Monthly Archives: November 2011

Remaking the image of Adolph Eichmann’s Jerusalem trial

The Eichmann Trial, by Deborah E. Lipstadt. Nextbook/Schocken. 272 pages. $24.95.

Was the trial of Adolph Eichmann an attempt to bring a notorious Nazi leader to justice, or was its purpose to present to the watching world a broad understanding of the Holocaust, its genesis, and its consequences? As Deborah E. Lipstadt rolls out her remarkable story of this watershed event, she makes it clear that while the trial’s judges preferred to stick narrowly to the issue of the specific charges against Eichmann, the lead prosecutor, Gideon Hauser, took every opportunity to paint the larger picture. In the end, not only was a monstrous criminal brought to justice, but media coverage of the lead-up, conduct, and aftermath of the trail educated the world-wide public about the Holocaust with a degree of detail and with an impact that had never before been accomplished. 


The wider lens of prosecution testimony allowed not only survivor evidence against Eichmann, but also, perhaps more importantly, an evidentiary theme that countered the anti-Semitic view that Jews were somehow culpable because they offered little resistance. This perspective is utterly demolished.

Also, while it’s true that Jewish prisoners where sometimes part of the machinery that put other Jews to death, the trial made it clear that there was little, if anything, that they could have done.

In her compact and lucid book’s well-carved chapters, Professor Lipstadt takes on several other significant issues that expand our understanding of the trial’s importance.

One key issue was the right of the Israeli government to mount a legal procedure about events that occurred before the founding modern Israel in 1948. The author clearly and concisely explains the bases on which Israeli representatives argued that its court had appropriate jurisdiction for this trial. In addition, the prosecution prevailed against challenges based on the way in which Israeli agents captured Eichmann in Argentina. The prosecutors were even able to counter effectively the powerful charge that there was no way that Eichmann could get a fair trial in Israel. Professor Lipstadt carefully summarizes the arguments that eventually prevailed.

The author’s examination of Eichmann’s own testimony reveals a defense that rested on an untenable “just following orders” strategy. Consistently casting himself as a mere functionary and not a decision-maker, Eichmann undermined this explanation by also trying to cast himself as someone who made decisions that actually benefitted the Jews. This inconsistency was readily apparent.

In writing The Eichmann Trial, Lipstadt had no choice but to assess the achievement, reputation, and influence of Hannah Arendt’s 1963 volume Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Many of the pre-publication reviews of Lipstadt’s book praise her for rescuing the public image of Eichmann and of the trial from Arendt’s distorted vision. While this is no doubt part of Lipstadt’s achievement, I find her discussion of Arendt’s book to be even-handed in that the Lipstadt goes out of her way to credit Arendt with many important insights. Moreover, by culturally and biographically contextualizing Eichmann in Jerusalem, Lipstadt helps us understand what gave rise to the less attractive aspects of Arendt’s purported on-the-scene reportage.

The Eichmann Trial also presents abundant source notes and a helpful chronology.

The 1961 Eichmann trial, as Deborah E. Lipstadt recreates it, is more than anything else a landmark step in Israel’s development as a nation. This was Israeli’s bar mitzvah year. Only thirteen years of age, the State of Israel showed itself to be a capable and credible governmental entity, with top notch security and judicial institutions. The troublesome question remains of whether Israel can or should assert itself as the national voice of Jews everywhere.

This review appears in the December 2011 issues of Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County, FL), The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee), and L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties).

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Ward Larsen crafts suspense in Sudan

Fly by Night, by Ward Larsen. Oceanview Publishing. 336 pages. $25.95.

Ward Larsen has done it again, adding another pulse-racing Jammer Davis aviation thriller to last year’s exciting Fly by Wire. Suppose a power-hungry imam, Rafiq Khoury, had gained control of a downed experimental stealth drone and had it hidden in a guarded hangar at the Khartoum airport? Suppose this same person had headquartered his shady air freight company, a collection of patched together DC-3 aircraft, at that same airport? Suppose one of those aircraft mysteriously crashed into the Red Sea? Suppose U. S. security officials had some notion about the location of the drone? 

What would they do? Who are they going to call? Jammer Davis – maverick crash investigator. His job? Under cover of investigating the DC-3 crash, check on the whereabouts of the drone and discover what technological secrets might be stolen from it and put to dangerous purposes. Readers follow Davis as he makes his way to Khartoum’s FBN (sarcastically called Fly by Night) Aviation and begins his inquiry.

