A fine new look at a critical period of American history.

AMERICAN REPUBLICS

A CONTINENTAL HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, 1783-1850

The acclaimed historian offers a relevant follow-up to American Revolutions (2016).

In a book that falls midway between narrative survey and classroom text, Taylor continues the story of the settlement and conquest of what became the lower 48 states. The author, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and professor at the University of Virginia, is among the few historians who would attempt such a history of this single century of the American past. With characteristically graceful prose, he relates the costs and limits, as well as gains and triumphs, of the nation’s sweep westward after the Revolution. His subjects—events, wars, laws, treaties—will be familiar to those who paid attention in their American history courses, but Taylor presents them in fresh, thought-provoking ways. Three themes run through the book, whose basic narrative concerns the search for “elusive security.” First, nothing was foreordained; many nations and peoples fought over the same territory when the American republic was weak and vulnerable. Second, based on unassailable evidence, crippling payments were exacted from non-White people in the pursuit of Manifest Destiny to conquer much of North America. Third, it wasn’t all about White men; women, Native Americans, and African Americans played significant roles on all sides in the politics, military battles, land settlements, and opposition to American encroachments on others’ territories. Readers will encounter many little-known characters who advanced, thwarted, honored, and sullied American ambitions. It’s not a pretty picture, but such warts-and-all history is now conventional among scholars and considered more congruent with historical realities than the drum-and-trumpet stories that used to be the standard approach of historical narratives and textbooks. Though the narrative lacks an overall argument and ends in an abrupt, somewhat jarring fashion, Taylor is always a consummate guide to the early republic.

A fine new look at a critical period of American history.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00579-7

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

more