An engagingly written, if often speculative and flawed, biography of the Polish-German-Jewish youth Herschel Grynszpan, whose November 7, 1938, assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris served as the Nazis' pretext for Kristallnacht. Marino, a young British critic and screenwriter, has engaged in no original research, but relied almost exclusively on two previous biographies of his subject. Grynszpan apparently was motivated by short-term rage; his parents were among the 12,000 Polish Jews residing in Germany whom the Nazis ``dumped'' back in their native land in October 1938, and who suffered in a border ``no man's land'' when the Poles refused to accept them. In the hyperventilated and sometimes hagiographic prose that too often characterizes this book, Marino tries to transform the 17-year-old Herschel's deed into something far larger; he makes the utterly unsubstantiated and ludicrous claim that Grynszpan somehow intuited the Holocaust: ``Herschel saw into Hitler's black heart and knew what the dictator was planning.'' Marino does provide some interesting circumstantial evidence that vom Rath may actually have been cooperating with the French intelligence service, but he is unable to document anything conclusively. The second half of his book is the more interesting, for here the author looks at the strange series of bureaucratic accidents and foul-ups, historical contingencies and wild charges (such as that vom Rath had sexually exploited him) that caused the Germans never to try Grynszpan. In fact, his ultimate fate is unknown; the Gestapo may have murdered Grynszpan in 1942, after he spent time in the VIP section of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, or in 1945, a few months before the war ended. Rumors have even circulated that he survived under an assumed identity. Marino muses at length on this and a great deal more. Thus, what emerges is a padded, somewhat superficial biography that, from its subtitle on, makes highly inflated claims about its subject.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-571-19921-6

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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