Episodes following Davis’s investigation alternate with others that follow the development of Khoury’s effort to master the remote control technologies of the stealth drone. Khoury and his underlings are in a race against time to fulfill a destructive mission of enormous regional and world consequences. While Ward Larsen keeps that mission’s objective obscured until near the end, he matches the ticks of the villain’s clock against those of Davis’s research – there is a huge threat that Davis must defuse before it’s too late.

Davis’s tasks multiply as his one-man mission brings him into arduous adventures on land, in the air, and on and under the sea. Seemingly equipped for almost any mental or physical challenge, Davis keeps in touch with his Washington, D.C. superiors as best he can while planning and improvising his way into and out of trouble.

One of the hallmarks of a Ward Larsen book is a high-octane blend of suspense, emotion, action, and technological detail. Fully master of the technological issues that Davis confronts, Mr. Larsen has the special talent of describing them in ways that are understandable to the general reader, that never stop the action, and that always keep that reader engaged. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the November 9, 2011 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 10 Naples and Palm Beach Gardens editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Ward Larsen 2 pdf

For review of Larsen’s Fly by Wire, click here: Florida Weekly – Ward Larsen pdf

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Donna Meredith’s “The Color of Lies”

In the season of Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaign, the stability of a small South Georgia town is threatened by racial stresses and strains. A racial slur is found on a school blackboard. A dynamic Afro-American minister threatens a law suit against the school system, challenging its treatment of Black students. Protagonist Molly Culpepper, a teacher at Alderson High School, is deeply disturbed by her inability to adjust the attitude and behavior of J. D., an embittered Black teenager whose conduct is disruptive and whose life path seems a path to incarceration. 

Molly’s situation is difficult in several additional ways. A single mother since the death of her policeman husband, she is having trouble with her fourteen year old son Graham, who is going through the customary steps of rebellious teenage experimentation. Her father, a blunt and often crude character, is killing himself with alcohol. The school’s new principal is changing priorities in ways that seem counterproductive and that predict more hours of effort for the already overtaxed teaching staff. He is, as well, interfering with Molly’s “freedom of the press” approach to the school newspaper, which she advises.

Meredith builds suspense on many levels. Will the lawsuit aggravate the divisions within the community? Will J.D.’s threatening behavior turn violent? Will Molly lose control of her class and her career? Will the athletic competition spectacular between students and teachers raise the money needed to fund important school programs that are beyond the existing budget?

Will lies people have told themselves and others undermine trust and damage relationships?

Donna Meredith

Meredith’s title, The Color of Lies, resonates throughout the novel in many ways. We know how tempting it is to mask the truth about attitudes regarding skin color. We know have often lies are spoken and maintained to avoid bringing people pain or embarrassment – the so-called “little white lies.” In Meredith’s story, lies have kept from view the true facts about J.D’s father’s death and about a relationship between Molly’s late husband, David, and J.D.’s mother.

As Donna Meredith plumbs the practical and moral consequences of lies, she also builds a complex microcosm of the New South. Her novel is populated with a large cast of varied characters. These include her own family, the students in her classes, the other teachers and staffers at the high school, and many other townspeople, including Molly’s new neighbor, C. Lodge Piscetelli, at once a lawyer and a computer expert. Her portrait of a community, however, is more than a collection of its residents: it involves a sense of history, of braided cultural strands, of habits of mind that create fissures as well as bonds. . . .

To see this review in its entirety, as it appears in the Southern Literary Review, click here:

To find out more about this Talahassee writer, click here:

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Jewish Book Fair features fourteen authors

As part of its participation in Jewish Book Month (November), the Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties in Southwest Florida is putting on the latest edition of its Annual Jewish Book Fair. The Fair’s chairperson, Mindi Simon, is pleased that “the Jewish Book Fair offers something for everyone. The topics of the authors’ books range from humor to politics and from history to fantasy.” 

