Wandering writer and poker aficionado Holden (William Shakespeare, 2000, etc.) tries to revisit the scene of earlier glories.

Big Deal, his 1990 account of life on the pro poker circuit, is considered by authorities as varied as Salman Rushdie and the New York Times to be one of the great books on the game. So Holden spied in the recent explosion (and subsequent semi-implosion) of poker-mania an opportunity to go back and see how things had changed, if at all. He sets up his story as a ramshackle sort of gambling odyssey: barnstorming from Vegas to London to Monte Carlo and back again, playing cards and bumping into old buddies, trading war stories of life as an itinerant journalist. (Besides writing about gambling for various publications, he’s also a classical-music critic.) The whole journey turns on his desire to win—or at least not embarrass himself in—the World Series of Poker. Apart from its exceedingly detailed accounts of Holden’s various matches, the narrative bends to accommodate any of the author’s passing interests. It’s difficult to begrudge Holden the chance to make his hobby into a working holiday, and he certainly does have an interesting passel of friends, ranging from seasoned old card sharps to political gadfly Christopher Hitchens. But this book is ultimately only for those interested in pages of entries like the following: “1:10p.m.: Up to $3750. Thanks to 8-8 on my big blind (now $200), with a flop of 7-8-9, including two hearts.”


Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-7432-9482-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Outstanding in every respect.



When the Supreme Court declined to accept the appeal of a 1963 rape case, Justice Arthur Goldberg published an unusual dissent questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty. From this small beginning, Mandery (John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Q: A Novel, 2011, etc.) skillfully traces the building momentum within the country and the court to question the legality of a punishment the Founding Fathers took for granted.

Indeed, by 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the court struck down death penalty statutes so similar to those in 40 other states that executions nationwide came to a halt. Disagreement among Furman’s 5-4 majority—was the death penalty “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment, or was its arbitrary application a violation under the 14th?—and a forceful dissent hinted at a blueprint for states to rewrite their capital-sentencing schemes. By 1976, 35 had done so. In Gregg v. Georgia and its companion cases, the court approved the revised statutes, opening the door to 1,300 state-sponsored executions since. Relying on interviews with law clerks and attorneys, information from economists, criminologists and social scientists, arguments from political and legal scholars, a thorough knowledge of all applicable cases and sure-handed storytelling, Mandery focuses on the strategies of the Legal Defense Fund, the remarkable attorneys who led the charge for abolition, to cover virtually every dimension of the capital punishment debate. The author is especially strong on the individual backgrounds, personalities and judicial philosophies of the justices, the shifting alliances among them and the frustrating contingencies upon which momentous decisions sometimes turn. Even those weary of this topic will be riveted by his insider information about towering figures, lawyers and judges.

Outstanding in every respect.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-23958-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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