. He resurfaced as one of pop culture’s most visible figures with his slaying impersonation of President Trump on Saturday Night Live, which just reminds us how funny the man is—a brand of funny we expect will be all over his memoir.

    The Stories
    The thing about Alec Baldwin? He has worked with everybody. His IMDB page looks like a Who’s Who of Hollywood, which means he has got a treasure trove of gossip and tales of adventure to share. Even the title of his memoir, Nevertheless, stems from a joke Michael Gambon (whom you might know as the second Dumbledore from the Harry Potter films, among many other roles) told Baldwin when they were working on the TV movie Path to War together. Considering Baldwin is one of the best talk-show guests of all time, owing in part to his endless font of intimate insider trivia, we fully expect to read some great tales out of school.

    The Many Facets of Baldwin
    Put bluntly, Alec Baldwin is fascinating. When he first became a star it was easy to dismiss him as a very pretty man with a great voice, but over time it has become clear what a layered performer he is. He initially intended to go into politics, and still occasionally hints at a political run (which seems more viable than ever these days). He has had struggles with drugs and alcohol and has admitted that sobriety is challenging to him. He’s outspoken and has had plenty of public embarrassments stemming from his temper and the occasional ill-advised public comment. Nevertheless promises to dig into his family dramas—and considering his brothers are also actors, that ought to be really, really interesting.

    He’s Surprising—and a Surprisingly Good Writer
    Nevertheless isn’t Baldwin’s first book—that would be 2008’s A Promise to Ourselves, which topped the bestseller lists. That book was a surprise: instead of a wide-ranging memoir or something light and designed to move units, it focused on Baldwin’s experiences in his bitter divorce, and his thoughts on how the process could be improved. He admitted to many mistakes during the process, and shared the moments in which he chose to retreat instead of fight because he thought it best for his kids. The book proved Baldwin isn’t predictable, so who knows what he’s going to reveal or what surprisingly deep point he’s going to make?

    He’s Hilarious
    Actors often seem wittier and smarter than they are because they’re always reading someone else’s dialogue—but Baldwin’s the real deal, hilarious and smart. He’s lived a lot in his 58 years, and he seems to be self-aware about it, the two main requirements for an excellent memoir—in fact, the only requirements. We’re adding this one to the top of our April reading list.

    The post 5 Reasons We Can’t Wait to Read Alec Baldwin’s Memoir Nevertheless appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 6:30 pm on 2016/12/29 Permalink
    Tags: celebrities, debbie reynolds,   

    Goodbye to the Truly Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds 

    One day after her daughter, the legendary actress and author Carrie Fisher, passed away at age 60, Debbie Reynolds suffered a stroke and died at age 84. In the span of 24 hours, America and the world has lost two of its most beloved and iconic women.

    Reynolds, who earned her first Golden Globe nomination in 1950 and broke out as a major star after her effervescent role as Kathy Selden in 1952’s classic musical Singin’ in the Rain (when she was just 19), lived the life of a smart, confident woman who overcame a tumultuous personal life with grace and good humor. Her Twitter bio read, in part, “I was married a few times—you may have heard about that” and she once said “I happened to marry idiots, which is why I gave up years ago. I have very bad taste in men.”

    America’s Sweetheart
    Reynolds was vivacious and charming; at age 16 she was discovered in classic Hollywood fashion while competing in a beauty pageant. Within two years she was a celebrated actress, and then a superstar when Singin’ in the Rain was released. She became one of the biggest stars of the 1950s and ’60s, starring in multiple film and television projects, including The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, How the West Was Won, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. She appeared onstage and was a noted cabaret performer, released hit records and made it to the Billboard Charts, and hosted her own hit television show in the late 1960s. If there was a way to entertain you, Debbie Reynolds was good at it, conveying the sheer joy of performance to audiences everywhere, in every medium.

    The Hollywood Life
    Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher in 1955. At the time, Fisher was the biggest pop star in America, and the marriage was a pairing of Hollywood royalty. When Fisher left Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor (a good friend of Reynolds’) four years later, it was a scandal of Brangelina proportions. Her second marriage, to businessman Harry Karl, lasted 13 years but left her in serious financial difficulties. She married for a third time in 1984, and divorced for the third time in 1996. Through it all Reynolds continued to appear in celebrated roles in film (including The Bodyguard and Behind the Candelabra), television (especially her beloved role as Grace’s mother on Will and Grace), and onstage (replacing Lauren Bacall in Woman of the Year in 1982).