The Fair’s initial event takes place on Sunday, November 20 from 10:00-11:00am at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Fort Myers. It features authors of books for children. Ms. Simon observes, “We are trying something new with our children’s event – separate presentations for three different age groups.” Anne Marie Asner (“Shmutzy Girl and Noshy Boy”) will do a presentation for children in grades 1-3, and author Dori Weinstein (“Sliding into the New Year”) will present her book to 4th through 7th grade students. Rabbi Alyssa Auster from Temple Judea will present a program for teens 8th grade and up based on Milton Steinberg’s book “As a Driven Leaf,” a work of modern fiction that brings the Talmud to life. The event is free of charge. 

“Every year we try something new at the Jewish Book Fair,” says Federation’s program director, Naomi Rubin. “This year we are having a Sunday morning Café at the Jewish Federation.” That event takes place on Sunday December 4th at 10:00am at the Federation facility, 9701 Commerce Center Court, (off Bass Rd.) in Fort Myers. Authors Michael Wex (“The Frumkiss Family Business”) and Michael Levy (“Kosher Chinese”) will present their books while attendees enjoy coffee and bagels. There is a $5 charge for this event. RSVP to Naomi Rubin (contact info below).

On Tuesday, December 6th, from 7:00-9:00pm, this moveable book feast travels to Lakes Regional Library, 1520 Bass Road, Fort Myers. Featured are Jennifer Griffin (Fox News) and her husband Greg Myre (“New York Times”) who co-wrote “This Burning Land” about their experiences reporting from Israel from 1999-2007. Also featured is author Marilyn Berger, whose book “This is a Soul” tells about the life and work of Dr. Rick Hodes in Africa. This is a free event.

Back at the Jewish Federation on Thursday December 8th at 7:00pm, readers can enjoy hearing three Florida authors speak at “Local Author Night.” Mindi Simon, is “pleased that we are having a local authors’ event to promote local talent.” The authors are Ella Naylor (“Anne Frank: Faces of Intolerance Past and Present”), Cantor Lyle Rockler (“Chazzanos”) and Gerald A. Honigman (“The Quest for Justice in the Middle East”). Anne Frank theme artwork by Sanibel Artist Myra Roberts will be on display at the Jewish Federation during the Fair.  While there is no charge for this event, donations are accepted.

The Jewish Book Fair moves to Miromar Outlets in Estero (near Godiva Chocolates) on Sunday December 11that 3:00pm. The authors are Mary Lou Weisman (“Al Jaffee’s Mad Life”) and Ronda Robinson (“Beyond Politics: Inspirational People of Israel”). Though there is no charge for the event, donations are accepted. 

The Jewish Book Fair 2011 culminates with an Author Luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the Bell Tower, Fort Myers, on Tuesday, December 13 at 11:30am. Make the required reservations at 239-481-4449 ext. 3. The cost is $20 for the luncheon and authors’ lectures; books are sold separately.  Register online at The luncheon speakers are Dr. Leonard Felder (“Here I Am: Using Spiritual Wisdom to Become More Present, Centered and Available for Life”) and novelist Michael David Lukas (“The Oracle of Stamboul”). 
 That evening these authors will make a presentation at Temple Shalom of Port Charlotte and the Gulf Islands at 7:30pm. RSVP to Naomi Rubin as indicated below.  “Each author speaks well,” says Ms. Rubin, “and even if you have not read the book, you will enjoy the book presentation.”

At each event, the Jewish Federation will be selling the authors’ books and other new titles with Jewish content or books written by Jewish authors. The books will be discounted 10% off list price. Authors will be happy to autograph their books at their events. All Jewish Book Fair events are open to the public. For more information, visit or contact Naomi Rubin at 239-481-4449 ext. 3 or

See also: 2011 Jewish Book Fair schedule

And this write-up in the November 16, 2011 Fort Myers Florida Weekly: Jewish Book Fair 2011

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Sharon Potts shows how (not) to find the ideal mate

“South Beach Cinderella,” by Sharon Potts. CreateSpace. 338 pages. $12.99 (paper), Kindle edition $2.99.

Although she is an established author of suspenseful mysteries, Sharon Potts decided that the best way to switch genre tracks was to publish her latest, a comedy-romance, through e-book and print on demand publishing. Let us hope she brings her fans along to enjoy her work in a different mode.

