Rigorous and sophisticated.



Exciting history of 17th-century piracy among African city-states.

Prolific British historian Tinniswood (The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England, 2008, etc.) demonstrates an excellent grasp of obscure sources in crafting a comprehensive synthesis. He argues that the notorious, reviled “Barbary corsairs” have been historically misunderstood: “An underlying racism and a more overt anti-Islamism make it hard to imagine Captain Blood or Jack Sparrow as North African Muslims.” The author theorizes that piracy was state-supported and a key economic requirement for the development of Tunis, Algiers and Tripoli (allied with the Ottoman Empire) and independent Morocco, and further was encouraged as a “sea-jihad,” an Islamic counterweight to European ambitions in the Mediterranean. While the British and other European powers belittled the Turks and Moors as savages, the situation was ethically muddied by their intermittent encouragement of privateering during various wars—these governments routinely issued “letters of marque” that essentially gave captains the right of piracy over ships flying enemy colors. Furthermore, both European and Barbary states routinely enslaved and ransomed captives; the specter of white slaves being held by African Muslims inflamed British society and contributed to numerous campaigns. Some of the European attempts blockade Barbary ports became comedies of error; others turned tragic or brutal, such as the French mortaring of Algiers. The pirates themselves were a diverse lot, especially following a 1612 amnesty. Many were British subjects who “turned Turk” (sometimes claiming coercion later when captured), while others were fearless Islamists who viewed attacking European ships as both good business and a strike against infidel encroachment (Tinniswood emphasizes the parallels with contemporary geopolitics only in the preface, regarding Somali piracy, but they are apparent.) This approach was epitomized by a 1631 raid on the Irish coastal town of Baltimore, which enslaved dozens. Throughout, the writing is precise and mordant but also witty, allowing the reader to feel empathy for the rough and absurd lives of these long-ago mariners, and agree with the author’s conclusion that whatever the corsairs’ faults, a lack of courage was not among them.

Rigorous and sophisticated.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59448-774-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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