A meticulously researched history of maritime tragedy.



Biography/history of a 16th-century Dutchman who sailed courageously to the North Pole.

Pitzer, a journalist who last wrote a global history of concentration camps, draws on diaries, archival material, and her own three trips to the Arctic to recount, in exhaustive detail, three arduous journeys carried out by navigator William Barents in search of a northern route to the Far East. Barents was in his mid-40s, with a wife and five children, when, in 1594, he joined an exploratory fleet whose mission was part of the Dutch Republic’s effort to “transform their country into a world power.” The first expedition was successful: After traveling more than 3,000 miles, the fleet identified two possible routes to China, and every sailor returned home safely. The second expedition, though, had worse luck. The seven ships that sailed in 1595 constantly feared being trapped by ice; weathered violent storms; and battled polar bears, which attacked and ate two sailors. Morale plummeted, and the ringleaders of a mutiny were hanged. Barents’ third expedition, which set out in 1596, proved disastrous. “They’d sailed once more into merciless terrain without even basic strategies to survive in it,” Pitzer writes, and they became locked in ice, forcing them to overwinter in the Arctic. The author chronicles the crew’s daily experiences, hauling lumber for miles, dismantling their ship for planks, building a shelter, hunting for meat, and surviving temperatures that dropped to 30 degrees below zero. They were weakened and ill from scurvy and once poisoned themselves from eating bear liver. By the time they freed two small boats from the ice and sailed for home, several had died. Though Barents succumbed during the return and had found no northern route to China, he became legendary, leaving a legacy of determination and becoming “the patron saint of devoted error.” Although sometimes overwhelmed by repetitive detail, Pitzer’s narrative vividly conveys tension and terror.

A meticulously researched history of maritime tragedy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982113-34-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.


A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?