Thugs: How History's Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World Through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder
Not for the faint of heart, this volume examines the lives and dreadful reigns of 56 infamous characters, both current and long gone, who shaped history with mass horror. Written in short, easy-to-digest sentences, columnist and historian Halpern fills his brief sketches with colorful, terrible details in the manner of that rare, beloved history teacher whose lectures stir rapture in a nap-prone student body. Sit-up-and-take-notice lessons include the story of jealous King Herod, who not only had his wife murdered, but pickled her in honey ""to preserve her sweetness""; the dinner party of Idi Admin, who invited the families of men he had murdered to sit and eat surrounded by their relatives' decapitated heads; and the contributions Hitler made to hypothermia knowledge through heinous experiments on captive human beings (Halper notes that, with the possible exceptions of Amin and Pontius Pilate, even the ""totally, purely evil"" contribute some good). Readers with an interest in the more appalling side of history, and its lasting effects, will find much to appreciate here (and perhaps more to argue in the area of omissions, oversights and Halpern's assertion that ""Our freedom has become a foil against their evil"").