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#TuesdayBookBlog Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation by Joseph Abraham A tough look at big historical figures, corporations, and more #RBRT #Non-fiction

Hi all:

I bring you a review for a non-fiction book. A pretty special one, another great offering from Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths. From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation by Joseph N. Abraham, MD

Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation by Joseph Abraham 

“I’ve always believed society to be a fundamentally rational thing, but what if it wasn’t?

What if it was built on insanity?”

—Jon Ronson, The Psychopath Test


Grand Prize Short List. 2021 Eric Hoffer Award

1st Runner-Up, Legacy Nonfiction. 2021 Eric Hoffer Award

Finalist, 2021 Montaigne Medal

Winner, Current Events2019 Indie Book Awards

Finalist, Historical Non-Fiction2019 Indie Book Awards


• • •


Conquest is murder and theft.

Conquerors are vicious criminals.

Vicious criminals become kings.

Kings designed civilization.

 

We are the products of civilization.


What if, before the modern period, all civilization was true crime?

Despite our romantic traditions, monarchs were never wise, just, nor generous. The briefest review of history shows that, without exception, kings were the most vicious criminals who ever lived. They were serial killers who preyed upon nations.

 

And the only path for survival in the ancient world required unquestioningly obeying— and blindly believing— anything the king said.


• • •

 

“…the book’s scientific analysis, which spans Darwin’s concept of evolution to cutting-edge psychology, is a welcome addition to historical conversations…”

Kirkus Reviews

“…concise, compelling, and challenging exploration of how humanity became what it is.”

Publishers Weekly

“Why do we excuse an act, unforgivable if committed by an ordinary citizen, if executed or ordered by a leader?”

The Los Angeles Review of Books

“The term ‘must-read’ has been so overused. But Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths is a must-read… must-own… and, most of all, a must-ponder.”

San Diego Jewish World

“…this may be the most important book you will ever read.”

—Robin Levin, The Death of Carthage

 

“…wide-ranging research and an unflinching eye for detail…”

—Candice Millard, New York Times best-selling author, The River of Doubt, & the Edgar Award-winning Destiny of the Republic

“This book is a must-read…”

—Carol Beggy, co-author, award-winning Boston book series; Ted Kennedy: Scenes from an Epic Life; and former reporter, Boston Globe

 

“…a stark reminder of how fragile and vulnerable to exploitation our modern democratic societies are…”

MathValues.org, Mathematical Association of America

 

“A detailed and engaging examination of our haunted past and threatening future. Read it and weep.”

—John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone, and The American Heritage Encyclopedia of American History


“…Dr. Abraham is a true Renaissance man… this book is a must-read.”

—Jim Engster, NPR affiliate WRKF


“…an insightful, novel argument based on both a keen clinical eye, and an exhaustive review of the literature… ”

—James Fallon, The Psychopath Inside

 

“…despite often romantic images, kings and conquerors were vicious criminals— and the fact that they were psychopaths, narcissists, and sadists became whitewashed, almost in a form of mass hypnosis.”

—Joe Gandelman, journalist, and blogger at TheModerateVoice.com

 

“For those who want their minds expanded and blown: Dr. Abraham is the man.”

—Pearson Cross, Bayou to Beltway, NPR affiliate KRVS


https://www.amazon.com/Kings-Conquerors-Psychopaths-Alexander-Corporation-ebook/dp/B08NWDKVB4/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kings-Conquerors-Psychopaths-Alexander-Corporation/dp/0578680599/

https://www.amazon.es/Kings-Conquerors-Psychopaths-Alexander-Corporation-ebook/dp/B08NWDKVB4/

Author Joseph N. Abraham


About the author:

Joseph N Abraham, MD is an emergency physician (Tulane ’86), research biologist, and award-winning author.

http://bookscrounger.com/about-me/

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I thank the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

This is an ambitious book, and one that is not an easy read, but it is a necessary one for anybody who wants to look at the history of modern civilisation through anything other than rose-tinted glasses. The author refers often to the Emperor’s New Clothes’ tale, and it is very apt, although perhaps it is not always a case of the spectators knowing what they are watching but trying to appear honest and compliant, but rather that the stories weaved around the emperor have become alive and true in the eyes of those seeing him (or reading about him in this case), or perhaps it is a combination of both, a self-delusion helped by years of whitewashing the facts or putting a romantic spin on things that are anything but romantic.

