In this enjoyable historical adventure, an unsolved mystery reveals violent political and economic rivalries and dire...



Early settlers vanish, spawning centuries of speculation.

In 1587, more than 100 men, women, and children landed on Roanoke Island to become the first English settlers in the New World. In 1590, when the group’s leader returned from England with supplies, the settlement had disappeared, never to be found again. Lawler (Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization, 2014, etc.), a contributing writer for Science and contributing editor for Archaeology, clearly has been infected with the “Lost Colony syndrome…an urgent and overwhelming need to resolve the question of what happened to the colonists.” He creates a vivid picture of the roiling, politically contentious, economically stressed Elizabethan world from which they sailed and a thorough—sometimes needlessly so—recounting of historical, archaeological, and weird theories to explain the disappearance. Besides visiting numerous archaeological digs, historical archives, and libraries in America, Portugal, and Britain and interviewing scores of experts, the author doggedly traces down frauds and hoaxes, no matter how improbable. The Zombie Research Society, he reports, warns of “something sinister still in the ground on Roanoke Island, waiting to be released into a modern population that is more advanced, more connected, but just as unprepared as ever.” Something sinister certainly emerged in the settlers’ relationship with Native Americans. At first, they “traded peacefully,” learned each other’s languages, and “formed mutually advantageous alliances.” But the English spread deadly disease among tribes with no immunities to Old-World pathogens, decimating communities, and although some leaders tried to treat Native Americans with gentleness, others lashed out against those they considered depraved savages. Native Americans responded with ruthless violence. Massacre is one theory of the settlers’ fate; another, equally possible, is assimilation. Most historians believe that the colonists, “if they survived, merged with indigenous society,” miscegenation that some found unpalatable. An 18th-century traveler, for example, “recoiled” from the idea that “white women found Indian husbands.”

In this enjoyable historical adventure, an unsolved mystery reveals violent political and economic rivalries and dire personal struggles.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-385-54201-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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