An excellent, clear-eyed primer to one of the world’s most resilient ghost stories.



South Carolina reporter Hicks seeks to make sense of a legendary nautical mystery.

In 1872, the brigantine Mary Celeste was found drifting in the Atlantic; although the ship was in fine condition and there seemed to be nothing missing, its entire crew was gone, the last log entry dated ten days earlier. The Mary Celeste’s captain, Benjamin Spooner Briggs, came from a long line of salty New England sailors and was hardly one to capriciously abandon ship or lose control of his small crew; he didn’t even allow his sailors to drink. The vessel that found her, the Dei Gratia, was captained by David Reed Morehouse, a friend of Briggs’s who had had dinner with him in New York before their ships set out across the Atlantic. When Morehouse made the decision to claim the Celeste as salvage, this coincidence was immediately seen as suspicious and ignited a long, tangled legal battle, about which Hicks (co-author, Raising the Hunley, 2002) goes into perhaps too much detail. Over the course of more than a century, every attempt to find a plausible explanation for what happened to the crew has run aground on the shoals of improbability. The author has a good time debunking most of the more hysterical claims that have been made and even proposes a decent—though dull, and so likely true—hypothesis of his own. Hicks knows when to pull back, though, and admit that there are certain things that are just plain creepy, like the strange last log entry, “Francis my own dear wife Francis N.R.,” or the undeniable string of bad luck that afflicted every owner of the Mary Celeste before and after the incident. She was finally deliberately sunk in 1885 in a badly managed insurance scam.

An excellent, clear-eyed primer to one of the world’s most resilient ghost stories.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-345-46391-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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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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