Impressive research, solid characters and a compelling plot held back by an excessive history lesson.

A Lieutenant of Hussars

This historical novel follows a former cavalry lieutenant as he rises through the ranks in the British air force during World War I.

Lt. Michael Howard is dispatched to the front lines in 1914 as part of the 9th Hussars, a cavalry regiment, though a change in commanders prompts him to enlist in the Royal Flying Corps. As the war progresses, airplane technology improves by leaps and bounds, and as he alternates between the front and periods in England as a trainer and test pilot, Howard is promoted, wounded and decorated. Author Mercer fills the book with so much fascinating discussion of technology that his book almost becomes a historical techno-thriller. The research is excellent, not just on the development of warplanes, but also on the progress of the war as a whole. In fact, Mercer’s workmanlike writing seems so intent on creating historical context that the text goes too far with information not directly relevant to the storyline. Much of this detail could be left out or added in a way that doesn’t interrupt the plot. Only after 100 pages can readers begin to connect with the characters. Even afterward, frequent changes in narrative tone can be jarring and distracting from the main action. Elsewhere, the narrative unnecessarily foreshadows upcoming events and inserts clumsy asides on the fates of minor characters. The passage of time is often very fast and confusing, and though the characters are reasonably well drawn, a less breakneck pace would allow for some needed depth and development. Mercer also spends several pages at the end of the book describing postwar events, then alludes to a continuation of the story during World War II. Perhaps it would have been more effective to end this volume at the Armistice and leave the interwar period and World War II to their own volumes.

Impressive research, solid characters and a compelling plot held back by an excessive history lesson.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1490529189

Page Count: 444

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2014

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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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