Phil Shannon

The Man on Devil's Island: Alfred Dreyfus & the Affair that Divided France
By Ruth Harris
Allen Lane, 2011
542 pages, $26.95 (pb)

The Dreyfus Affair in France a century ago shows how little has changed. “National security” was on the lips of politicians and military officers as an innocent man from a vilified group was framed for treason in a rigged military court and sent to rot in a prison hell-hole to serve political ends amid war hysteria.

Make the name “Alfred Dreyfus” or “David Hicks” and the template fits.

Strong>The Short Goodbye: A Skewed History of the Last Boom and the Next Bust
By Elisabeth Wynhausen
Melbourne University Publishing, 2011
219 pages, $29.99 (pb)

From writing stories about workers being sacked during the 2009 global financial crisis, Elisabeth Wynhausen, a journalist at Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, got a taste of the real thing when she was handed a pink slip of her own.

Inside Pine Gap: The Spy Who Came in from the Desert
By David Rosenberg
Hardie Grant Books, 2011
216 pages, $35 (pb)

David Rosenberg found 1960s television show Mission Impossible “irresistible” with its patriotic tales of high-tech US government spies thwarting the “bad guys”.

After an 18-year career as a US National Security Agency (NSA) electronic signals analyst at the CIA’s Pine Gap spy base in Australia’s remote interior, Rosenberg’s book, Inside Pine Gap, makes it clear that he has yet to grow up.

Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy
By Lindsay Tanner
Scribe, 2011
232 pages, $32.95 (pb)

Lindsay Tanner, the former finance minister in the federal Labor government, laments in his book, Sideshow, the rotting core of democracy in Australia that plumbed its most dismal depths in the lacklustre, “non-of-the-above” elections of 2010.

The commercial media, he says, have been responsible for dumbing down the quality of political debate and sapping the level of popular political engagement.

There is much in Tanner’s critique that is accurate.

The Woman Who Shot Mussolini
By Frances Stonor Saunders
Faber and Faber, 2010
375 pages, $32.99 (pb)

The Honourable Violet Gibson was not like the other women of the Anglo-Irish elite when it came to Benito Mussolini, the leader of Italy's fascists.

While Lady Asquith (wife of the former prime minister) was delighted by Mussolini, and Clementine Churchill (wife of the future prime minister) was awestruck by “one of the most wonderful men of our times”, Violet Gibson aimed a revolver at the fascist dictator in Italy in April 1926 and shot him in the nose.

All Along the Watchtower: Memoir of a Sixties Revolutionary
By Michael Hyde
The Vulgar Press, 2010
272 pages, $32.95 (pb)

Red Silk: The Life of Elliott Johnston QC
By Penelope Debelle
Wakefield Press, 2011
212 pages, $32.95 (pb)

Phillip Adams: The Ideas Man — A Life Revealed
By Philip Luker
JoJo Publishing, 2011
337 pages, $34.99 (pb)

Disconnect: The Truth About Mobile-Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It & How to Protect Your Family
By Devra Davis
Scribe, 2010
274 pages, $27.95 (pb)

Meet SAM ― Standard Anthropomorphic Man.

SAM is a big man and also the silent type who spends little time using his first-generation mobile phone held a safety-conscious half an inch from the ear.

Safety standards for mobile phones have been based on SAM’s low exposure to mobile phone radio frequency radiation.

The Most Dangerous Man in the World
By Andrew Fowler
Melbourne University Press, 2011
271 pages, $32.99 (pb)
By Suelette Drefus & Julian Assange
William Heinemann, 2011
479 pages, $24.95 (pb)
WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy
By David Leigh & Luke Harding
Guardianbooks, 2011
340 pages, $24.95 (pb)

Finding Santana
By Jill Jolliffe
Wakefield Press, 2010
177 pages, $24.95 (pb)

Jill Jolliffe's encounter with the Komodo Dragon, a carnivorous, aggressive, pre-historic lizard, was "hair-raising". But even more threatening were the murderous agents from the Indonesian secret police, with their de facto uniform of "cropped hair, trim moustache, Rolex watch and Ray-Ban sunglasses".

Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual
By Michael Scammell
Faber & Faber, 2011,
720 pages, $32.99 (pb)

Arthur Koestler had a taste for political drama.

As a communist, he spied against Franco's fascists in the Spanish civil war; as a Jew, he escaped from the Gestapo in France by joining the French Foreign Legion; he saw the inside of five jails; he wrote a famous novel of Stalin's show trials; he became a vociferous anti-communist; and he enjoyed a fashionable vogue for his 1970s books on parapsychology.


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