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The King Whisperers: Power Behind the…

The King Whisperers: Power Behind the Throne, from Rasputin to Rove

by Kerwin Swint

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382454,852 (4.5)None
Throughout history, behind so many de facto rulers, there can often be found a shadowy puppet-master pulling the strings. From spies, silver-tongued devils and the truly evil, this is a brilliant tapestry of behind-the-scenes schemers of all shapes and sizes.



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Seldom do I review nonfiction, but certain topics are the flint stone to story making, the greatest of these being history, the elemental roots of literary magic in so much of my favorite fiction. In my world, history can make sparks fly so, you'd have seen me waving my hand eagerly in the air like a schoolgirl when Novel Publicity Blog Tours asked for participants to review Kerwin Swint's, The King Whisperers. Though I'm certainly not a schoolgirl anymore, I adore historical facts and any opinion, treatise, viewpoint or art form that stands on them.

As the byline of the title says, The King Whisperers explores the "power behind the throne, from Rasputin to Rove" and that's just the R's. Kerwin Swint, professor of political science at Kennesaw State University, offers a lightening hot approach to history by zapping together a compendium of historical figures, each in the context of their roles as political strategists, manipulators of every ilk and historical era.

The King Whisperers serves as an encyclopedia of political figures all while offering a system of categorizing them into ten different types, certainly no small feat considering these figures range from the ancients to modern day politicians and on every continent. Such a huge undertaking may be criticized for the surface treatment given to each figure, that quantity trumps quality, but it is this very aspect of The King Whisperers that makes it invaluable. How else could one present the totality of political history in one volume of 328 pages than by a method geared to the modern click-switch mentality of 2011? It's a patchwork, if you will, woven beautifully with the common thread of Swint's classification system.

The King Whisperers is an indispensable reference tool to be valued for years to come. Academics, writers and curious minds in general will find the ten classifications of the power players to be a telling lens, a sort of prismatic lodestone through which to reflect upon history, both in our past and in the making. The ten classifications are:

The Machiavellians (ex: Machiavelli, Catherine de Medici, Alexander Hamilton, Dick Cheney)

Empire Builders (ex: Otto von Bismarck, Bernard of Clairvaux)

King Makers (ex: Sir Richard Neville, James "Big Jim" Farley)

Spies (ex: Cardinal Richelieu, Lawrence of Arabia, Omar Suleiman)

Silver-Tongued Devils (ex: Cicero, Talleyrand, Leon Trotsky)

The Generals (Charles Martel, Oliver Cromwell, Hideki Tojo)

The Rebels (ex: Zhou Enlai, Che Guevara, Sakamoto Ryoma)

The Truly Evil (ex: "Young" Joe Stalin and Hermann Goering, Hitler's Right Hand)

The Fixers (ex: Larry O'Brien, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove)

Schemers (ex: Haman the Agagite, Grigori Rasputin)

Even if some of the classifications may provide fodder for debate, The King Whisperers will be a standard to hold onto long after you've finished reading it. If you find that the carpet ride Swint takes you on through history is too fast-paced, not a stitch of it comes without an invitation to delve deeper with a comprehensive set of endnotes, bibliography and index that will keep you in happily-ever-after cross-referencing mode, especially if you are a perpetual student like me...still a school girl at heart.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a member of the Novel Publicity Blog Tours and a copy was provided to me by the author. Although payment may have been received by Tours, no payment was received by me in exchange for this review nor was there an obligation to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely mine and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of this review. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. ( )
  TheQuillGuild | May 11, 2011 |
Some stories are so terrible, so fantastic, so unreal that you just know they had to have happened.

Take Aggripina the Younger, the devoted mother would stop at nothing to secure her son’s emperorship or Rome—incest, murder, cunning, whatever it took. Or Kautilya, the BC-era warlord who knew his most powerful weapon was a beautiful woman and a lovesick enemy. How about the monster Heinrich Himmler whose desire to build a race-based society of supermen led to the twentieth century’s most horrifying event, the Holocaust?

These figures were all wise, ambitious, determined. They knew what they wanted and, in most cases, they knew how to get it. Power was their motivation.

These are not the great villains of history; they are not the mighty rulers of nations. They are the King Whisperers, a special breed of politician that thrives behind-the-scenes. They are the power behind the throne, not that which is seated upon it.

Too often their stories have been discussed as they relate to those of the rulers they served; some have been overlooked almost entirely. The King Whisperers: Power behind the throne from Rasputin to Rove by Dr. Kerwin Swint introduces the reader to 47 figures ranging from biblical times to the modern day.

They are sorted into ten archetypal groups: Machiavellians, Empire Builders, Kingmakers, Spies, Silver-Tongued Devils, Generals, Rebels, the Truly Evil, Fixers, and Schemers. Each category is defined for the reader before delving into its explanations of the four to seven highlighted individuals.

