Friday, December 26, 2008

Gertrude Bell or The Strong Man

Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations

Author: Georgina Howell

A marvelous tale of an adventurous life of great historical import

She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. Born in 1868 into a world of privilege, Bell turned her back on Victorian society, choosing to read history at Oxford and going on to become an archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author (of Persian Pictures, The Desert and the Sown, and many other collections), poet, photographer, and legendary mountaineer (she took off her skirt and climbed the Alps in her underclothes).

She traveled the globe several times, but her passion was the desert, where she traveled with only her guns and her servants. Her vast knowledge of the region made her indispensable to the Cairo Intelligence Office of the British government during World War I. She advised the Viceroy of India; then, as an army major, she traveled to the front lines in Mesopotamia. There, she supported the creation of an autonomous Arab nation for Iraq, promoting and manipulating the election of King Faisal to the throne and helping to draw the borders of the fledgling state. Gertrude Bell, vividly told and impeccably researched by Georgina Howell, is a richly compelling portrait of a woman who transcended the restrictions of her class and times, and in so doing, created a remarkable and enduring legacy.

The Washington Post - Jason Goodwin

Georgina Howell recounts these stories with a wide-eyed admiration that is, for the most part, infectious, and her long book is a gripping read. Often pursuing themes in Bell's life, rather than bald chronology, she introduces her readers to the atmosphere of Oxford colleges, to the perils and excitements of the Alps, and to the dangers and decorum of desert life.

Publishers Weekly

In this hefty, thoroughly enjoyable biography of Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), English journalist Howell describes her subject as not only "the most famous British traveler of her day, male or female" but as a "poet, scholar, historian, mountaineer, photographer, archaeologist, gardener, cartographer, linguist and distinguished servant of the state." As Howell observes, "Gertrude always had to have a project," and she manages to bring those multitudinous projects, studies and adventures to life on the page. "I decided," Howell writes, "to use many more of her own words than would appear in a conventional biography": a felicitous decision when the subject's letters, diaries and publications are as seamlessly incorporated in Howell's engaging text as they are. Bell's role in the creation of Iraq and the placement of Faisal upon the throne, is fully detailed, both to honor her power and to haunt us today. But the strength and delight of Howell's superb biography is in the fullness with which Bell's character is drawn. Having clearly fallen in love with her subject (though not blind to her warts), Howell leaves no stone unturned-family history, school days, Bell's clothes, sometimes her meals, her friendships, her servants, her thousands of miles traveled, her fluency in languages (Persian, Turkish, Arabic) and, yes, her romances. 16 pages of b&w illus. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Table of Contents:
Maps     xi
Preface     xv
Gertrude and Florence     3
Education     28
The Civilized Woman     42
Becoming a Person     60
Mountaineering     74
Desert Travel     94
Dick Doughty-Wylie     127
Limit of Endurance     162
Escape     194
War Work     217
Cairo, Delhi, Basra     238
Government Through Gertrude     274
Anger     302
Faisal     335
Coronation     365
Staying and Leaving     383
Chronology     421
Note on Money Values     433
Notes     435
Bibliography     453
Acknowledgements     461
Index     465

Look this:

The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate

Author: James Rosen

The Strong Man is the first full-scale biography of John N. Mitchell, the central figure in the rise and ruin of Richard Nixon and the highest-ranking American official ever convicted on criminal charges.

As U.S. attorney general from 1969 to 1972, John Mitchell stood at the center of the upheavals of the late sixties. The most powerful man in the Nixon cabinet, a confident troubleshooter, Mitchell championed law and order against the bomb-throwers of the antiwar movement, desegregated the South’s public schools, restored calm after the killings at Kent State, and steered the commander-in-chief through the Pentagon Papers and Joint Chiefs spying crises. After leaving office, Mitchell survived the ITT and Vesco scandals—but was ultimately destroyed by Watergate.

With a novelist’s skill, James Rosen traces Mitchell’s early life and career from his Long Island boyhood to his mastery of Wall Street, where Mitchell's innovations in municipal finance made him a power broker to the Rockefellers and mayors and governors in all fifty states. After merging law firms with Richard Nixon, Mitchell brilliantly managed Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign and, at his urging, reluctantly agreed to serve as attorney general. With his steely demeanor and trademark pipe, Mitchell commanded awe throughout the government as Nixon’s most trusted adviser, the only man in Washington who could say no to the president.

