Encore is Book 3 in the Agents of the Nevermind series brought to you by author, Tantra Bensko. Tantra Bensko does a fantastic job writing a story line that intertwines themes of history, myths, politics, psychology magic, cultism, religion and romance. A clever author that sets out to achieve a contemporary love story with a touch of Gothicism. The author does a marvellous job at blending themes and motifs together in order to build up tension and create an epic dark read. This is a book that provides everything you would expect from a psychological suspense story – guaranteed to keep you firmly on the edge of your seat.
The narrative of Encore is imaginative and unique, which allows readers to really think about the importance of different aspects of their lives. The plot of this book mostly revolves around Colin, a Bennu performance troupe’s hypnotist who abducts Susan and takes her to a castle. This weird relationship sees Colin slightly fixated with Susan’s character, pretending to be her husband to solidify their romance. However, the story unfolds with lots of twists and mysteries that are questionable to the reader. The reader is constantly left wondering what is happening and why. This is a great feeling for a reader of the paranormal genre. What more could you possibly want?
The plot throughout this book is strong, creative and imaginative. Bensko structures her book clearly and it’s easy to follow. I think that paranormal activities are apparent throughout the book, which makes for a great read. Tantra Bensko does a fantastic job at trying to write something for her readers that takes them out of their comfort zone and into something quite edgy and Gothic. Her writing is exceptional throughout the book and allows readers to fully engage with the topics being explored.
Having read this book, I believe it clearly captures the paranormal and suspense genres to an exceptionally high standard. I was hooked right from the opening chapters and was left overwhelmed and intrigued when I put the book down.
Encore is a dark read with dark characters and an ever-evolving plot. I think the author has done a great job at creating all sorts of emotions from the ideas of love as well as complete fear. This is a unique contribution to the world of Gothic literature and I look forward to reading more from this author.
Overall, Encore is an exciting and intriguing read that has opened my eyes to the world of the paranormal genre. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the paranormal world. Even if you aren’t that interested, I think it’s worth a shot, as I think you too will be impressed with the story of Encore.
Pages: 376 | ASIN: B07HQYNL7K
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What is the meaning of success; titles, money, family, happiness? These are the questions Nata and Karl must face as their life makes dramatic changes from their carefully planned out future. Nata is fostered by working class parents Joe & Hetty, Karl comes from the upper-class elite. Nata’s biological father was abusive to both her and her mother, leading her to fear men, and especially any and all sexual contact. Despite her reservations Karl works his way into her heart and they marry with the intent of living full professional lives that does not include a family. Nata however finds out she is pregnant and together they must figure out how to adjust their life goals and ambitions to this new situation. While battling with his ideals about his personal life, Karl must make some choices about his professional career as a lawyer. Knowing what is right and knowing what you can make a difference with are gray areas when you’re a lawyer dealing with the upper-class elite.
On the surface this book starts off with the story of two people from different worlds coming together to make their relationship work through unplanned events, pregnancy. As the story deepens you see beyond the surface struggles or plans changing, you see the deep wounds that childhood sexual abuse brings; you see the residual effects of emotional abuse and withholding of love and support to a child. It changes the world view, it changes what is important in life. Nata and Karl could be anyone you encounter in the professional world. They are focused on their goals but when life turns things upside down, their struggles to connect and find a path forward are relatable. Unplanned pregnancy, changing life goals of prestige or happy home life, can they all be merged? Karl’s professional life is also dealt a staggering blow. He knows the difference between right and wrong but knows fighting against what is wrong in this case is career suicide. He takes the safe way out to save his career, but it nags at him. He continues to try and find balance between right and wrong.
While Karl is trying to find his way, Nata is trying to make peace with her past and the demons that follow her. It is a realistic view into how sexual abuse continues to hurt people well into adult lives and impact their life decisions. When her baby is born early due to a car accident she is thrust into even more challenging emotions, a premature birth, a child that will have lifelong medical needs, a husband that can’t come to terms with a non-perfect child. Lorraine Cobcroft’s ability to tap into those emotions and the mindset of a new mother experiencing them is profound. So often these things are glossed over for other more comfortable plot lines, however Mortgaged Goods puts these deep emotions and controversial topics right into the forefront of the novel, making them key points.
