A compelling narrative full of World War II fireworks.

A rare surviving World War II frogman tells his story.

Journalist Dubbins presents a text based on his interviews with George Morgan (b. 1927). During the war, his unit suffered more than 50% casualties clearing obstacles before the 1944 landing at Omaha Beach. Morgan belonged to the newly formed Underwater Demolition Team, led by the book’s other principal, Draper Kauffman. Son of an admiral and fiercely adventurous, Kauffman was denied a Navy commission due to poor vision. In 1940, he traveled to France as an ambulance driver during the German invasion. He was captured and released, whereupon he joined the Royal Navy and volunteered for its bomb disposal teams. A month before Pearl Harbor, he returned to Washington, D.C., to “launch the US Navy’s first-ever Bomb Disposal School.” In 1943, the Navy knew that Germany was constructing obstacles along the coastline. Searching for an explosives expert, Navy officials settled on Kauffman, ordering him to form an elite unit that would reconnoiter enemy beaches and demolish obstacles. Readers will enjoy the author’s descriptions of the fast-paced action that followed, as Kauffman, Morgan, and the rest of the team commandeered facilities, recruited men, and designed a brutal program featuring exhaustive conditioning and extensive training in weapons, explosives, and teamwork. That training regime was an important predecessor to what the SEALs would develop 20 years later. Dubbins fills the book with energetic accounts of the unit’s operations, including the earliest, Normandy, which was very much a learning experience. The unit found greater success in later operations in the Pacific theater, where the Japanese built few obstacles. Approaching in rubber boats and often under fire, Morgan and his comrades searched for mines, measured water depths, checked beach defenses, and labeled clear paths for landing boats to follow through reefs and shallows. As a result, America’s island landings became so efficient that the Japanese stopped defending beaches, preferring to retire inland to dig in and fight.

A compelling narrative full of World War II fireworks.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63576-772-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Diversion Books

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022



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. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Close Quickview