From interviews and archival documents, Lascher creates a seamless narrative of daring and dedication.




Two journalists caught in war and love.

In 1936, when Stanford undergraduate Melville Jacoby first visited China on a student exchange program, he immediately felt drawn to the region and to travel. “The itch is perpetual,” he confessed. Jacoby returned to Stanford to focus his studies on Asian affairs and journalism, and by 1939, he had gathered enough writing assignments for a return to Asia. Briefly back in the United States, he met and fell in love with Annalee Whitmore, a writer who shared his fascination with the Far East. In 1941, she followed him there, and the two married. When journalist Lascher discovered that Mel Jacoby was his cousin, he was inspired to find out as much as he could about the man political journalist Theodore White called “one of the greatest U.S. war correspondents.” The result is a gripping, impressively researched debut, both a biography of Jacoby and a history of Asia in the throes of war. Mel and Annalee soon settled in Manila, where Mel became Time magazine’s Far East bureau chief; his reporting gave America its only “window onto the buildup for war in the Pacific.” Lascher ably conveys the frustration of Army officers with the “Europe First” strategy, which left them without necessary supplies and soldiers. He chronicles Japan’s increasing belligerence, the Nanking massacre, unceasing bombing, and internment of reporters. Fearing for their lives, Mel and Annalee left Manila, burning piles of notes before they fled to Corregidor. From there, they closely followed the war, including the “subdivision of hell” on the Bataan Peninsula. Soon, though, they needed to escape once more, this time making a slow, dangerous journey to Australia, traveling by boat only at night. From Melbourne, they learned of the Bataan Death March, which killed between 7,000 and 10,000 Americans and Filipinos.

From interviews and archival documents, Lascher creates a seamless narrative of daring and dedication.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237520-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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