While the novel starts out looking like it will be a ‘lawyer takes on the corrupt upper tiers of society’ type novel, this book is so much more. Mortgaged Goods by Lorraine Cobcroft tackles deep emotional issues, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, corruption of society, to include law enforcement, judges, and politicians. Through it all though, it is a novel about making a relationship work though the hard times, finding out what is truly important in life, and making the best of what life hands you, even when that is not what you have carefully laid out in your life plans.
Pages: 278 | ASIN: B018ZVWE5O
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The Philosophical Future discusses the social and psychological challenges facing people in the 21st century. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Man is of course a creature of needs, which are easily misunderstood and in a confrontational world often taken by the individual as absolute imperatives. Violent actions and reactions, and more broadly aggressive behavior in general, tend to satisfy only, and too often, wrongly perceived needs of an instant. Long-term consequences are imprudently ignored. But it is too late as a rule to correct the mistake.
To avoid this familiar trap, nothing avails save the self-aware use of individual will — a learned capability — to survey each situation as it arises, and then rationally decide on and carry out a plan of action (including non-action) suitable to the circumstances. In an overly crowded world, and given today’s climate of festering person-to person and group-against group hostility, however, nothing appears to succeed other than violence or a threat of it. Whatever deprives the “other” of his ability to remain a self-respecting combatant can be employed. This wholly negative world view leads down an unsustainable road — in fact to social chaos.
Calls for meaningful change fall on mostly deaf ears. They do not convince. Nonetheless, the burden for positive change rests with individual minds. Such social unanimity as does occur is forced, and unless or until enough self-discipline takes hold in individual minds, and without coercion, this millennial consummation seems just as probable as another..
This book was written with such global issues in mind. Its significance lies in the message which it conveys to minds honestly aspiring to achieve a personal knowledge of what they may expect to encounter in the way of social, psychological, and moral trials in years to come.
You have an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and an Ed.D. from the University of California, and you taught at many different schools. How has this experience helped you write this book?
Teachers, much akin to dispensers of religious doctrine, today more than ever share a burden of communicating to students more than mere facts or supposed facts originating with cultural authority. The effective teacher has also himself both learned and understood the “material” of his lessons. Even so, automatic transfer from one mind to another is a misconception. Not all learning experiences can be summed up in this formula. Even the substance of what there is to be learned erodes in this migration.
The basics of language and social skills can of course never be taken for granted. This includes all knowledge that can be reduced to a common parlance, including number, letter, names, places, dates, and even some rules of interpersonal behavior. The tyro can usually master this domain with aid from a teacher who himself studied and retained not only the rote aspect but some of the life-value of its content. Still, more than ever beyond this one needs certain more fundamental elements to make his way in life.
Most individuals, sadly enough, while they do achieve a grasp of these lesser aspects of behavioral competence, fail to move past them. Even many teachers may not learn to question themselves, to seek beyond their already memorized data base to explore the deeper significance of being human. For all further, higher knowledge, the kind needed to live with meaning, though built on a firm foundation of “the basics,” requires a yet greater step, and the true teacher recognizes this. All such higher knowledge demands a learner, as well as his teacher, who together strive for genuine understanding — so that each of them in the web of his own experience questions both himself as well as the “why” of things, basic and abstract alike.
I think this book does a fantastic job of delivering complex ideas in an understandable and meaningful way. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
To those whose developing interests include a genuine curiosity about conditions of life over the longer tomorrow, and assuming they are looking for an unvarnished view of today’s global scene, with some adumbration of what lies ahead, this book aims to provide some, but not all, and never absolute, answers. It is not indeed a prediction but an advisory. It deals only with the possible, in an age of few if any certainties.
Most young people, but also readers in general, tend to live on two levels of thought: On one hand they have a vision of society as some kind of mechanical entity; its fundamental workings go on at a comfortable distance; unless one becomes caught in their legal entanglements, they can be ignored. On the other hand, when society calls on them as individuals to participate actively in its formal activities (such as jury duty), thought and intelligence must be brought to bear; even so, the passive state of mind dominates. Typically (even in the jury room) one follows the herd.