Chronicling the collapse of the Nixon presidency, The Strong Man follows America’s former top cop on his singular odyssey through the criminal justice system—a tortuous maze of camera crews,congressional hearings, special prosecutors, and federal trials. The path led, ultimately, to a prison cell in Montgomery, Alabama, where Mitchell was welcomed into federal custody by the same men he had appointed to office. Rosen also reveals the dark truth about Mitchell’s marriage to the flamboyant and volatile Martha Mitchell: her slide into alcoholism and madness, their bitter divorce, and the toll it all took on their daughter, Marty.

Based on 250 original interviews and hundreds of thousands of previously unpublished documents and tapes, The Strong Man resolves definitively the central mysteries of the Nixon era: the true purpose of the Watergate break-in, who ordered it, the hidden role played by the Central Intelligence Agency, and those behind the cover-up.

A landmark of history and biography, The Strong Man is that rarest of books: both a model of scholarly research and savvy analysis and a masterful literary achievement.

The Washington Post - Lincoln Caplan

The Strong Man, by James Rosen, a Fox News Washington correspondent and a contributing editor to Playboy, displays wide-ranging and obsessive reporting, especially about the Watergate story. The book seeks to accomplish what a Mitchell memoir could not. It may seem strange to say that Rosen aims to vindicate the lawman-turned-convict, since the author affirms Mitchell's guilt and even details crimes "he got away with," but Rosen's purpose is wholesale revision: He presses the thesis that Mitchell should be recognized as a distinguished, if tragic, American figure.

Publishers Weekly

Casting the 66th attorney general and Watergate felon as the most upright man in the Nixon administration is faint praise indeed, to judge by this biography. Fox News correspondent Rosen applauds Mitchell for his tough law-and-order policies, school-desegregation efforts and hard line against leftist radicals, and for enduring wife Martha's alcoholic breakdowns and raving late-night phone calls to reporters. The book's heart is Rosen's meticulous, exhaustively researched study of Mitchell's Watergate role, absolving him of ordering the break-in and most other charges leveled against him. Instead, Mitchell is painted as a force for propriety who was framed by others-especially White House counsel John Dean, who comes off as Watergate's evil genius. (Rosen also claims Watergate burglar James McCord was secretly working for the CIA and deliberately sabotaged the break-in.) Unfortunately, Rosen's salutes to Mitchell's integrity and reverence for the law clash with his accounts of the man's misdeeds: undermining the Paris peace talks, suborning and committing perjury, tolerating the criminal scheming in Nixon's White House and re-election campaign. Mitchell may have blanched at the Nixon administration's sleazy intrigues, as Rosen insists, but he seems not to have risen above them. (Feb. 19)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Karl Helicher - Library Journal

In 1977, John N. Mitchell, Nixon's former attorney general (1969-72) and then manager of his 1972 reelection campaign, became the highest-ranking American official to serve time in prison: 19 months for perjury and obstruction of justice. Rosen (Washington correspondent, Fox News) presents a sympathetic account of Mitchell, who "never dished the dirt on Richard Nixon," although the President tried to make his former law partner the Watergate fall guy. Compounding Mitchell's woes were John Dean, White House counsel, who Rosen claims ordered the Watergate break-in; John Ehrlichman, Nixon's chief domestic policy adviser; Jeb Magruder of the Committee to Reelect the President-all of whom scapegoated Mitchell in their desperate attempts to save themselves from jail-and Martha Mitchell, his unbalanced, alcoholic wife whose public antics made the couple a national embarrassment. Rosen reveals a fascinating but well-buried chapter of Watergate, the Moorer-Radford scandal, in which the Joint Chiefs of Staff spied on Nixon because they thought he was too weak a leader to withstand the Soviets. In this incident and others, Mitchell persuaded Nixon not to retaliate. However, Rosen acknowledges that Mitchell was not without his flaws and indeed did obstruct justice. This fine political biography, casting Mitchell in a controversially positive light, is a good choice for larger public libraries.

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