The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - TONY MANIATY

Buda’s Wagon: A Brief His­tory of the Car Bomb By Mike Davis Verso, 228pp, $ 39.95 IN 1920, Ital­ian an­ar­chist Mario Buda parked an ex­plo­sives- filled horse- drawn car­riage in New York’s fi­nan­cial dis­trict and trig­gered a blast that killed 40 peo­ple. Since then, Mike Davis says, ve­hi­cle bombs have be­come ‘‘ the bru­tal hard­ware and quo­tid­ian work­horses of ur­ban ter­ror­ism’’, while ‘‘ the ir­re­versible glob­al­i­sa­tion of car­bomb­ing know- how’’ has spread like an im­pla­ca­ble virus, with US- oc­cu­pied Iraq the epi­cen­tre. Car bombs are ‘‘ ex­traor­di­nar­ily cheap’’: 40 or 50 peo­ple can be mas­sa­cred with a stolen car and about $ 500 worth of fer­tiliser and boot­legged elec­tron­ics. Wild Ride: The Rise and Fall of Cobb & Co By Sam Ever­ing­ham Vik­ing, 308pp, $ 32.95 AMER­I­CAN Free­man Cobb started Cobb & Co in 1853, slash­ing the Melbourne to Bendigo run to an un­heard- of 10 hours. Re­plac­ing stiff English coaches with Amer­i­can ones — faster, more rugged and re­li­able — was the tech­ni­cal break­through; the gold rush pro­vided hu­man traf­fic and gov­ern­ment and private freight. Sam Ever­ing­ham’s style isn’t scin­til­lat­ing but his ma­te­rial is strong. Bush­fires, not bushrangers, were the driv­ers’ worst night­mare and acute judg­ment was needed to avoid be­ing ‘‘ trapped and burned alive with their pas­sen­gers’’. Not for Sale: The Re­turn of the Global Slave Trade — and How We Can Fight It By David Bat­stone HarperSanFran­cisco, 301pp, $ 24.99 WITH 27 mil­lion hu­mans forced to work against their will, there’s a good chance that some­thing in your house was made by mod­ern slaves. In Nepal’s rug fac­to­ries, the broth­els of Rome and Pak­istan’s quar­ries and shoe fac­to­ries, slav­ery gen­er­ates up to $ US32 bil­lion ( about $ 39 bil­lion) in rev­enue an­nu­ally and chal­lenges drugs and il­le­gal arms sales as the top crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. It’s not just a prob­lem for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Cam­paigner David Bat­stone finds slaves in a San Fran­cisco In­dian food out­let, while Europe is awash with sex slaves im­ported from Africa and the for­mer Soviet re­publics. Mozart and the Whale: An Un­ex­pected Love Story Jerry and Mary New­port Allen & Un­win, 265pp, $ 29.95 JERRY and Mary New­port, sa­vants with Asperger’s syn­drome, met and mar­ried in 1994. On their first date, Jerry sees a num­ber­plate, 20013, and asks, ‘‘ Did you know Oc­to­ber 17, 1955, was the 20,013th day of this cen­tury?’’ Mary is bril­liant at paint­ing and mu­sic. Yet by 1999 they had di­vorced and tried to com­mit sui­cide, only to re­marry two years later. This hu­man roller- coaster ride should be riv­et­ing but comes across as flat, as if the New­ports have told their story too many times.

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