A conventional but thoughtful illustration of the stupidity of war.



After more than 50 years of writing about military matters, veteran historian Horne (Kissinger: 1973, The Crucial Year, 2009, etc.) reflects on “the common features of warfare that stood out over the ages.”

Concluding that the main common feature is hubris (which the Greeks defined as “the worst sin a leader, or a nation, could commit”), the author makes a convincing, if not original, case by recounting several campaigns from the first half of the 20th century. More than half the book concerns Japan, whose dazzling victory in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War began with a sneak attack and ended with the annihilation of the Russian fleet. Horne emphasizes the characteristics of the land campaign, a brutal, Pyrrhic victory by poorly equipped but extremely aggressive Japanese forces. No one—the United States included—learned from this. Unhinged by hubris, Japan continued to nibble at Russia until 1939, when Stalin sent large forces that inflicted a crushing defeat in the undeservedly obscure battle of Nomonhan, persuading Japan to turn its attention to Hawaii, the Pacific, and South Asia—an unwise decision. More hubris (“victory disease”) following Pearl Harbor drove it to send a fleet to disaster at Midway. Using Hitler as an example of hubris is a no-brainer, but Horne delivers an admirable account of the 1941 defense of Moscow, the largest battle in history and the true turning point in the war. He concludes with the Korean War, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who nearly epitomizes hubris, delivered a masterful performance, and the 1954 French debacle at Dien Bien Phu. The bibliography is invaluable because Horne seems to have read every popular book on these wars. There is little original research, and he rocks no historical boats, but he has lived long and writes well.

A conventional but thoughtful illustration of the stupidity of war.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-239780-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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