Review of Jonathan Katz, “Gangsters of Capitalism”

I have a review in the January/February issue of The New Republic of Jonathan Katz’s biography/travelogue of Smedley Butler, a figure of long fascination to many and totally obscure to others. In fact, that is how we begin:

There are some figures whose place in the story of the American past is so central that schoolchildren cannot help but know them: George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln, or Rosa Parks. But there is also a group of people who have not passed into national legend, and perhaps whose lives are not considered fit to explain to children. They are most likely to be encountered, if they are encountered at all, in the institutions that often engage the attention of young people between the ages of 18 and 22. Among those, there is probably only a single person who will be discovered almost exclusively by two generally nonoverlapping groups: avid readers of the corpus of Noam Chomsky, and members of the Marine Corps. That man, standing lonely astride the lens-shaped center of a peculiar Venn diagram, has the unlikely name of Smedley Darlington Butler.

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