A suspenseful, highly satisfying read.



Another tale of nautical adventure from Hicks (Ghost Ship, 2004, etc.), who here investigates the destruction of a legendary American cruise ship.

Early one evening in September 1934, on an otherwise routine run from Havana to New York, things began to go wrong on the Morro Castle, a luxury liner built four years earlier. The ship’s captain was found dead of an apparent heart attack. A few hours later, fire broke out in the writing room. The author vividly recreates the terrifying hours after the fire began. Panic ran through the ship even faster than the flames. There seemed to be a shortage of life jackets. Some lifeboats failed to launch. People began to jump, only to be pulled into the ship’s turning propellers and “churned to pieces.” All told, more than 130 passengers died. Among the heartbreaking snapshots Hicks presents are images of Doris Wacker letting her father’s corpse float away from her as she climbed into a rescue boat, and of a couple who jumped overboard to their deaths, entwined in each other’s arms. He makes use of newspaper stories and interviews with survivors, lending the narrative a sense of immediacy. The final hundred pages are devoted to tracing the national reaction to the fire. The public was horrified but hooked by the story, and people across the country followed every twist in the FBI’s investigation. Did someone deliberately set the fire? Had the acting captain been paralyzed by fear and missed opportunities to save the ship? What role did radio operator George Rogers play in the disaster? While Hicks doesn’t claim to definitively answer those questions, he offers plausible suggestions.

A suspenseful, highly satisfying read.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-8008-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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