A study of burning focus and intimate depth.




Journalist and historian Pitch (The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, 1998, etc.) recounts the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination.

The author follows the tragedy from the first attempts on his life at the time of the president-elect’s perilous entry into Washington, D.C., in February 1861, through the release, in 1867, of the assassin’s most ardent supporter, John Surratt, and the scramble by informers to claim the government reward money. To the well-worn record, Pitch contributes several riveting new discoveries he gleaned from scouring private letters and newspaper reports: a mention by the commissioner of public buildings, Benjamin Brown French, asserting that he forcibly restrained John Wilkes Booth in the Capitol rotunda during the second inaugural assemblies; a March 19, 1864, story in the New York Tribune discussing a plot to kidnap the president; and a letter by convicted conspirator Samuel Arnold in which he applied for a job with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton three months after signing on to Booth’s scheme. Booth’s initial plan was to kidnap the president and take him south, but on that fateful night of April 14, 1865, when the president and first lady were watching Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre, Booth decided to kill them both. Chillingly, Lincoln had revealed to his wife and others premonitions of his fate, while Booth had recorded a prophecy by a Gypsy fortuneteller, who told him, “I’ve never seen a worse hand, and I wish I hadn’t seen it.” Pitch describes the grim preparations of the conspirators for trial, and the weeks of confinement and deprivation afforded them before conviction and hanging. Pitch is a patient storyteller, and the well-developed characters, brought to life through diaries, letters and other primary sources, heighten the drama and poignancy.

A study of burning focus and intimate depth.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-58642-158-8

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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