Sharon Potts

Frankie Wunder, real estate agent and wife of super-dentist Warren Wunder, is an earnest but misguided character whom Ms. Potts portrays with empathy and wry satiric strokes. When her childless marriage to her cheating husband falls apart, Frankie works herself up into a campaign frenzy to find true love and motherhood. Naively optimistic, she projects her versions of the ideal mate on a series of men whom she hardly knows, inevitably finding disappointment and slowly beginning to share the opinion of many of her friends that there just aren’t any good men out there. 

Why the frenzy? Well, she’s desperate to have children, she’s thirty-five, and she hears that clock ticking. This panic, in part, makes her a bit delusional about the true merits of the men she meets.

Sharon Potts captures the humorous and awkward aspects of entering the dating game after more than a decade of married life. Frankie makes hilarious missteps, and the detached reader can often predict that things will turn out badly given Frankie’s sense of urgency and her blindness to obvious clues. Though Frankie is highly intelligent, her antennae are muddled. She builds dream men out of spoiled goods. And she is a bit scary in pushing her happy family agenda.

Frankie’s background, which includes a father she never knew and a hippie mother whose parenting style she has rejected, partially explains her needs and her confused state. Slowly, she gains greater insight and a more balanced perspective.

Crucial to the novel’s success and vision is her friend Neil, a lawyer turned free-lance accountant and unpublished author. Neil’s life is a battle against conventionality. His peculiarities make him seem like a lone wolf. Often unkempt, comfortably ignorant about fashion, oscillating between shyness and outspokenness, Neil is nobody’s Prince Charming. He’s a guy who makes do with the necessities of life and values repairing above replacing. He has a kind of earthy know-how, and he is loyal to his friends. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the October 26, 2011 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and in the October 27 issue of the Naples edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – Sharon Potts pdf

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Despair parties on: James Nolan’s “Higher Ground”

*James Nolan was best known as a poet, poetry translator, and critic before publishing an award-winning short story collection, Perpetual Care and Other Stories, in 2008. Higher Ground , winner of the William Faulkner-Wisdom Gold Medal in the Novel, adds another dimension to his literary achievement,

This dazzling debut novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans pays both serious and satiric homage to the variety of survivors who never left, came back, or simply showed up in the storm-ravaged city. The title suggests at once the need to rise above the vulnerable, flood-prone elevations and the need to rise above the degradation and corruption that followed the hurricane. People need to find out how to get on with getting on: they need higher spiritual and moral ground. As well, they need to create some redemptive joy out of the madness and mayhem. 

Nicole Naquin has moved back to New Orleans after decades away. She is escaping from a failed marriage and attempting to assist her aging mother, the cantankerous Miss Gertie, who has been reduced to drug-dealing. Employed (actually underemployed) by FEMA, Nicole is already in a despondent state when two calamities befall her on the same day. Her brother, Marky, is killed in a drive-by shooting, and Nicole plows into someone’s FEMA trailer.

That someone turns out to be Kelly Canyon, until recently a reasonably successful middle-class homeowner. Kelly is now headed for divorce and counted among the FEMA-dependent consequences of Katrina. Back in 1975, he was Nicole’s teenage heartthrob. Once fate slams them together, each glimpses the possibility of a new life – a true life – an alternative to the ones they had the ironic good fortune to escape. Though the storm’s aftermath has brought them both down, it seems also to have also finished the process of decline brought on by bad choices and false values. Having bottomed out, there is only one direction left for them to take. Perhaps together.

Killed in the same drive-by episode that felled Marky Naquin, Latrome Batiste is a high school student who seems to have been collateral damage. But was he?

James Nolan

Two very different investigators work the case. One is Lieutenant Vinnie Panarello, a homicide detective who is himself under investigation for shooting someone in the course of an arrest. The other is Gary Cherry, a San Francisco hippie import who has made a home in New Orleans dealing the softer drugs while setting Miss Gertie up in business with illegal “script stuff like Valium, Vicodin, and Xanax.” The two investigators are in each other’s way, but, in spite of different motives, end up working almost in tandem.

While the mystery plot holds interest and is managed skillfully, it is not the main center of attention. The real attraction of Higher Ground is Nolan’s representation, in high-powered episodes, of the sensory and spiritual New Orleans he so obviously loves. Drag queens, double-dealers, jobless and homeless strugglers, self-interested politicos, artists, religious seekers, cripples, and crazed psychologists do the dance of self-expression and survival. All this kaleidoscope of human interaction is anchored by a mayoral campaign and the Mardi Gras. All this stew of yearning is seasoned and smothered by the ruins of Katrina and the bureaucratic infection called FEMA.

