An exemplary graphic work built on a foundation of impressive scholarship.

MONUMENTAL

OSCAR DUNN AND HIS RADICAL FIGHT IN RECONSTRUCTION LOUISIANA

A graphic narrative gives an unjustly neglected period in American history a labor-of-love illumination.

Mitchell’s rigorous academic research confirms that Oscar Dunn (1826-1871), the first Black lieutenant governor (and acting governor) in American history, is a worthy subject for such a biography, but for the author, this was clearly personal: “Dunn is my ancestor.” As he explains, what started him on the road toward his doctoral dissertation was the lack of knowledge about Dunn in his native state of Louisiana. In New Orleans, his great-grandmother had told him about the familial connection. “Some of these facts I learned that day sitting on my Grandmaw’s couch,” writes Mitchell, “and others I filled in over the years as I came to learn more about my trailblazing ancestor.” However, when he tried to tell his class about his illustrious ancestor, his teacher responded that there had never been a Black governor or lieutenant governor in Louisiana, and the whole class laughed at him. In this powerful work of historical excavation, the author sets the record straight, showing how Dunn navigated his way through the complicated politics and race relations of the state as well as a bitter rivalry with the corrupt governor (the two offices were elected separately). Dunn’s funeral procession drew a crowd of 20,000, “one of the largest funeral gatherings in the history of New Orleans.” In 1873, the new governor allocated funds for a monument, but it was never built, likely due to “the looming collapse of Reconstruction and increasing governmental chaos in Louisiana.” Throughout, Edwards’ vivid illustrations ably capture Dunn’s dignity and the era’s turmoil, providing narrative momentum to a story that features a few twists and turns. The incisive combination of text and illustrations creates an entirely satisfying historical story of both Dunn’s legacy and that of Reconstruction in general.

An exemplary graphic work built on a foundation of impressive scholarship.

Pub Date: March 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-917860-83-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The Historic New Orleans Collection

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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