For this typical reader this book then cannot help but sound a wake-up call. Neither mechanistic nor presumably-more active approaches to life in society in fact suffice. Knowledge of the whole and of its salient moving parts and of one’s own capabilities for adaptation to the turmoil of future existence — these will be key to genuine success in the art of living.
Where do you think society is headed and what can an individual do to ensure they are successful in that future?
The question of where society is headed and how it is likely to get there cannot be answered without giving thought to the individual’s plasticity of character and his motivations as a moral being. If individuals en masse pay no heed to what serves the common good, then the way forward becomes rife with predictable social decline. But this view overemphasizes the dark side. Neither man’s overall world outlook nor his web of relations in a complex environment ever reduce to a simple unidirectional pattern, at least in the short run.
History reveals one singular truth: In its gradual development, and often without conscious control, society “fixes” some problems, analyzes others without acting on them, and simply ignores those it cannot deal with. So we cannot rationally envision either a future utopia or dystopia. There is no end-point. The real wild card remains the “average” individual’s capacity for directing his powers either to improve the common good along with his own sense of social stability, or to give way to mental and moral negation, with destructive results in society.
Men are not prisoners of history, as is often claimed. But there is just so much any generation can do in a practical sense to unleash itself from on-the-ground conditions and the relatively passive state of mind it inherits. Revolutions come and go, yet underlying capabilities cling to their natural limits. The process is slow, unseen, and does not involve conscious volition other than to a limited degree. So the likeliest condition of society a century hence, barring an atomic or planetary disaster, will represent in essence only a repetition in substance (though not in detail) of what have been the commonplace evils of our time: over-population and consequent mass poverty; ever increasing global hysterias; police-state governments; continued lack of education and subsequent bewilderment over how to live a meaningful individual life in a complex and demanding environment. The true individual may disappear as this process works itself out. Yet fortunately, his eventual reappearance cannot entirely be ruled impossible either. And how this unresolved dichotomy is then resolved will make all the difference.
This book surveys the breadth of mankind’s postmodern malaise, which is achieved through a discussion of the major challenges, social and psychological, which every individual faces in the effort to live fully in the twenty-first century. These challenges lay in broadly familiar domains: self- and group-consciousness; common man and his place in a future society in which mental activity dominates; work and leisure; knowledge and values accruing from it, both for self and others; possibilities in education; civilization, with its “Dark Age” phenomena and its dreams of progress; the role of the past in contemporary life; and power, both in society and within the sovereign individual who, though bound by physical and intellectual limits, functions as a seeker after the freedom and self-fulfillment which are so wholly integral to the human condition. And finally a serious question: What fate awaits the perpetual non-conformist, whose views, however unwelcome in his own time and in a contemporary environment, may in fact anticipate future living conditions?
Posted in Interviews
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The book starts with a little history of the Congo under Belgium rule during the colonial days. This gives the reader an insight into how things were in Belgian Congo, and how ‘La Territoriale’ was made to get rid of King Leopold’s cruelty and brutality in the CFS regime. The first chapter gives a lot of information about Belgian Congo and all that happened. I had the impression that I was attending a history class, as the author wrote about events I had never heard of. It was agonizing to read about King Leopold, as his inhuman acts against the Congo people led to a lot of loss.
Politics in Congo, the formation of political parties, King Leopold’s atrocities and the influence of Rumba are all covered in the book. Reading about natives who were killed as directed by King Leopold in the harvest of red rubber in the era of CFS regime was one of the moments I almost broke down. Natives’ hands were chopped and others left with permanent wounds and under the CFS regime. Just how cruel could one man be? The worst thing was that even as he committed all these crimes, King Leopold received backing from his country, and even had support from his followers.
The author covered a number of themes in the book. Politics, music, law, human rights violation, business, and trade were all covered. This book highlights the use and impact of Congo music in Africa and other continents like America and Europe. Thierry Antha extensively writes about the brand associated with Congo Rumba and Rumba Lingala, Congo music that is known by just a few, how the Flemish administrators took Rumba, the industrialization of Congo music during the colonial days and much more.