I have long held a pretty negative view of many of the famous conquerors and civilizations in history, although I must confess that I didn’t know many of the facts and figures Abraham quotes, at length, in the book, and it makes for a terrifying read at times. Although he does not cover all historical periods and all empires (I suspect it would occupy many volumes, and it would be a truly harrowing reading experience), he does a good sweep from classic times to Vietnam, not forgetting Alexander, Genghis Kahn, or the Victorians.

If you want to get a more detailed sense of what the book covers, I recommend checking the ‘look inside’ feature on your favourite store, and reading the list of contents, as that contains a good description of each chapter, but it would be too long for me to include here. As an indication, these are the titles of the chapters: Prologue: Fantasy and horror, Chapter 1: Kings (the comparison with gangster is very apt), Chapter 2: Conquerors (who are characterised as serial killers), Chapter 3: Psychopaths (where he diagnoses successful conquests and the monarchy rather than only the individuals), Chapter 4: The Breeding Program (we are all descendants of the conquerors or of the compliant victims), Chapter 5: The Noble Classes (hierarchies always work to ensure their self-preservation and dominance), Chapter 6: Privilege & the Double Standard, Chapter 7: The Authoritarian Personality (where the author looks at issues of compliance and obedience in the masses), Chapter 8: The Atrocino (if the conqueror is the Atrox, now we have the big corporations and political leaders who don’t quite reach their level, but are toxic nontheless), Chapter 9: The Modern World (prosperity and modernity arrived when the old order was questioned), Chapter 10: The Ugly Truth (the true cost of civilization), Epilogue: Response (education and early intervention can help us avoid similar excesses in the future).

I am a psychiatrist, have worked in forensic psychiatry, and was trained in using the PCL-R (The Psychopathy Checklist Review, which the author mentions). Psychopathy is not a psychiatric diagnostic as such (a diagnosis of antisocial or dissocial personality disorders would cover many of the traits that score highly on the checklist, although not all, and traits of other types of personalities can also score highly), but it is used because it gives a good indication of the risk a person might pose. The highest the score, the higher the risk. Having worked and met some people with high scores, I can say I do agree with the author’s assessment in general terms, although with the caveat that the sources of information, especially for the historical figures of ancient times, are limited and biased, so we need to take it all with a pinch of salt, but Abraham makes a good case, for sure.

I have already said that I had long thought along the same lines the author expresses in the book, and the more I read, the more examples came to my mind, even if the author didn’t mention certain names many of us might think about when we read it. (I, for one, can think of many atrocinos that grace the news very often, both in my country, Spain, and at an international level as well).

 I was intrigued by his comments about genetics and also about people who might fulfil the criteria for psychopathy (score highly in the checklist) but seem to have managed to control the most harmful aspects of their personalities. Evolutionary biology is not my area of expertise, but I felt that perhaps this aspect of the argument was less developed than some of the other ones, and I would have liked a bit more information, although I admit I would probably be in a minority here.

I also had some queries regarding his comments on compliance, because although I appreciate his overall argument, the validity of some of the psychological studies he mentions (Milgram still holds quite well, but Zimbardo’s not so much) has been questioned. (Last year I read and reviewed a book by Rutger Bregman called Humankind. A Hopeful History [you can check my review here], where the author manages to put a positive spin on human being behaviour, and he does a good job of criticizing many of the negative studies).

Regarding the format, I am not sure footnotes and endnotes work too well in e-book format (and the end notes and bibliography occupy 14% of the content), so people who want to dig into it and not miss anything might be advised to consider a paper copy. The book also includes illustrations (some of them are as harrowing as the descriptions of violence in the book, if not more), and the notes and the bibliography will help anybody interested in researching the topic in more depth.

I highlighted a lot of content, and I advise, as usual, that future readers check a sample of the book to see if it suits their taste, but I thought I’d share a few random quotes to give you a taster:

 Napoleón arrive in Egypt with a second army of scientists and historians. It is not surprising that innovation under his Empire produced far-reaching technical advances such as the modern ambulance, widespread inoculations, food canning, and others.

Napoleón was also a remorseless butcher.

 The conqueror is a thug. Rationalizing his crimes is a variation on blaming the rape victim. If she fights back, the rapist claims he is perfectly justified in torturing and murdering her. It is a variation of the exploiter’s defense: “Now see what you’ve made me do?!”

