Hair-raising suffering and heroism in the Arctic.



The gripping account of a fatal polar adventure.

Journalist Levy, the author of River of Darkness and Labyrinth of Ice, chronicles the tale of an Arctic expedition that featured a great deal of heroism as well as disaster. Its leader was Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879-1962), an experienced polar explorer who was perhaps better at self-promotion than organization. In 1913, he convinced the Canadian government to finance an expedition to investigate Inuit people on its northern coast and the poorly charted sea and islands beyond. A veteran of the exploration genre, Levy capably describes the backgrounds of a dozen significant figures and the complex job of buying ships and stocking them with supplies sufficient for several years. In a hint of what lay ahead, the author notes that the ships were not designed to break through sea ice and were stocked hastily to meet an obligatory spring departure date. Sailing north during a particularly cold summer, Stefansson’s ship became icebound. After a few weeks, he abandoned it, leaving for a purported hunting trip but then walking to land in an attempt to resume the expedition. Drifting east, the ship was crushed, forcing 25 crew members to survive on the ice and then struggle across 50 miles of frozen sea to a desolate island north of Siberia. Their only advantage was their captain, Bob Bartlett, an Arctic veteran and superb leader who kept them together and, with an Inuit companion, walked 1,000 miles to Alaska to summon ships that rescued 14 survivors. Many fascinating histories of exploration stick to the evidence, but popular writers often novelize their material, inventing dialogues and their subjects’ inner thoughts. Levy belongs to this group, but his tale is entertaining and probably more or less what happened. The author includes maps, a list of characters, and a timeline of “Relevant Arctic Exploration, Expeditions, and Disasters.”

Hair-raising suffering and heroism in the Arctic.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27444-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



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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