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FATAL NORTH

ADVENTURE AND SURVIVAL ABOARD USS POLARIS, THE FIRST U.S. EXPEDITION TO THE NORTH POLE

Hall’s ill-fated expedition deserves better.

A humdrum recounting of a little-known episode in the history of Arctic exploration.

Approved by a joint congressional resolution of March 8, 1870, the exploratory voyage of USS Polaris was the first formal American effort to reach the North Pole. Commanded by a practiced Arctic explorer, Charles Francis Hall, the vessel’s crew was an unlikely mix of native-born Americans, Eskimos, Englishmen, and Germans; Europeans figured prominently, writes journalist Henderson, “since the most adventurous Americans were going West rather than to sea.” Under the leadership of a prize pair of martinets, the German contingent immediately fell afoul of its American counterpart, which numbered more than its share of incompetents and drunks, and Hall and his lieutenants seemed disinclined to do much about the rising tension. Hall died not long after reaching Arctic waters; Henderson suggests that he was poisoned and hints that the ship’s German doctor did the captain in, though only the most circumstantial of evidence exists to support his charge. Without Hall, order fell apart; after a collision with an iceberg breached the ship’s hull, Polaris was abandoned, but not before 19 of the crewmembers were marooned elsewhere, left to fend for themselves on an ice floe on which they would drift for a distance of more than 1,500 miles over 197 days. Two years after setting sail, the survivors were rescued, and the story of Polaris and subsequent US government tribunals filled newspapers around the world. The strange story is inherently interesting, and good fodder for a screenplay, but Henderson writes so unimaginatively and ploddingly that only the most determined Arctic-exploration buff will stick around to find out how it all ends.

Hall’s ill-fated expedition deserves better.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2001

ISBN: 0-451-40935-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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