Thierry Antha extensively writes about the brand associated with Congo Rumba and Rumba Lingala, Congo music that is known by just a few, how the Flemish administrators protected Congo music’s exceptionalism, while Walloons industrialized it with the addition of the legal diversity of South American music for export in the late 1950s and much more. And mostly how Fonior, the Belgian company, misused its monopoly to commit fraud and defraud Congolese musicians’ copyrights and consumers’ human rights in America, first, after the colony’s independence.
Rumba music, as allegedly sold in the West, is beautiful to the Soul. When played in clubs, the radio, and other public media, one can feel how passionately the artists feel the music they create. As you enjoy “Rumba” music, do you know a little history about Fonior’s fake-outs and how the genres were born? Do you know the challenges they faced and how the music they made affected them and the people around? If not, then you need to read this book. It has all the good, bad, fantastic and ugly stories about Belgian Congo, the natives, Congolese musicians and the exploitation of Congo music.
Pages: 598 | ASIN: B07CH9M9BR
Posted in Book Reviews
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A poem by Jeffrey Cooper.
If you ever wanted an inside look into what it’s like to be a police officer in America, then Dark Nights by Robert L. Bryan is exactly what you’re looking for. This book is a collection of short stories that span Bryan’s career in the police and security forces. Twenty years is a long time to spend in such a dynamic field and Bryan shares his experiences with readers. Told in a fashion that makes it easy for those unfamiliar with police work to read, this book is a rare insight into the world of police officers. The way in which he writes shows that officers are human too, no matter what they face.
Reading a genre like crime can be intimidating: there is vocabulary to learn, culture to absorb and processes to understand. This can be a lot for someone who is reading in this genre for the first time. The reason why this book stands out is because it’s a prime example of non-fiction in the genre and it’s reader-friendly. There is no complicated vernacular that the layman would have a hard time understanding. The stories flow nicely and aren’t too jarring when we jump from location to location. The central character, the author himself, has a clearly defined role in each story that he tells. This might not seem like a big deal, but oftentimes autobiographical works, no matter how loose they are, can get away from the author. This is not the case in this collection. It is clear that Bryan’s paid attention to how he wanted to share his experiences with the rest of the world.
There is the right mix of macabre intrigue and humorousness in the stories that are shared. It goes a long way in showing that police officers are human beings like the rest of us. The fact that this is a non-fiction collection might tug at the heartstrings of readers because this means that the people we meet, the things that happen in these stories, all happened to real people. While we might understand that on a fundamental level, it’s another thing to read the accounts of such reality. It helps bridge the divide between a civilian and an officer. Showing the humanity, the slight ridiculousness and the sometimes inappropriate interactions makes the stories come alive and shows how real they are.
Police officers and everything they stand for seem so far removed from the regular civilian. Yes, we appreciate their presence and the work they do to keep our communities safe. But we generally don’t see them as ‘normal’ people like the rest of us. They are special, different, because they hold this position of power and trust. Robert L. Bryan takes his experience working in the force for twenty years and shares bits of it with his readers in Dark Nights. This collection of short stories told from his perspective is a clever way to break down those barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’. He shows the humanity of officers and gives readers a taste of what they deal with every day. These short stories are fun to read and are worth picking up.
Pages: 345 | ASIN: B0711CB8K2
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Life is more difficult now than it was a few years ago. More and more people have to work multiple jobs just to stay above water. Utilities cost more than they used to and money is losing value. By the time one receives their salary, it’s already spent. With high trade deficits and national debts, people have much less purchasing power. What is happening now that was not happening before? How have we gotten to this point? What conversations do we need to have to change things? How can there be more employment opportunities? How can the citizens live to work as opposed to working to live?
Alex Gall has produced a well-written account of everything people should be saying but will not. The language used in the book is strong but not abrasive and drives the point home effectively and firmly. The authors passion and commitment to the subject matter is commendable and infectious. I consider myself to be an average citizen, I read the occasional hot headline. But this book made me look a little further, and a little deeper, and find something that was shocking and appealed to the citizen in me. This book is delivered from the point of view of a concerned citizen painting a picture, a person who is inviting others to a well thought out and open conversation.