 We are always one demagogue away, we are always one angry, jaded electorate away, from letting Hitler sleep back inside the walls of civilization, assemble his brutalizers, and resume his slaughter.

 One of the reviewers commented on the USA perspective of the book, and that is true. Not that the conclusions are not relevant to all countries, but some of the solutions and further advice suggested seem tailor-made for the United States, although the overall message is easy to extrapolate and adapt to other countries as well, and the individual insight provided is priceless.

This is one of those books that make us sad as we read them, because we know full well that those who need to read them the most are unlikely to do so, but Abraham holds no false illusions and is clear that the most entrenched radicals cannot be swayed by rational argument.

 I don’t think one needs to be an academic to read and ‘enjoy’ (at an intellectual level at least) this book, but the amount of detail and the format might put some people off. Also, as I’ve said before, the book is not an easy read, and it might not be suited for those who shy away from violence or descriptions of extreme and cruel behaviour. Other than the minor personal queries, preferences, and warnings mentioned above, the book is a gripping, thought-provoking, and informative —although somewhat gruelling— read. I learned plenty of new information that disabused me even more about romanticized versions of the past, and some of the comments about politics in general (the importance of not confusing right and left-wing politics with conservatism and liberalism, for example) were right on target. Highly recommended, but be prepared to be challenged and shaken.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie and her whole team for their ongoing support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, to comment and share if you know anybody who would be interested, and to keep smiling. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog RESTLESS EARTH (KARMA’S CHILDREN BOOK 1) by John Dolan. Everything a lover of complex mysteries could wish for.

Hi all:

I have the pleasure of bringing you the first novel in a trilogy by one of my favourite mystery/detective novel writers, John Dolan.

Restless Earth (Karma's Children Book 1) by John Dolan.
Restless Earth (Karma’s Children Book 1) by John Dolan.

Restless Earth (Karma’s Children Book 1) by John Dolan

“It’s not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. And sometimes, there are no good guys.”

Four men scattered across the globe. . .
One seeks pleasure
One seeks purpose
One seeks redemption
And one seeks revenge.

A wind is howling around the skyscrapers of New York, through the battlefields of Iraq, and into the bustling streets of Bangkok. It carries with it the fates of these four men: men bound together by chance and history.
Which of them – if any – will survive the tempest?

The “Karma’s Children” series will appeal to lovers of the following book categories: mystery, thriller, crime, Thailand fiction, private investigators, British detectives, and amateur sleuths.

https://www.amazon.com/Restless-Earth-Karmas-Children-Book-ebook/dp/B076GRP4VH/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Restless-Earth-Karmas-Children-Book-ebook/dp/B076GRP4VH/

Author John Dolan
Author John Dolan

About the author:

“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.”

John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.

He is the author of the ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ mystery series and the ‘Karma’s Children’ mystery trilogy.

https://www.amazon.com/John-Dolan/e/B008IIERF0

My review:

Anybody who has been following my reviews for a while will know that I love John Dolan’s writing. I discovered his books a long while back and I’ve been following his career with interest ever since. I was both sad and exhilarated when he brilliantly closed his previous series Time, Blood and Karma with the novel Running on Emptiness (you can check my review here). I bought a copy of his new book, the beginning of a new series, Karma’s Children a while back, but it wasn’t until I received the ARC for the second book that I realised I had yet to read and review the first one. Yes, I’d been busy, but I wonder if part of my reluctance was to do with starting a new series afresh, after having enjoyed the previous one so much. Could it live up to my expectations?

Having now read the first book (and started the second one straight away), it’s fair to say that it has. The new book is not a complete break. Some of the characters and the settings we are already familiar with (I don’t feel qualified to comment on how well the book stands on its own. My inkling is that it could be read and enjoyed by somebody who hadn’t read any of the previous books, but there would be quite a few lose threads and I’m sure the reading experience would be completely different). Yes, we have David Braddock, the British amateur detective-cum-therapist living in Thailand who decides to confront some of the issues pending in his life (he’s always reminded me of Hamlet, and I must say that like Shakespeare’s character, he can make me feel impatient at his dithering sometimes), but not others. We also have Jim Fosse, a fascinating villain, a psychopath or sociopath who is up to his old tricks and some newer ones. And we have two other characters that bring new concerns (some at least) and settings into the story. Sam Trask, an American Iraq War veteran, who has suffered physical injuries that he has mostly recovered from, but the same cannot be said for the mental scars from his experiences, and another American character, Reichenbach, who remains mostly in the shadows, and whom I suspect we haven’t seen the last of (and I’ll keep my peace and let you make your own minds up about him).

