A one-dimensional biography of the firebrand fundamentalist preacher. Hankins (History/Louisiana Coll.) has done readers a service by bringing some attention to J. Frank Norris, a populist Baptist leader active from the the 1920s to the 1950s and often overlooked in histories of modern fundamentalism and in Southern cultural studies. Norris, who once shot and killed an unarmed man in his office (he won acquittal after claiming that he believed the man, angered by Norris's attacks on local politicians, was about to attack him), and who was almost constantly embroiled in controversy, is a colorful, outsized figure, not rendered here with much depth. Hankins offers virtually no information on Norris's private life, a fault which he attributes to a paucity of private documents such as letters and diaries. Norris's family is reduced to exactly one paragraph in the first chapter; his eldest son reappears briefly when he succeeds his father as pastor of Norris's Fort Worth megachurch. Hankins offers an overview of the preacher's career but gives little insight into his possible motivations. The author is clearly most interested in Norris's extensive political activity. Like many fundamentalists, Norris thought he saw the ``anti-Christ'' in many modern guises, and he actively campaigned against such evils as Darwinism, modernism, liquor, Roman Catholicism, organized labor, and communism. Norris's tireless political crusades and his combative style won him thousands of followers in two enormous congregations, his own seminary, a radio ministry, and impressive political clout in Texas and Washington. But his controversial and underhanded personal tactics often got him into trouble. He was once accused of setting fire to his own church to collect the insurance money; his influence ensured his acquittal. This portrayal of the ``Texas Cyclone'' doesn't convincingly penetrate to the eye of the storm.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8131-1985-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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