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Monday, Oct. 13, 2008

Averting Black Saturday

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During the recent presidential debate, John McCain once again reduced Barack Obama's diplomatic intentions to a desire to take tea with terrorists ("without preconditions!"). To parry his opponent's attack, Obama may have done well to invoke the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 to illustrate just how effective diplomacy can be in defusing an explosive situation. In his new book, One Minute to Midnight, Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs does just that. One Minute to Midnight casts fresh light on the role John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev played in finding a peaceful solution and the trigger-happy generals and military bunglers who almost sparked a nuclear war.

Using archival newspaper coverage, recordings and military documents, as well conducting new interviews, Dobbs has reconstructed a play-by-play account of the 13 days of the crisis, focusing particularly on the eve of the momentous "Black Saturday." His account sets out to illustrate the nail-biting apprehension experienced on all sides of the conflict, along with the miscommunications and missteps that nearly plunged the nation into accidental war. At least in their defense, U.S. and Soviet leaders could blame some of their missteps on slow and unreliable forms of communication. Given the superior technology at its disposal, what excuse can our current administration offer for the momentous failure of its intelligence over the past eight years? Dobbs comes to the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop on Downer Avenue on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.

Also coming to Schwartz this week is Milwaukee lawyer Michael Bowen, author of Shoot the Lawyer Twice-his new installment of the Pennyworth series. Though neither the legal mystery nor the archetype of husband/wife sleuth is a new convention (the former popularized as early as the 1930s with Erle Stanley Gardner's indefatigable lawyer-cum-detective Perry Mason), this is probably the first crime novel to feature our very own UW-Milwaukee as its primary setting.

Following 2006's prophetically named Putting Lipstick on a Pig, Bowen's new book brings back husband-and-wife team Rep and Melissa Pennyworth, described by one critic as a modern-day incarnation of Dashiell Hammett's Nick and Nora Charles. Rep is a lawyer and Melissa a UWM English professor caught in the crossfire of academic warfare. Add a case of alleged piracy (the high-seas version rather than the innocuous video kind) and you have the makings of an explosive novel. Bowen comes to the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop on Downer Avenue on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.

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