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INFERNO

THE WORLD AT WAR, 1939-1945

Excellent general WWII accounts abound—including those by historical superstars such as Stephen Ambrose and John Keegan—but...

A World War II history by Hastings (Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940–1945, 2010, etc.) may seem like a tautology, but readers familiar with his previous books will expect an enthralling account of his favorite subject. They will not be disappointed.

This time, the author emphasizes personal experiences as well as his often squirm-inducing opinions. Most startling—but not really controversial—he maintains that the Wehrmacht outclassed all other armies. The Allies, including the Soviets, never won a battle without vast superiority in men and material. However, he writes, the democracies were smarter. American industry operated more efficiently, took better advantage of science and paid more attention to logistics. German and Japanese troops regularly starved and rationed ammunition. In addition, U.S. intelligence services performed superbly, the enemies’ dreadfully. Readers will perk up at Hastings’ claim that Hitler’s second greatest mistake, after invading Russia, was launching the Battle of Britain. If he had allowed Britain to stew for months after its humiliating defeat, Churchill would have had great difficulty sustaining national morale or fending off pressure to make a peace, which would have eliminated not only Britain but America as a threat. Most general histories sprinkle their pages with anecdotes, but Hastings has this down to a science. He employs numerous specialists, delving into Russian and Italian archives and personally tracking down obscure, vivid, often painful stories from the usual combatants as well as Poles, Bengalese, Chinese and Japanese.

Excellent general WWII accounts abound—including those by historical superstars such as Stephen Ambrose and John Keegan—but Hastings is matchless.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-27359-8

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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