FOR THE MINDS
AND WILLS OF MEN
Publisher: Boyle & Dalton
Date of Publication: October 16, 2022
Number of Pages: 310 pages
A gripping, historical art mystery set in 1950s New York, For the Minds and Wills of Men is a story of art, love, and Cold War fear, suspicion, and betrayal.
MANHATTAN, 1953. Fear of communist subversion and espionage are tearing America apart. Abstract expressionism is on the verge of exploding, making New York the cultural epicenter of the world. While recovering a stolen Jackson Pollock for a wealthy client, art insurer Will Oxley falls for the client’s daughter, Liz Bower, who leads him deep into the rebellious and seductive world of the abstract expressionist painters, their Village bar haunts and East Hampton binges. But when Will learns the painting-and Liz-may be hiding communist secrets better left hidden, he finds himself torn between exposing the girl he loves or risking his life by trusting her instead. Realizing nothing is as it seems, Will is caught between communist espionage, secret government programs, and the grip of cold war fear, suspicion, and betrayal where trust is all he has left…
With post-World War II New York, 1950s avant-garde art world, and the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings as background, the novel tells the story of abstract expressionism and mid-century American politics- through the thrilling search for a stolen Jackson Pollock.
PRAISE FOR FOR THE MINDS AND WILLS OF MEN:
Clueless Gent’s Rating for For the Minds and Wills of Men
For the Minds and Wills of Men is clearly one of the best stories I’ve ever read, and the reasons may very well surprise you! After just one book, I am now a Jeff Lanier fan.
The story is set during the early 1950s in New York City. World War II is over, yet the Cold War is just beginning. Men in the U.S. Congress are trying to identify Communists in our country and ruin their lives. The CIA is brand new, yet very clandestine, and J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI don’t trust anyone, and everyone is fair game for their monitoring mechanisms. Amid that spectacular backdrop, a painting is stolen. It was painted by a contemporary artist named Jackson Pollock. Will Oxley works for the insurance company that insured the painting, and it is his job to recover it. He had recovered a number of paintings before, and at first he thought this would be a similar effort. However, the road to finding that stolen painting was ripe with obstacles, sharp turns, dead ends, and a woman he could easily fall in love with.
Now let me tell you why I’m “over the moon” about this story.
First, the storyline is original, intricate, and brilliantly written. Along that same line, the editing is top notch. I did not notice a single error throughout the entire book.
Second, it’s rare and wonderful when I can be so fully immersed in a story. That doesn’t happen without top notch description. The description in this story is really off the charts. Yet it’s quite detailed. I imagine it would be hard to write a convincing story about the art world without good description. I think what really surprised me the most was how the author could include such detailed description, yet keep a good pace and not bore the reader.
“He would sit in front of one small Monet and study the tiny, broken brush-strokes that created a soft impression of a sunrise over a misty maritime scene. A blood-orange early morning sun cast its warm glow over a blue-gray harbor as two black fishing boats floated on the tranquil bay, their shadows dotting the water.”
On one hand, the author’s use of color in his description almost made it seem like the reader is looking through the eyes of a master painter. For example, consider this: “To create the brightness she radiated around her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, the painter would smoothly blend pink, white, apricot, and light browns, then pink-grays, blue-grays to turn the shape of her jawline and create the shadows on her neck.”
The author was not only good with colors; he could also set a scene using multiple textures and senses. For example, when a character exits a building, this is how the author described what the character experienced: “The air smelled like New York: fifty years of rubber tires rolling over old concrete, wet bedrock and construction and steam, perfume and cigars.”
As I read a book, I enjoy coming across words I’ve never heard, used, or read before. In this book, the author offered “drubbed” and “tangential.” The words did not seem out of place at all. I was impressed.
“’Psychological warfare’ is the struggle for the minds and wills of men.”
—President Dwight D. Eisenhower
In a technical sense, this book is phenomenal. But the story is also pretty phenomenal.
I’ve often considered the Cold War somewhat boring when I read about it. There’s not much of a body count, and when everybody doesn’t trust anybody, big reveals aren’t as big. This story shreds my opinion of Cold War novels. There’s not very much violence, yet I consider it very exciting.
I could literally talk all day about the many things I love about this book. But I think it’s better to just let you read and experience it yourself. I know I recommend a lot of books in my reviews. I also recommend this one. But to give it perspective, if you could only read one book this year, I’d tell you to read this one! THAT is how much I enjoyed it!
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