South African Anti-Apartheid Activist Stephen Biko Died in Police Custody Forty Years Ago Today

After Stephen Biko’s death following a brutal police interrogation in 1977, an atrocity that the South African government tried covering up, the anti-apartheid newspaper editor Donald Woods, who’d known Biko, quickly wrote and smuggled out of the country a manuscript* that was his combined biography of Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) he’d been a key leader of, and an exposé on the case. The book added fuel to the controversy in Western countries about the conduct of the corrupt regime. It was an amazingly timely and powerful book, and instilled in me a love for ripped-from-the-headlines books, the sort that I’ve been partial to ever since. Biko was published in 1978 around the time my siblings and parents and I were getting ready to open our bookstore, Undercover Books, and it was among the first books I ordered for our opening stock. With the scandal that ensued from Biko’s death, ownership of Woods’s book became a crime in South Africa. I was very proud we sold many copies in Cleveland. Woods lived many years in Britain, and was still on the scene when Nelson Mandela finally became free.

*When I said above that Donald Woods smuggled his manuscript for Biko out of South Africa, I could’ve added that he carried it out himself, in clandestine fashion, so it could be published in the West. He and his family fled the country in a land cruiser sort of vehicle, in back country, crossing a frontier to a neighboring country where there was no guard post. A brave man with nerves of steel.

 

Strike Back at the Trump Administration’s Cruelty—Donate to Solar Cookers International!

Cooking with wood and other combustible fuels causes many health problems for children and adults in developing countries. As this story in Think Progress chronicles, going back to the George W. Bush administration, the US government has participated in and contributed to a UN program that provides clean cookstoves, either cookers that burn combustible fuels more cleanly by venting them adequately, or solar cookers as pictured here. However, the Trump administration recently pulled out of this clean cookstove program because it mentions climate change, and the very mention of that phrase is now forbidden by Trump officials. Learning about this, I got angry. But my anger quickly turned to inspiration, as I thought of the example of a friend, Jim Hanas, who’d recently done a fundraiser to mark his birthday. He inspired me to ask friends and contacts to help me mark my birthday on Sept 22 by donating to support the efforts of Solar Cookers International. Solar cookers, which cost less than $40, can help people live much more economically and healthfully. The campaign goal is $500 and fundraising on my Facebook page will continue through Sept 29. Please consider donating to this effort. No contribution is too small to help make a difference. Thanks a lot! 

Trump’s BLM Wants to Let Wild Horses in the West Die So Cattle, and Cattlemen, Can Flourish

Publishers Weekly says Amy Knight’s ORDERS TO KILL is ‘A Vital Work for Understanding Modern-day Russia’

September update: Kirkus gave a starred review to ORDERS TO KILL: The Putin Regime and Political Murder

Gratified by this first review of my literary agency client Amy Knight’s ORDERS TO KILL: The Putin Regime and Political Murder. Publishers Weekly says “This is a vital work for understanding modern-day Russia.” Linked to here at the PW site and in the screenshot below (r.).


Last month I shared all the blurbs at an earlier post, including this one from Bill Browder: “Amy Knight’s [new book] builds a compelling case against the Putin regime for its complicity in the violent deaths of many of its critics—political opponents, muckraking journalists, and reform advocates. It also destroys the myth that we in the West can appease Putin to get him to behave himself.”—Bill Browder, author of Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice

Vicki Huddleston, former top US diplomat on Cuba, on the Letters Page of the NY Times

Very proud of my author client Vicki Huddleston—former head of the United States Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, 1999-2002—who has this letter to the editor running in the NY Times today on the Trump administration’s reversal of President Obama’s Cuba policy. Her book, Our Woman in Havana: A US Diplomat’s Inside Account of America’s Long Struggle With Fidel Castro’s Cuba, will be published by Overlook Press in 2018. Here’s the letter, and you can also find it via this link

Endorsements for “ORDERS TO KILL: The Putin Regime and Political Murder”

As mentioned on the blog last month, on September 19, 2017, St Martin’s Press will publish my agency client Amy Knight’s new book Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder.  To date, we have received these five blurbs

1) “Amy Knight is our foremost expert on Russian spycraft. This incisive, deeply researched account of the Kremlin’s murderous dark arts should
be an electrifying wake-up call to the West about the danger we face from Putin’s gangster state.” —Edward Lucas, Senior editor, The Economist

2) “Amy Knight’s Orders to Kill builds a compelling case against the Putin regime for its complicity in the violent deaths of many of its critics—political opponents, muckraking journalists, and reform advocates. It also destroys the myth that we in the West can appease Putin to get him to behave himself.”—Bill Browder, author of Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice

3) “A brave and important book. Amy Knight has an expert understanding of Russia, its spy agencies, and the dark state created by Vladimir Putin and his KGB cronies. Putin’s critics have an uncanny habit of falling dead and Knight tells this story with rare skill. Compelling.”—Luke Harding, author of A Very Expensive Poison: The Murder of Alexander Litvinenko and Russia’s War with the West 

4) “Putin’s regime kills. It goes after its enemies at home and abroad and has created the environment in which powerful figures close to the Kremlin can also prosecute their own feuds with impunity. In this powerful and detailed account, Amy Knight tackles a series of individual and collective killings and amasses the evidence, some clear, some circumstantial, connecting them with the Kremlin. Whether you agree or disagree with any of the specific findings, having read this book it is impossible to question the extent to which the Kremlin is not just a kleptocracy, it is a ruthless one, at that.”—Mark Galeotti, author of Vory: The Story of Russian Organized Crime 

5) “Orders to Kill focuses unblinkingly on the grim but necessary topic of political murder during the seventeen year Putin period. Amy Knight is a meticulous analyst and is consistently balanced in her judgments. The two chapters on the poisoning through radioactive polonium of former KGB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko in London break significant new ground.  Knight demonstrates that the order to commit a number of the political killings she discusses can, with great likelihood, be traced back to President Putin himself or to his powerful Chechen Gauleiter Ramzan Kadyrov.”—John B. Dunlop, author of The Moscow Bombings of September 1999 

The photo below, with Putin and Chechen president Kadyrov, is one of more than a dozen pictures in the book. Pre-orders for the book can be placed via this link.

Coming Sept 2017: Amy Knight’s ORDERS TO KILL: The Putin Regime and Political Murder

“Our Woman in Havana,” New Cuba Book I’m Excited to be Agenting

It’s very good to see my literary agency client Vicki Huddleston is quoted in Jon Lee Anderson’s first look at Cuba since the death of Fidel Castro. Ms. Huddleston, whose background includes service as US Ambassador in Mali and Madagascar, worked in US-Cuba relations for almost fifteen years, serving as U.S. charge d’affaires in Cuba during the Clinton Administration, and three years as Chief of the US Interests Section in Havana under George W. Bush, our ambassador there in all but name. Vicki and I were just putting the final touches on the proposal for her book, to be titled Our Woman in Havana, when word came last week of Castro’s death. We’re finalizing it now, and I will begin presenting the book to publishers very soon. Here’s a screenshot of Anderson’s New Yorker article and a link to the whole story, plus a picture of Vicki from her Twitter, where her handle is @vickihuddleston. Watch this space for more info on her book.