THE COMPANY THEY KEEP

LIFE INSIDE THE U.S. ARMY SPECIAL FORCES

An anthropologist audits the US Army's Special Forces with the analytic rigor and vigor she would apply to any intriguing, albeit alien, culture in her sights. UCLA professor Simons (who married a Special Forces soldier she met while doing fieldwork in Somalia during the late 1980s) offers a cool, corrective briefing on an elite branch of America's military, which (owing mainly to Hollywood hype and sensation- seeking journalists) has an at best ambiguous image. Drawing on the apparently open access she was afforded to an SF battalion stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., the author provides a quick and dirty history of America's modern involvement in unconventional warfare. She stresses that behind-the-lines operations are but one aspect of the SF's largely clandestine missions; in addition to direct action (ambushes, hit-and-run raids, sabotage), they encompass assisting foreign governments in establishing defenses against subversion or insurgency, the tutoring of indigenous irregulars or their state-supported counterparts, and reconnaissance. Employing unit designations and names of her own devising, Simons delivers a detailed picture of how SF soldiers train for low-intensity conflicts, intelligence-gathering, and instruction assignments in offshore venues. Noting that all SF endeavors place a premium on cooperation, she puts paid to any notion that such outfits welcome rugged individualists, let alone Rambo types. Covered as well are the divisions of labor within a 12-man A-team (the basic SF unit), the motivations of NCOs who make a career of the Special Forces, the constant competition for good duty, and the role of shock troops (Rangers or paratroopers) compared with the use of an ultraflexible, ``impressively low- tech'' detachment with the capacity to hold remote territories for long periods. An offbeat but consistently absorbing assessment of an unorthodox military organization that has experienced periodic difficulties in living down (or up to) its press clippings.

Pub Date: March 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-82816-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more