Intrigue, Injustice, and Laughs

Taking on billionaires, war criminals, and heritage.


Billionaires and Bagmen: What Happens When a Small Town Takes Them On by Ray Bourhis (2015, Blue Point Books, 198 pp., $19.95)

This political thriller by San Francisco lawyer Ray Bourhis features Sean Cogan, a venture capitalist and former economist who forks over $250 to fund a ballot initiative to make his town of Fairview independent of everything and everybody. His high school pals join the cause, determined to show the über rich, the crooked politicians, and their bagmen they aren’t going to take it anymore. Spies, lobbyists, a loudmouth talk show host appear, too. The prologue hints of an IRS audit gone awry for the author, perhaps the motivation for a Kafka-esque contemplation on turning the tables. Bourhis is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Law.


Hiding in Plain Sight: The Pursuit of War Criminals From Nuremburg to the War on Terror by Eric Stover, Victor Peskin, and Alexa Koenig (2016, University of California Press, 459 pp., $32.95)

The title and subtitle do a dead-on job of defining the scope of this human rights abuses primer about some of the world’s nastiest war criminals and terrorists and the efforts to bring them to justice. It starts in Nuremberg, heads to the Balkans and Rwanda, and then winds up with the International Criminal Court but along the way exposes the diplomacy and military tactics used under the guise of tracing, capturing, and trying war crimes suspects. Eric Stover and Alexa Koeing are associated with the Human Rights Center, School of Law, UC Berkeley.

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung (Arthur A. Levine Books, 272 pp. $16.99)

This lighthearted yet substantive chapter book by Oakland author Mike Jung, a librarian, is for young readers, ages 8-12. The protagonist is Chloe Cho, a middle-schooler interested in her Korean heritage who connects with a new teacher, Ms. Lee, over a particular class assignment. Chloe is smart, talented, and one of the few Asians in her town, which makes her feel a bit at sea, especially with her parents who would rather change the subject than discuss their roots. But Chloe has an awesome best friend and loving parents who are more than happy to help her find her authentic self on her journey that has a surprise ending. Jung is a founding member of #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

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