Higher Ground abounds in dark humor and uproarious hi-jinks as every kind of indignity, sinfulness, and bereavement seeks and approaches a life-affirming antidote and a shaky salvation. In Nolan’s New Orleans, despair parties on.

*This review was first posted on, which is undergoing some technical stresses and strains. Thus, I am posting it here in its entirety (unedited). For the SLR version, click here:

An interview with Mr. Nolan is also available:

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Taking the Temperature of the Arab-Israeli Crisis

This review appears in the November 2011 issues of Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties), and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota and Manatee Counties).

This Burning Land, by Greg Myre and Jennifer Griffin. John Wiley & Sons. 336 pages. $25.95.

Though this book is written by two journalists, it is not journalism. Whatever measures of objectivity Greg Myre and Jennifer Griffin achieved in their work for the New York Times and Fox News respectively would seem to be irrelevant to judging their present effort. This Burning Land, though no doubt based on notes that fed their dispatches, is ultimately memoir. As such it is accumulates the recollections, insights, and feelings of two people with similar jobs, in this case a husband and wife working independently of one another, who were assigned to cover the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

Ms. Griffin’s Introduction and Afterword frames 33 well-focused, brief vignettes. Most of those chapters are by Mr. Myre. Sometimes a single chapter shares both voices and both perspectives. Overall, the book benefits from the interweaving of perspectives. Even though their views are rarely in contradiction or even contrast, the personalities and sensibilities of the two writers interact beneficially. 

Already seasoned war zone correspondents when they accepted their assignments and made a home in Israel, Myre and Griffin spent almost eight years exploring the politics and personalities of the conflict. They made many close friends, both Israelis and Palestinians, from many walks of life. The contacts that they developed and their long, deep exposure to the dynamics of the region give their remembrances and judgments specificity, authority, and resonance.

This Burning Land embraces the story of their journalistic enterprises and the story of building a home and raising children within a crossfire. Readers vicariously accompany Myre or Griffin on assignment in Gaza or a West Bank town, as once again fighting has broken out (again) or is about to. One or another of our reporters is on the streets or alleys with his or her life at risk. The danger is real and the skillful descriptions only enhance it.

On other assignments, they follow leads to interview ordinary people who have stories to tell of loss, frustration, and determination. These people have views on the likelihood of accomplishing their aims of simply surviving, of helping to create a peaceful home or homeland for their children, and of reclaiming ownership of their destiny. The journalists tell stories, as well, of engagements with community leaders, businessmen, Fatah operatives, Israeli soldiers, and West Bank professionals.

They capture the ambitions and hatreds and illusions that make peace seem not only illusive, but even impossible. Locked in adversarial positions, Israelis and Palestinians, over time, have found fewer and fewer issues about which that can agree or even negotiate in an attempt to agree.

This Burning Land also provides startling insights into the news business of which Myre and Griffin members. We learn about their relationships with their supervisors and the other professionals on their support teams. Remarkably, we see how these parents raise their young children, taking turns on assignment. A very unusual domestic life unfolds, one in which the normal issues of family interact with the nightmare environment of proximate war.

Toward the end of the book, the authors sum up their insights. They underscore several consequential realities. Among these is the fact that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have a consensus view about how to move forward. With Palestinians “wedded to armed struggle” and Israel addicted to building settlements, there seems to be little hope for a meaningful breakthrough. The enhanced status of Hamas has changed the game in that it has “veto power over any peace plan.” 

Greg Myre and Jennifer Griffin have made it very easy to be sympathetic with individuals whose personal experiences of living within the caldron they tell so well. At the same time, they make it almost impossible to be sympathetic to those rival political entities that shape history by rewriting it or by limiting the vision and opportunity of those whom they supposedly represent.

This Burning Land lives gloriously in its vividness, its passionate eloquence, and its ardent commitment to revealing the known, little-known, and unknown truths of this tormented region.

Note: the authors are appearing at the Lakes Regional Library (15290 Bass Rd., Fort Myers) on Tuesday, December 6 from 7-9pm. This event is a segment of the Jewish Book Fair (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties).

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