A whirlwind of a book, full of Trumpian sound and fury—and plenty of news.

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A hard-hitting exposé of the last year of the Trump regime packed with appalling revelations.

This book, write Washington Post reporters Leonnig and Rucker in their sequel to A Very Stable Genius (2020), recounts “how Trump stress-tested the republic, twisting the country’s institutions for personal gain and then pushing his followers too far.” Maundering, bloviating, and always enraged, Trump stalked the halls of the White House, bewildered to find that he could not explain away the pandemic with his spewing flood of misinformation. He was further enraged to find that the voters were not willing to overlook the “abject failure” that he personifies. In perhaps the most newsworthy moments of this newsworthy book, Trump plots to engineer a de facto coup d'état that will keep him in power. His one firm check is the book’s hero, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told his lieutenants at the Pentagon, “They may try, but they’re not going to fucking succeed….You can’t do this without the military….We’re the guys with the guns.” Perhaps surprisingly, Melania and Ivanka Trump emerge as adults in the room, as well, even if a former Trump adviser characterizes the latter as a “stable pony”: “When a racehorse gets too agitated, you bring the stable pony in to calm him down.” In a carefully structured narrative that goes from bad to worse, the authors portray Trump as fully self-satisfied as the Jan. 6 insurrection was taking place, enacted by people whom Milley describes as “the same people we fought in World War II.” To trust this account, Milley almost singlehandedly averted the unprecedented assault on democracy. In a plaintive yet characteristically blustering interview with the authors after Joe Biden’s inauguration, Trump continued to insist that he won the election even while moaning that were it not for the pandemic, he could have beaten a ticket made up of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

A whirlwind of a book, full of Trumpian sound and fury—and plenty of news.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29894-7

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2021

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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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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. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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