The daring cleverness of both Wild and Sheppard makes for fun historical reading.



How the beginnings of true crime reporting and the birth of tabloid journalism can be tagged to Daniel Defoe’s years in prison for libelous sedition.

Generally eschewing troublesome political writing after his imprisonment, Defoe instead investigated and wrote about the lower orders, providing Skirboll (The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven: How a Ragtag Group of Fans Took the Fall for Major League Baseball, 2010) with wonderful resources for this story of criminal Jonathan Wild (1682-1725) and escape artist Jack Sheppard (1702-1724). Wild learned the fine art of thievery while serving in debtors prison, and he learned it so well that he became the man thieves turned to for advice. It wasn’t long before Wild incorporated and set up his “Lost Property Office” advertising and selling stolen items back to their owners. Thieves who didn’t bring their goods to him, like Sheppard, were “apprehended” and often hanged, with Wild taking the reward; thus his title of “Thief-Taker.” Eventually, he broke up London’s largest gangs and had hundreds of thieves on his own list. Skirboll shows the lives and trials of Londoners from all classes. In the 18th century, the city had no official police department, and it was up to the victim to initiate the prosecution of wrongdoers. Defendants often received no counsel, and they also had to worry about the straw men, professional perjurers and unpunished crime. Though this is not a Defoe biography, his background and career producing pamphlets and newspapers are vital. “His writing propelled journalism into the future and gave us,” writes the author, “the celebrity criminal, the gossip column, investigative reporting, tabloid journalism, and the true crime drama.” His exclusive interviews of felons in Newgate and other London prisons truly changed the face of journalism.

The daring cleverness of both Wild and Sheppard makes for fun historical reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7627-9148-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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