A well-rendered historical account emphasizing the moral complexities of unorthodox warfare.



An exacting reconstruction of the exploits of two Anglo-American brothers who fueled French resistance to Nazi occupation.

Former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent Glass (Syria Burning: A Short History of a Catastrophe, 2016, etc.) creates a fresh, detailed take on the patriotic legend of anti-Nazi insurgency by focusing on the diverse array of heroes and villains the brothers encountered once dispatched in 1942 to develop resistance cells for Britain’s Special Operations Executive. “While British agents like George and John Starr learned how to kill,” writes the author, “training schools could not teach them whom to trust.” The brothers’ divergent experiences provide an inherently compelling narrative. Over two years of covert organizational actions in the Gascony region, including receiving weaponry and agents and maintaining communications with SOE, George gained renown as an effective, principled officer, culminating in sabotage and combat operations following D-Day. However, John was arrested in Paris by Nazi counterintelligence. He cooperated with his interrogators, secretly documenting the Funkspiel, or “playback,” of captured radios, a successful counterdeception of SOE. Nazi officers who’d taken a liking to him spared his life after a thwarted escape attempt, although he was later sent to concentration camps. Both brothers survived the war only to see their reputations tarnished; George was accused of allowing the torture of Gestapo agents, while John was tried for collaboration in France. Both were eventually acquitted; as Glass concludes, “each Starr had experienced a different war….Each always rose to the defense of the other.” The author ably captures the stubborn courage displayed by SOE agents and the French resisters who gathered around them, and he clearly portrays the clever functionality of Allied espionage and insurgency tactics despite the brutality of the Nazis and their collaborators. His determination to fully document the sprawling web of individual players, political factions, betrayals, and flashpoints that compose the French resistance narrative results in a history that casual readers may find dense but that World War II buffs will relish.

A well-rendered historical account emphasizing the moral complexities of unorthodox warfare.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59420-617-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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