I would appreciated more references of source material because, as stated previously, this book will leave you digging for more information and getting more involved in politics. Some statistics or studies to back up the subject matter would have been appreciated. This book is well researched and is laid out in an easy to follow manner in a compact and readily available format. At times I felt the content a bit dense, or maybe the topics overwhelming. I had to put the book down and think about what I just read. This book certainly causes one to reflect. But once you come out of your reflection, once you put the book down, you will come away with an overriding need to do something.
There are some sensitive topics covered but the author uses a neutral approach which is inviting. His approach to the subjects is completely ‘take it or leave it’. This is one of the best qualities of this book. The fact that the author lays out his position without dragging people with him. The intensity of the book and the truth in the subject matter will carry you effortlessly.
This book does a fantastic job of starting a serious and necessary conversation. This is necessary for anyone who wants to be an informed citizen.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B079YP7LGM
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Human beings are on a cycle where obstacles seem to appear and fade only to reappear later. This is making it very difficult for progress to be effected. Human beings are having a difficult time dealing with the same age-old issues. The same hurdles over and over. The biggest cause of this is that only the symptoms of the problems are addressed. Rarely do we dig deeper to find the root cause. To really take stock of where we are as individuals and the human race in general and the journey that got us here. If you cut a plant’s stem, it will sprout again. However, if you pull the roots, it will be the last you see of it. If another similar weed does grow, it will be a completely different plant. This is the approach required to deal with the obstacles to progress.
Freequill declares right from the get-go that attempting to change the world is a big fete. He admits that the road will be bumpy and thorny. But, you will quickly realize that this road map leads to a better future, one that can calm the storm, settle the chaos and promote a more cohesive future for the human race. This daunting task is broken down into chewable tidbits. Bits that are simple enough to achieve but still highly intelligible and sensible bits to work with.
The book is quite well written. An activist piece of literature would probably throw the rules of grammar out the window but this book observes those to the letter. The sentence structure is beautiful. The tone and spirit of this book appealed to an intrinsic part of me. A part that made me want to change things. The structure and format of the book is progressive. It builds up slowly, letting the reader wet their toes first before drawing them deeper.
This is not a rant. This maybe a war cry but it is eloquent, articulate, well versed and well researched. It is obvious from the material and presentation that it took a lot of time, research, and energy to put this together. To give an accurate image of the situation and with it, an actionable plan of action.
The hardest part is the first step. This book is your first step. This book will ensure that your first step is not done in the dark. My perspective of things changed after reading this book and I felt more enlightened or, at least, informed. Caution: you will have a strong desire to do something about your new view of things. You will be compelled and provoked to take people with you on the journey. This is necessary read for every global citizen.
Pages: 234 | ASIN: B079SWY64Q
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Terrifyingly gritty is the world within Kill the Teachers: Mexico’s Bloody Repression of Human Rights by Robert Joe Stout. Reader will not find a kind world in this historical retelling of events from the not-so-distant past. Corruption, suppression and oppression are what wait for readers within these pages. It is important to read about the past in order to learn from it: to prevent ourselves from making the same mistakes again. However, learning is not the same for everyone. The brutal history of Oaxaca, Mexico is what readers are going to find themselves thrown into within this book. This small area that has never quite advanced with the rest of the country where dangerous men with big ideas crushed the spirits of those who lived there. Sometimes even ending their lives.
This book is a carefully researched and written recounting of life in Oaxaca. There are interviews with those directly in attendance of the rallies and demonstrations those who wanted reform. These first-hand accounts bring home the reality of what people were facing in this tiny state. Stout crafts his retelling of the events in his novel in easily digestible chunks. It is easy to be overwhelmed with the history, politics and subterfuge in books like this. Those who are not history buffs may be turned off by the content at first, thinking it too dense for their enjoyment. They’re not wrong, as a lot of information is covered in this book. This is not something you pick up to read while relaxing in the backyard.
That being said, the layout and the formatting of the book are reader-friendly. The chapters are peppered with quotes from interviews and the content is presented in a way that makes it easy for readers to absorb the information they are reading without feeling like they signed up for an intensive history course. The data is dense, but it is not difficult as it flows like a novel would. It is not dry and boring.
