Four years ago, The New York Times ran a series of articles about a vast, menacing world rarely covered in the media, an offshore frontier crucial to the existence of the planet and yet one in which impunity is the norm in the face of murder, piracy, enslavement, commercial violations, and environmental offenses. The series documented a range of egregious crimes being committed on the high seas and largely going unpunished. It reported on killings of stowaways and others, sea slavery, intentional dumping, illegal fishing, gun running, and the stealing of ships. But there was more to reveal, and the author of the series, Ian Urbina, has gone on to write The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier (Knopf, $30). The book is a startling and riveting exposé that bears witness to a woefully under-protected part of the world beset by all kinds of ills but also one vital to the global economy.
Anyone who has followed the journalism and books of New York Times columnist James B. Stewart over the past few decades is familiar with his skills as an accomplished storyteller and the insight and detail he brings to his reporting of financial scandals, corporate goings-on, and political and legal affairs. In Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law (Penguin Press, $30), he examines the handling of both the 2016 probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the investigation of links between Russia and the Trump campaign. Donald Trump, of course, has repeatedly denigrated the Russia investigation as some sort of sinister conspiracy by the “deep state,” a nebulous network of career bureaucrats, intelligence agents, military officers, and law enforcement officials bent on protecting their own power. Is there anything legitimate about this claim? Or are Trump’s incessant attacks on the investigators simply acts of obstruction meant to cloak his own illegal conduct? Those are among the central questions that Stewart gets at in his lucid and timely book.
In Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators (Little, Brown, $30), New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow recounts his part in exposing the sexual assault and harassment allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, along with the institutional resistance, the attempted intimidation, and the threats he faced in doing so. The book, which contains additional revelations, is not just a work of investigative journalism, but is itself a compelling and instructive spy story. Farrow writes about not only the extreme tactics taken by Weinstein—what Farrow calls a “full-on espionage operation”—to stymie the coverage, but also describes actions by executives at NBC News, where Farrow initially pursued the story, to keep it from being broadcast. He speculates that NBC’s behavior was motivated by a desire to protect news anchor Matt Lauer, who himself was subsequently accused of sexual misconduct and let go. A compelling, instructive examination of how power works and can corrupt.