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ASSASSIN OF YOUTH

A KALEIDOSCOPIC HISTORY OF HARRY J. ANSLINGER’S WAR ON DRUGS

Though written as if in a first-thought, best-thought reverie, there’s useful wheat among the chaff.

This ain’t your grandpa’s reefer madness but instead a swirling, energetic, decidedly offbeat history of a man and a time history has largely forgotten, and not for any lack of effort of his own.

In the 1920s, Harry Anslinger (1892-1975) came out of the railyards and worked his way into the position of the nation’s first drug czar, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. In that role, he hounded the Italians, the blacks, the Reds, the Hispanics, and just about everyone who could be implicated in a war on drugs that, Chasin (Literary Studies/Lang Coll., The New School; Brief: A Novel, 2013, etc.) remonstrates, has been a costly failure ever since. The author styles her approach as “kaleidoscopic,” which has nicely psychedelic reverberations but offers no end of possibilities for preciousness, much of which she seizes—e.g., “what if we accept that all vision is distorted one way or another, and insist not on plain correction but on rich distortions?” It’s Derrida all over again and several decades behind the times. The rhetorical effect is sometimes playful, sometimes cloying: “Over there, over there, in The Hague, Harry had put on ideological weight”; “Or what’s a roundhouse for? Every track is ambidextrous”; “With a nod to the blurring of genres that characterizes the work of the narcotics agent, the Saturday Evening Post sings the praises of this special agent.” Blurring of genres? Ambidextrous? Postmodern cuteness aside, Chasin delivers an often interesting portrait of both G-men and G-war, both of which operated in the shadow of the attention-getting J. Edgar Hoover in Anslinger’s own time—and the second of which has lasted into our own time, as, with a pointed nod to the recent case of Sandra Bland, Chasin decries.

Though written as if in a first-thought, best-thought reverie, there’s useful wheat among the chaff.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-226-27697-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • National Book Award Finalist

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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NIGHT

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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