    Girl Scouts & Business Ventures
    Reynolds was a genuine personality, a woman who maintained a cheerful attitude no matter what. Despite the disappointments of her personal life, she pursued projects that enriched her life. A lifelong supporter of the Girl Scouts (she once said she wanted to be known as the “oldest living Girl Scout”), she was leader of the local Girl Scout Troop in the 1960s when Carrie Fisher was a member. She founded a dance studio in Hollywood, owned and operated the Clarion Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, released an exercise video, and published several books, including her memoirs Unsinkable and Make ‛Em Laugh. No matter what life threw at Reynolds, she was always ready with a smile, and she was devoted to her children, taking sincere joy in their achievements and pain in their own struggles.

    Charity Work
    Reynolds helped found the Thalians, a charity dedicated to assisting those with mental health issues. Quietly, she served as president of the organization for five decades, giving countless hours and endless energy—not to mention her not-insignificant charm and charisma—to a cause that has helped raise millions of dollars for research and awareness-raising, doing much for both finding causes and treatments and helping to dispel the stigma that still attaches itself to people who suffer from these diseases.

    In short, Debbie Reynolds was a brilliant, talented entertainer who worked to bring a little joy into our humdrum lives for more than 60 years; a loving, dedicated mother who raised and mentored kids and step-kids selflessly; a businesswoman who struck out on her own and took risks that didn’t always pan out—but which never sank her; and an icon of classic Hollywood who maintained effortless class and dignity to the end.

    Her son, Todd, said, “She spoke to me this morning and said she missed Carrie. She’s with Carrie now.” With heavy hearts, we certainly hope so.

    The post Goodbye to the Truly Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Whitney Collins 7:50 pm on 2016/10/28 Permalink
    Tags: celebrities, , , , relationship goals   

    Ina Garten’s New Cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey, Dishes Up Delicious Devotion 

    If you’re familiar with Ina Garten’s hypnotic television series The Barefoot Contessa, you know Ina adores entertaining. Most of her shows center on a party or gathering of friends, for which Ina creates to-die-for menus, table settings, and culinary themes. But the best episodes, most fans will agree, are the ones in which Ina cooks solely for her doting husband, Jeffrey. These particular airings are infused with tenderness, a palpable devotion, and hand-selected comfort foods that express Ina’s love for a man who is, quite possibly, the most charmed husband alive.

    Jeffrey, Ina’s ever-smiling spouse, not only gets to devour his wife’s greatest masterpieces (like Steakhouse Steaks with Roquefort Chive Butter, Bourbon Honey Cake, and Fried Oysters with Lemon Saffron Aioli) on the show to viewers’ immense envy, but he gets to eat them ALL THE TIME IN REAL LIFE. Now, in Ina’s just-released tenth cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey, readers (and eaters!) are treated to a new compendium of dinners, drinks, and desserts—as well as sides, soups, and salads—that lucky duck Jeffrey has given five stars. On top of that, the cookbook features numerous photographs and anecdotes about Ina and Jeffrey’s nearly 50-year love affair.

    Can’t wait until dinner to see what Cooking for Jeffrey has simmering? To whet your appetite, here’s a baker’s dozen of piping hot goodies the book serves up…

    1. The story of how Ina and Jeffrey met. She was 15, walking past the Dartmouth library to visit her brother, when Jeffrey spied her from a window and demanded to know: “Who’s that girl?”

    2. The recipes for the perfect appetizer combo: Parmesan & Chipotle Popcorn and a Limoncello Vodka Collins. How great is that?

    3. Lentil & Kielbasa Salad. What? Come on, Ina! Sausage salad? Yes, please!

    4. The romantic tale of Jeffrey and Ina camping their way through France as youngsters fresh from school, complete with a faded photo of Ina cooking for Jeffrey on a tiny gas stove in a little pink tent.

    5. Scenes from Ina and Jeffrey’s disastrous first date, in which she has no fake ID.

    6. How a simple tenderloin dinner at a friend’s house in Washington D.C. (way back when Ina worked at the White House writing nuclear policy papers!) changed the way Ina cooked forever.

    7. A full-color centerfold of radishes. Food porn at its finest.

    8. Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables. (You’ll tear the page out and put it on your vision board.)

    9. That story about when Ina bought a little catering shop in the Hamptons and achieved fame and fortune roasting broccolini.

    10. How to make Kasha Varnishkes. What’s that you ask? Well, it starts with four tablespoons of duck fat, so does it really matter?

    11. How to plan the perfect dinner party. You’ll need a 48″-round table, six chairs, and cheese. If you’re inviting investment bankers, serve hot fudge sundaes with M&M’s.

    12. A recipe for Vanilla Cream Cheese Pound Cake. (Note: NOT paleo.)

    13. And finally, four amazing lists for list lovers: Jeffrey’s All-Time Favorite Dinners, Ina’s Pantry (things you must keep on hand), Ina’s Starter Kitchen (tools of the trade for beginners), and Ina’s Professional Kitchen (tools of the trade for chef-level cooks).

    Cooking for Jeffrey is available now.

    The post Ina Garten’s New Cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey, Dishes Up Delicious Devotion appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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