A well-wrought study of far-reaching treachery in the early years of the United States.




In-depth portrait of the treasonous General James Wilkinson (1757–1825).

The historian Frederick Jackson Turner called Wilkinson “the most consummate artist in treason the nation has ever possessed,” and historian Linklater (The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity, 2007, etc.) builds a strong case that he deserved that title. Wilkinson had an impressive military career. He fought in the battle of Saratoga during the Revolutionary War, led troops during the War of 1812 and was appointed governor of the newly organized Louisiana Territory by President Thomas Jefferson. But throughout his life, rumors abounded that he was a spy for the Spanish. Four different presidents were informed of Wilkinson’s close Spanish contacts in New Orleans and Madrid, and four official inquiries were made to investigate accusations against him, but Wilkinson was repeatedly cleared of all charges. Later, he was accused of collaborating with Aaron Burr on a plot to create an independent nation in the West; he was court-martialed and cleared again. It wasn’t until decades after his death—when historians uncovered hundreds of documents detailing Wilkinson’s correspondence with and payment by Spanish handlers—that the extent of his betrayal was revealed. Linklater paints a colorful portrait of Wilkinson as an extraordinarily careful individual who frequently communicated with his Spanish contacts via codes and ciphers, and laundered payments through real-estate deals. But his motives for treason may have been more complex than mere monetary gain. Wilkinson, the author argues, also had a selfish and insatiable hunger for information and intelligence, and “possessed an exceptionally well-informed, clear-eyed view of the rapidly changing era in which he lived, and of the advantages to be wrung from it.”

A well-wrought study of far-reaching treachery in the early years of the United States.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1720-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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