It is easy to see that Stout had a competent editor as the errors in grammar and style are minute. It is not easy to share the fragmented history to a world that is not familiar with its roots. Stout appeals to the reader in such a way that learning happens naturally.
Those who are looking for a political or historical thriller will find their needs met with Kill the Teachers: Mexico’s Bloody Repression of Human Rights by Robert Joe Stout as he shares the non-fiction reality of Oaxaca, Mexico. This is the real-life story of a state that has a bloody history. At times, this information is devastating to read, especially when the reader realizes that this did not take place hundreds of years ago, but within the last half-century. However, this truth is something that we should not avert our eyes from, but learn from instead.
Pages: 316 | ASIN: B07C883C1S
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Slay the Dragon follows Cesar as he rises from his working class roots to fight against the opioid crisis while navigating South American politics. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a book about this topic?
Years ago I enrolled in a creative writing class at New York University. The professor required us to write short papers about what protagonists and antagonists would do in various scenarios. For one assignment, I used a magazine article about drugs and corruption for inspiration. My professor graded my paper A+ and strongly encouraged that I develop this theme into a novel. I did and then for various reasons put the novel aside for many years. During the presidential election, I became aware of the extent of the opioid crisis. I was astonished and particularly concerned that this epidemic was hardly reported by the media. I realized that this crisis would work well into my existing novel and was a way to highlight the gravity of the issue to a wider audience. So, I spent the past year updating my manuscript. The result was SLAY THE DRAGON.
I felt like this book could have easily been non fiction. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the story was as accurate as possible?
I enjoy reading novels that are somewhat based on fact. I find reading realistic fiction a casual way to learn about issues and locations. Combine realism with suspense and conspiracy and I am sold. As a writer, realistic fiction gives me the opportunity to loosely express experiences and issues while being creative. For SLAY THE DRAGON, I traveled to Latin America and observed. I visited several countries and cities, explored the countryside, walked the streets, and spent time with locals– all the while taking notes. I love destination novels and wanted my book to capture the essence of the location. Since I am an economist and worked on Wall Street, it seemed natural that my protagonist would be the finance minister and that much of his efforts entailed economic issues. I did little research for the economic side of the book. For weeks, I researched the opioid crisis– reading articles and medical surveys. I wanted to learn how, why, and who. I could not find a single article that addressed the complexity of the crisis. Most articles are biased toward one reason or another. However, there are many causes and many to blame. SLAY THE DRAGON attempts to encapsulate all the forces and entities that contributed to this tragic epidemic.
Cesar was an intriguing and well developed character. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing his character?
César Rosada is the conscience of SLAY THE DRAGON. He is a decent man with good intentions who faces reality. The themes I attempted to capture through Cesar include: good vs. evil, doing the right thing, power and corruption, personal responsibility, self-reliance, how actions of a few affect us all, and why social ills exist.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next novel will address themes expressed in SLAY THE DRAGON but will be set in the digital world.
Slay the Dragon is a political suspense novel set in Latin America that explores how corruption and inefficiencies feed into social ills and how leaders exploit these conflicts to cling to power. César Rosada is on a crusade. Descended from generations of coffee farmers, the former professional athlete turned politician is determined to improve life for the working class of his country. As Minister of Finance, César is committed to righting decades of corruption, crime, and misguided economic policies, and defending progress made in the fight against the illegal drug trade. He anticipates resistance from those with money, power, and vested interests. However, he now confronts a burgeoning challenge—America’s opioid epidemic. This deadly crisis poses more than the usual conflict between law enforcement and organized crime. It is a complex and insidious challenge with pervasive and deep-rooted origins. César’s adversaries intent on maintaining the status quo conspire and threaten everything for which he has worked. The stakes are high—a reversion to the days when drug syndicates rule, politicians collude and profit, and the people remain hopelessly trapped in a cycle of poverty. César is conflicted, but must decide on a course of action. Weighing choices between what is perceived as right versus wrong, he pursues a path that for some is morally ambiguous.
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