A flawed but well-written and entertaining sports story.



Guardian senior sportswriter Bull recounts the history of modern bobsledding and the four men who led the American team to victory at the 1932 Winter Olympics.

The late-19th-century development of the automobile primed popular taste for speed in both the United States and Europe. At this time, bobsledding became a craze on both sides of the Atlantic. By the early 20th century, it had gone from an “enjoyable pastime” to an activity that caused countless injuries and many deaths. Bobsledding also became a sport that helped revitalize the moribund tourist economy of St. Moritz, a Swiss Alpine resort that opened the first bobsled track in 1902. As sleds became faster and more dangerous, the sport became increasingly popular among spectators and sportsmen looking for the ultimate winter thrill. Against this backdrop, Bull tells the story of four individuals—Billy Fiske, the speed-loving son of an American banker; Jay O’Brien, a New York bon vivant; Eddie Eagan, a champion boxer; and Tippy Gray, a silent film star—who became some of the greatest heroes of early competitive bobsledding. He interweaves the story of their exploits with the behind-the-scene intrigues and boardroom politicking that characterized the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, the first to ever be held on American soil. Part of an international group of 52 bobsledders dubbed the “suicide club,” the team went on to not only beat local Lake Placid favorites, but also break speed records and win the gold medal. The care Bull demonstrates in developing each of the figures in this engrossing narrative is almost novelistic, but this attention to detail also causes the narrative to digress too much toward the end, where Bull elaborates on the short post-victory life of daredevil team captain Fiske, who went on to become a volunteer fighter pilot for the British and die fighting the Germans in 1940.

A flawed but well-written and entertaining sports story.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59240-909-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Avery

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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