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THE BRILLIANT DISASTER

JFK, CASTRO, AND AMERICA'S DOOMED INVASION OF CUBA'S BAY OF PIGS

Graceful, dramatic writing makes this well-worn story new again.

A balanced, engrossing account of the U.S.-backed invasion of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

On Apr., 17, 1961, a CIA-trained brigade of 1,400 Cuban exiles, mostly students and former soldiers, made an unsuccessful amphibious assault on the Bay of Pigs, in southern Cuba, hoping to spur a popular revolt and overthrow the Castro regime. Fifty years later, Rasenberger (America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of the Model T and the Making of a Modern Nation, 2007, etc.) succeeds admirably in offering a nuanced view of the entire botched operation, from its planning in two U.S. administrations to the Cuban armed forces’ quick defeat of the exiles, whose attack lacked air cover and the element of surprise. Nicely re-creating the nation’s near-hysteria over the spread of communism in the period, the author traces Castro’s coming to power in 1959, his friendly-seeming early visits to America and Eisenhower’s first steps later that year as the “prime mover” behind planning to remove the bearded leader’s Communist regime. Drawing on previously classified documents, Rasenberger shows how John F. Kennedy, already on record as a foe of the Castro regime, took up the Cuban invasion plan upon election as president, but remained conflicted about it until the last minute, when he canceled planned air strikes for fear of revealing America’s clandestine role. The invasion—marked by “the twin sins of deceit and incompetence”—was doomed for many reasons. The Joint Chiefs, deeply involved in planning, failed to express misgivings about the military prospects; the CIA oversold the operation to Kennedy; and Castro was aware of a coming invasion, thanks to intelligence from his agents and reports in the New York Times. Yeoman efforts by White House aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Senator J. William Fulbright to halt the operation on moral grounds were to no avail. Rasenberger notes that since 1961 the United States has forcibly intervened in the affairs of nearly 25 nations.

Graceful, dramatic writing makes this well-worn story new again.

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9650-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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