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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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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