cover image Fools, Knaves, and Heroes: Great Political Short Stories

Fools, Knaves, and Heroes: Great Political Short Stories

Jeffrey Archer. W. W. Norton & Company, $19.95 (245pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03033-4

Of these 10 stories collected by novelist Archer ( Kane and Abel ) and English bookseller/editor Bainbridge, some are political only in the most tenuous sense. Mark Twain, in ``The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,'' strips away the pretensions of self-appointed arbiters of morality. In ``The Greatest Man in the World,'' James Thurber reveals the petty personality behind an aviation hero's public persona. Other entries show how Dickens, Joyce, Kipling and Saki use the milieu of politics for their own ends, often to score a moral point. Kingsley Amis's ``I Spy Strangers,'' about a disillusioned British unit stationed in Germany at the close of WW II, turns on Labour's 1945 election victory, contrasting the faith that sustained the men through war with the need to readjust to an unknown postwar reality. In Archer's own ``The Coup,'' a Brazilian corporate mogul visiting Nigeria navigates treacherous waters in the wake of a bloody palace revolt. Only the socialist Jack London's ``The Dream of Debs,'' about a general strike, is politically committed. Politics, in these feisty, stinging stories, is for the most part a breeding-ground for ruthless self-seekers. (Oct.)