Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer

For those of you who have not read this novel, but the name sounds somewhat familiar, worry not. You are indeed correct, with the name being similar to the biblical 'Cain and Abel'. The novel was released in 1980, with was an international bestseller. It remains on the popular list, being among the more famous, if not the most famous, book of Jeffrey Archer. It has been made into a 1985 television mini-series as well. The book is essentially a life story of 2 men, born into 2 entirely different societies and circumstances, but sharing the same date of birth, April 18, 1906. This book is the story of William Lowell Kane, and Wladek Koskiewicz (later to be called Abel Rosnovski), and truth be told, is a great book.

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer

These are 2 men with an entirely different start in life, with one thing in common; both are extremely confident and self-starters. They have built up whatever they currently own in life, and are willing to take a fight all the way to the end.
Kane is born in a rich family, but loses his wealth and inheritance after a series of misfortunes. His father dies in the Titanic disaster, and his mother marries a man who does nothing but squander his wealth and waste it away. Eventually, after his mother dies in a miscarriage, Kane throws his step-father out.
Abel, on the other hand, lives a life of poverty. He is born in a forest, and only gains some hope of a better life due to his intelligence; the local Baron recognizes his intelligence and seeking to get a good companion for his son, adopts Abel. However, soon after, with the First World War breaking out, the Russian Army kills the Baron and his son, rapes Abel's sister, and takes Abel to Siberia (However, Abel also discovers that the Baron was actually his father, since both of them have only one nipple each). Abel manages to escape from Siberia, and after almost getting his hand amputated in Turkey for stealing, he manages to reach the US.
And this is where the battle between the 2 starts to germinate. After Abel starts to rise by dint of ability, his benefactor suffers because Kane's bank refuses to lend funds during the depression, and actually commits suicide. Blaming Kane for this, Abel has two ambitions, how to become a successful and rich man, and how to defeat Kane. He has one option, if he can get enough shares of Kane's bank, he can get Kane kicked off the board (he does not know that Kane was the one who had actually helped him in the past and Kane cannot tell him also).
This rivalry takes a strange turn when the children of both of them meet, fall in love, and marry over the massive objections of both of them. What happens next ? Do these 2 bitter enemies forgive their children and each other, and reconcile with their grandchild ? Read the whole novel, it is a great work of fiction.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book Review: Thug By Mike Dash

Thug, (ठग), a member of the murderous Indian cult
Thug, slang for a gangster, a petty thief, or a minor villain, deriving from the above cult

For nearly two centuries, this lethal murderous cult made the life of the highway travelers hell throughout the central India, Rajputana and South (to some extent as well). Thugs were normal native people - nothing different about them - they used to do farming at their homes and then due to certain problems (like famine, bad crops, loans, etc...) they get onto highway and murder people for as little as eight annas.

The Thuggee cult was suppressed by the British rulers of India in the 1830s, due largely to the efforts of the civil servant William Sleeman, who started an extensive campaign involving profiling and intelligence. A police organization known as the 'Thuggee and Dacoity Department' was established within the Government of India, with William Sleeman appointed Superintendent of the department in 1835. Thousands of men were either put in prison, executed, or expelled from British India.The campaign was heavily based on informants recruited from captured thugs who were offered protection on the condition that they told everything that they knew. By the 1870s, the Thug cult was extinct.

'Thug: The true story of India's murderous cult' by Mike Dash is the result of three years of research in the voluminous archives of the English East India Company, preserved in London, New Delhi and Bhopal. Mike Dash gives a competent historical account of Thug beliefs and practice, through to their extermination by Sleeman and his men. This book traces the history of Thugs, looks into their lives, their modus operandi, their victims, their leaders and their decline.

A wonderfully researched and written book, Thug by Mike Dash, is a honest attempt towards understanding this controversial subject.