The King Whisperers offers an in-depth look at these great manipulators, sometimes exploring multiple figures that shaped a single era or movement, sometimes juxtaposing enemies and highlighting their similar strategies. Swint explores his content in such a manner that it caters to both the historical expert and the ignoramus. He draws intriguing parallels across archetypal groups and poses questions which the reader may choose to ignore or to contemplate at length (this is especially true of the chapter on “the truly evil” King Whisperers).

The author’s careful attention to detail and fluid writing style make this book an intriguing and informative read. Its well-paced discussion and organized structure allows for the reader to pick it up at will or to read it straight-through in a single sitting.

The King Whisperers by Kerwin Swint tells the stories of some of the greatest power players and schemers in world history, from the ancient world to modern day.

Although they ruled from the shadows, history has not forgotten.
  Emlyn_Chand | Apr 8, 2011 |
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The King Whisperers breaks upon our senses at exactly the right moment. Society is growing tired of rulers and politicians, yet is excited by a film about a stuttering King that swept up all the Oscars and the fast-approaching Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton –The King Whisperers positions itself as a worthy contender for our attention.

To be honest, when the book arrived by courier, I thought to myself, this is going to be a dry read. How wrong I was. Once opened, I could not put it down and was soon recommending it to all my colleagues and friends. The King Whisperers turned out to be an engrossing insight into the lives of charismatic, shrewd, masterful, cruel and downright devious puppet-masters who have shaped the course of events in palaces, parliaments and nations throughout history. Never was history so interesting and exciting to read.

Chronicling the lives of some of the most powerful and devious individuals who would stop at nothing to ensure their own ends, Kerwin Swint shows us human-nature at its darkest and most selfish, yet sometimes at its most altruistic. Here is shameless cruelty and sometimes sheer love; often devotion and commitment to a person, nation or cause and for which the reward is cruel and premature death. Could you have the person you had loved and shared half a lifetime with, murdered for uttering one word out-of-place? Such was the fate of Ibrahim Pashar, known as the ‘most beautiful man in the state’.
The reader will be familiar with many of the characters throughout the book. However, preconceptions will be swept away as the author demonstrates that these puppet-masters were not simply motivated by personal ambition, the struggle for power or greed as we may assume, but also by altruism, ideology and devotion that transcended any sense of personal gain. In some cases, readers will discover a sympathy with elements in a character’s personality who before may have been despised, such as the She-Wolf Isabella of France whose love and compassion for Mortimer at his end, (“Fair son, have pity on gentle Mortimer,”) softens the devious and scheming harshness that caused her to rise against her husband Edward II.

Kerwin Swint presents his characters in a lively and engaging format, making this book an exciting read. Unlike the turgid flow of many histories - The King Whisperers sparkles with the pace and interest of a CNN or BBC report. In spite of the one negative review on Amazon, this is a book that will appeal to everybody, from the biography tourist to the serious academic in search of new information and sources. The language is accessible to all and stimulates enquiry. By the end of your read-through, you will be heading to Amazon to purchase biographies of the favourites you have bookmarked through almost 300 pages of ruthless self-serving and compassionate demise.

The only disappointment for me was that I was left wanting to know more. Now!

I didn’t want to have to run off and order copies of the lives I had read about; I was engrossed in certain characters such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Francis Walsingham. I wanted to see them in action; to see the twists and turns as they played with their masters and the affections of followers and nations. I realise however, that with 47 distinct individuals to discuss, such in-depth treatment was not possible in a single book. One thing is certain, Kerwin Swint has ensured that there will be more biographies of some interesting, though often disturbing shakers and movers on my bookshelf.

The book itself is a whisper. Each vignette is like a secret whispered in our ear, stirring the imagination and our own devious need to inform as we discover something new about one of the players.
I found myself meeting with a poet friend who had written a piece about the Battle of Towton; I had come across a little known snippet in the chapter on Kingmakers…did my friend know it, I wondered. He didn’t! I felt for a moment a little of what it was like to be a Richard Neville or a Francis Walsingham…I had passed the whisper on, and in so doing, became part of that history of shaping thought and controlling outcomes that is part of all of us.
The King Whisperers will entice, excite, educate, stimulate and motivate to further reading. I’ve already decided that Clairvaux, Walsingham and Isabella will be on my bookshelf. I am hoping that Kerwin Swint will be the author of one or more of these lives. I wonder whose schemings you will rush to read after observing The King Whisperers at work.
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"We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom." -Stephen Vincent Benet
To Harvey and Ann
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In the summer and fall of 1503, Niccolo Machiavelli represented his beloved Florence in negotiations with one of the most ambitious and dangerous men in Europe at the time, Cesare Borgia, the son of the pope.
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Throughout history, behind so many de facto rulers, there can often be found a shadowy puppetmaster pulling the strings. Using examples from Machiavelli, Catherine de Medici and Alexander Hamilton to Dick Cheney, Zhou Enlai and Joseph Stalin, Kerwin Swint presents profiles of notorious “king whisperers,” spanning the globe and historical periods, showing how they employed unique styles of power politics to wrest control. From spies, silver-tongued devils, and the truly evil, this is a brilliant tapestry of behind-the-scenes schemers of all shapes and sizes.
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