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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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