Swint takes the reader on a journey through history delving into events spanning thousands of years, exploring individuals who, in varying ways, helped establish, guide, influence or control those who ruled.
At first blush one may be tempted to pass over such a work thinking it lacked focus, was too broad in its undertaking or, even that it was going to be too academic to be engaging to all but those in, well, academia. After all, Swint is an academic himself.
However, you would be wrong. On all counts.
The King Whisperers, just shy of 300 pages, is divided into 10 distinct categories based upon characteristics of each Whisperer. Each of the 10 sections profiles multiple individuals.
To address such a large number of individuals throughout history in such a short work is quite a promise to make. However, Swint delivers on this promise.
Swint populates each category with profiles of individual Whisperers and in doing so sets out some of the most remarkable tales I’ve read in sometime.
The starting point was logical – Niccolo di Bernardo Dei Machiavelli; however, as with all of the profiles, Swint does more than simply regurgitate history, rather he demystifies Machiavelli and allows the reader to understand that Machiavelli, while focused in his efforts, was not the most Machiavellian of those in history, either before of after him.
Throughout the book Swint moves from profile to profile allowing the reader to understand how certain individuals appeared, sometimes from no where, sometimes by self appointed divine right, sometimes through the military or traditional politics, to wield the power behind the throne. His use of categories as a vehicle to better understand the particular Whisperers’ style and approach could not be better formulated.
For instance, one of his categories, Schemers, addresses individuals who literally clawed their way to the top. They lied, cheated, betrayed and rose to their respective seats of power in often less than ethical ways.
In the Schemer category Swint recounts the story of an individual famously portrayed in a Hollywood blockbuster. The portrayal was that of one who was grandiose and larger than life, but alas, as is often the case in Hollywood, the story on the big screen was anything but accurate. However as Swint explains the true story, I was left to believe that Hollywood had actually toned down the reality of a fascinating tale.
Another section of the book, the Rebels, tells the tale of one of the most renowned (or perhaps infamous) political figures of the 20th century, Che Guevara. As most of the individuals in the book are profiled in passages of 5-10 pages, I was curious as to the information that could be conveyed in such an abbreviated length. Swint, again, anticipated this concern.
While Guevara’s life and activities could serve as fodder for an extended work, his exploits, failings, and his philosophy are succinctly set out in 7 pages (something Swint does throughout the book with each profile). After reading this brief passage, though I was familiar with Guevara previously, I had a renewed perspective as well as a keen understanding of the actuality and irony of his life.
In reading the different sections certain themes became apparent that allow the reader to understand how, throughout history, more often than not events leading up to critical, historically resonating events have been a collective that, in varying degree, were guided by someone other than the actual ruler, a King Whisperer.
Whether it was the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Spanish Inquisition, the rise of the Bolsheviks, Japanese Imperialism, the Crusades, or a variety of other notable events through history, the conception through to the implementation of these events was, in large part, if not completely, the end produce resulting from the work of a King Whisperer.
As the book progresses, the reader will begin to understand how each of the 10 different Whisperer categories builds upon and compliments others. To a degree, it is reasonable to believe that many of the different categories have cross-over characteristics in that a General could benefit, and likely did, from being a Silver Tongue Devil. Likewise, what other ambitious individual couldn’t benefit from having a bit of Schemer at their disposal?
Men, women, military, religious, common man alike, they all have their place at the table of the King Whisperers.
There is a quote that finishes the book by H.L. Mencken which solidifies the perspective of the King Whisperers, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it.”
The question I had before I started the book was “Why help a ruler when you could be the ruler yourself?”
Swint answers this by allowing the reader to understand that while it is one thing to rule, it is another to have the power and be able to wield it as one sees fit. The majority of the individuals in this book had little if any desire to rule (though there are some exceptions to this) yet were addicted, sometimes with singular focus, to power. Many exercised their influence with grace and compassion, at least as they understood or believed the concepts; however, others, not so much. It is interesting to see how the lives of each of the Whisperers resolved. To me, the story of the demise of the Whisperers was as telling to me as the story of the rise to power. Their ends are sometimes tragic and sometimes deserving. Some simply fade to history. However, in the end I believe that much about the motives of the individual whispers can be found in their end as in their beginning.
Swint takes what could be a very thick subject spanning an almost impossible to manage timeframe and condenses it into a work that is overflowing with keen insight, clear understanding, wit and a page turning quality that leaves the reader wanting for more. Read this book!