The story moves between the different characters, and although, apart from Sam’s military history it is mostly shown in chronological order, there are changes in setting and point of view, and a fair amount of characters, which require the reader to remain attentive at all times. Most of the story is told in third-person mostly from the point of view of the character involved (although I was more aware of the narrator in this book that I had been before. This was particularly evident in the parts of the story following Sam, who is not a bookish man, as evidenced by his dialogue and his backstory, but even when we are with him, we are provided insights and observation that go well beyond his psychological and cultural makeup), and the alternating points of view allow us to be privy to information that gives us more of an overall and multifaceted picture than that of any of the individual characters. However, the Jim Fosse’s fragments of the story are narrated in the first person and that makes them particularly chilling and at times difficult to read. A character with no moral compass and good brains, a master manipulator and plotter, his attitude reminded me at times of the main character in American Psycho (although more inclined to psychological mind-games than to out-and-out violence); and his role is central to most of what happens in the story, although I won’t reveal any details. He does not have any redeeming qualities (at least none than I’ve discovered yet), but he is witty, his observations can be humorous (if you appreciate dark humour) and accurate, and there is no pretence there, and no apology. He plays his part well for the public, but in private he does not hesitate or dwell on the consequences of his actions. If he wants something and it does not involve a high risk for him, he’ll go for it. And I find that refreshing indeed. No, he’s not somebody I’d like to meet (or rather, he’s not somebody in whose way I’d want to be), but he is a great character to read about.

These men (well, not so much Jim Fosse, although he does, at points, becomes obsessed with what seems to be his female counterpart) are obsessed by women, one way or another, and riddled by guilt (definitely not Fosse), be it by commission or by omission. But, if we truly look into it, these are men whose issues with women seem to hide some deep insecurity and doubts about their own selves. Sam Trask, in my opinion the most sympathetic of the characters, is an innocent abroad (he has been out of his country as a soldier but otherwise he is quite naïve to the ways of the world), without being truly innocent. He is tortured by the memory of something he witnessed. His difficulties made me wonder if guilt by omission is not even worse than true guilt. Because if you’ve done something terrible, you can tell yourself you won’t do it again, but if what happened was not of your own doing, how can you guarantee that it will not happen again? Yes, you might tell yourself that you will react differently next time, but you can never be sure you will be in a position to do so, or it will make a difference. You were, in a way, another victim of the situation but complicit in it at the same time. No wonder it is not something one can recover easily from.

As I said, I enjoyed meeting Sam, and felt for him and his difficulties. I’ve mentioned Jim Fosse, and I am curious about Reichenbach, who pulls some of the strings. I felt less close to Braddock than I had in the past. I am not sure if it was the narrative style, or the fact that he is less central to the story, appears less sharp (he missed quite a number of clues), and seems to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about smoking. He remains intent on protecting himself and not fully confronting the truth about his relationship with this father and his own unresolved issues. I’m sure it’s a personal thing, but when he reflects on women and their role, I felt like shaking him and telling him to grow-up. I guess I’m coming more and more to Da’s  (his faithful no-nonsense secretary/associate) way of thinking.

The writing is supple, suffused with psychological and philosophical insights, a great deal of understatement and fun, witty comments, and eminently quotable. One can’t help but wish to have such a witty internal narrator to accompany us in our adventures.

The mystery (there are several but all end up fitting into a complex scheme) is cleverly constructed and although as I said we, the readers, know more than any of the individual characters (thanks to the different points of view and the multiple story strands), it is not easy to guess exactly how things will be solved. Those of us who have been following the stories from the beginning might have an inkling (of course things are not as they seem, but that’s no surprise), but I don’t think many readers will get it 100% right. And that is one of the joys of the story. The vivid and multiple settings, the accurate psychological and sociological insights, and the fabulous characters and dialogues make for a fabulous read as well. This is the strong beginning of another of John Dolan’s masterful series. And I’ll be sure to keep reading it.

Thanks to the author for his book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling! Oh, and I should be bringing you the review of the second novel in this trilogy soon. Ah, and don’t worry if you don’t see me or any of my posts for a bit. I’ll be away recharging batteries and catching up on some reading!

 

 

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