Lacks drama, intrigue and insight.

CLAIM OF PRIVILEGE

A MYSTERIOUS PLANE CRASH, A LANDMARK SUPREME COURT CASE, AND THE RISE OF STATE SECRETS

How a landmark Supreme Court ruling that established the state secrets privilege was challenged 50 years later.

In 1948, an Air Force test flight crashed into the swamps of Florida, killing three civilian contractors on board. Consequently, their families sued the government to determine what went wrong. Citing executive privilege and national security, the Air Force refused to divulge any information and was eventually vindicated by the Supreme Court in its 1953 ruling, U.S. v. Reynolds. In 2003, a widow and three children of the dead contractors petitioned to have the ruling overturned, claiming the Air Force had lied to cover up negligence. Giving the increasing importance of Reynolds (the Bush administration cites it constantly), this should be a fascinating story. Regrettably, Pulitzer-winner Siegel (Lines of Defense, 2002, etc.) clutters it with irrelevant detail, such as where minor figures in the drama went to college and what they studied. He also fails to bring to life the major players, who read like stock characters in an intergenerational TV drama. Reynolds had a dramatic impact on American policy during the past 50 years, Siegel rightly points out; it’s frequently cited by government officials seeking to keep their doings hidden from prying journalists and aggrieved plaintiffs—or, if you buy the government’s version, evil terrorists. The author loses these complexities amid the minutiae of the case as it wound it way through the courts, from ’48 to ’53 and ’03 to ’07, when the Supreme Court again ruled against the contractors’ families. That decision suggests how greatly the first Reynolds decision has shaped current government policy and behavior, as well as judicial oversight of it, but Siegel never lifts his eyes from the details long enough to provide the in-depth analysis this important case demands.

Lacks drama, intrigue and insight.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-077702-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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...

NIGHT

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.

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

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