“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”
The above quote by Thomas Carlyle is what came to my mind when I first started to read the recently issued book, “The King Whisperers,” by Dr. Kerwin Swint. The book relates in the form of narrative history, in an eminently readable fashion, stories, anecdotes and quotes about some of the notables of history who accomplished much by listening to the whispers of their chosen advisors.
Emlyn Chand, of Novel Publicity
, suggested to me that “The King Whisperers
” would be the sort of book that I would enjoy and of which I would want to write a review. I was (privately) somewhat skeptical – I wasn’t certain I could give this type of book its due. While I read widely and across many genres, I am primarily a reader of fiction and biography. Upon further examination of the book, however, I realized that it would indeed be an excellent book for me to read and review because it is an “easy read,” meaning that it moves along as swiftly as good fiction, and it included a number of biographical sketches - intriguing insights into historical figures of the past and the present who have served as “powers behind the thrones” throughout history.
This book is for anyone with a curiosity about how politics and power have definitively shaped each era in world history. The information and asides offered in its pages prove the axiom “There is nothing new under the sun.” While the methods of the “King Whisperers” might vary according to whose ear they have, Dr. Swint sorts out those variations by dividing them into ten different types, and shows how each type has influenced the powers that be. The ten different categories come in and out of favor over time, depending upon the governmental leader and to whom that person chooses to listen.
Dr. Swint uses as illustrations for the ten archetypes, men and women, past and present, who have shaped in their own ways through their influence, the progress of history. The ten types are:
1. The Machiavellians
2. Empire Builders
5. Silver-Tongued Devils
6. The Generals.
7. The Rebels
8. The Truly Evil
9. The Fixers
Upon first reading the above Category headings, I was concerned that the types were a bit on the simplistic side, but upon thoroughly reading each chapter, I came to understand the author’s reasons for so naming the categories and for his choices of the men and women who best represented those “King Whisperer” types. For instance, I might have placed certain characters Dr. Swint describes into a different category, and I had a hard time, initially with the “Truly Evil” category until I read more thoroughly his reasoning behind the choices he made.
In order to keep the book from expanding well beyond its 281 pages (excluding the end notes, extensive bibliography, and the index), the sketches of the historical figures profiled are necessarily brief. Most of the men and women will be instantly familiar; some are less so – at least their names were to me. Among the King Whisperers profiled are Catherine de Medici and Dick Cheney; Ibrahim Pasha and Otto van Bismarck; Sir Richard Neville and “Big Jim” Farley; Cardinal Richelieu and Lawrence of Arabia; Cicero and Leon Trotsky; Oliver Cromwell and Che Guevara; “Young” Joe Stalin and Hermann Goering; Roger Ailes and Karl Rove; and Isabella of France and Grigori Rasputin. These are but a few of the personalities that are profiled and they each had their own ways of and ultimate reasons for insinuating themselves into the policies, schemes, economics – indeed every aspect of government. I’ll leave it to my readers to figure out who of those I’ve listed belongs where. After reading the book, I was able to agree with Dr. Swint.
The book is well worth your time, and I believe most will find it absorbing. Those who are looking for scholastic or textbook detail will be disappointed, but I do not believe those readers are the target audience for this book. I was delighted to learn some details – some even humorous - that led me to do a bit of research myself. Dr. Swint’s very large bibliography offered lots of places to go to for more information on any of the characters or issues discussed in “The King Whisperers.” Instead of footnotes, Dr. Swint uses endnotes at the end of the book to cite the quotation sources. I personally like this method of citation because footnotes on each page I find very distracting. I would just as soon flip to the page reference in the back than to have the flow of the page interrupted by footnotes. There are, I am sure, some readers who will object to this method of source-citing, but I believe most of those people will be the ones who are looking for a more detailed, and scholarly approach to the subject matter of this book.
Dr. Swint evidently knows his material. He is a tenured professor at Kennesaw University, and is the author of two other books that deal with politics and political campaigns. “The King Whisperers” gives the reader a greater understanding of the ups and downs, the ins and outs of some of the most famous political wheeler-dealers in world history.
In closing, I want to include the quotation that Dr. Swint opens his book with. From Stephen Vincent Benet, “We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.” He closes the book by quoting H. L. Mencken, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it.” These quotations are perfect “bookends” for a book about those men and women who acted as the powers behind the thrones of government leadership. Power can corrupt, and sometimes that corruption happens in spite of the best intentions. The people profiled all seem(ed) to separate ethics from political success, feeling, as did Machiavelli, that good ethics get in the way of a government’s survival and often contribute to its downfall.
All of us listen to whispers in one way or another, and most of us are discriminating about whom we choose to listen. Reading this intriguing book caused me to consider what sort of leader I would make, based on who I depended upon for advice; or perhaps I would choose to be the “whisperer” myself. How about you?
Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official King Whisperers blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
The next word for the book give-away is INFORMATION. Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on the official King Whisperers blog tour page. The other 2 copies are being given-away courtesy of the GoodReads author program, go here to enter. And don’t forget to stop by the Q&A with Kerwin Swint Group to discuss the King Whisperers (including questions from the official book club guide), the author, and his previous works.