A top-notch addition to the literature on the Korean War.

GHOST FLAMES

LIFE AND DEATH IN A HIDDEN WAR, KOREA 1950-1953

A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist forges a masterly new history of the Korean War through character studies of the participants caught in the conflict.

During his 40-year career at the Associated Press, Hanley reported from nearly 100 countries around the world, and his journalistic talents are on full display in his latest book. He also demonstrates a novelist’s touch and a wonderful ear for dialogue and detail. He builds his history via observers’ testimonies about the war, from the initial invasion of South Korea by North Korean troops on June 25, 1950, to the stunning “morning of silent guns” on July 28, 1953. The characters Hanley chooses to highlight aptly represent the diversity of people involved, from refugees and soldiers on both sides to U.S. military leaders like Matthew Ridgway, appointed Far East commander by Harry Truman after certain miscalculations by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In countless poignant snapshots, the author describes harrowing, often horrific experiences, including those of Sister Mary Mercy at a clinic in Pusan, where “sanitation is abysmal and disease endemic,” and “existing facilities fall far short of what’s needed to deal with the typhoid, typhus, smallpox, and tuberculosis spreading through the refugee population”; and South Korean AP journalist Bill Shinn, who tried to cover the conflict while protecting his family. Elsewhere, Hanley discusses numerous witnesses to the horrendous retaliation by both North and South Korean troops in terms of executions and mass burials as well as American troops’ “depravity” in torturing and raping the local population. The author also details the conditions at the POW camps, including Pyoktong, where a black American soldier endured not only an existence of “simple misery,” but also racist taunts from fellow American soldiers in the camp. In addition to excellent maps and a chronology, Hanley provides photos of the characters and an “After the War” section about each of them. The accretion of astounding detail makes for a vivid, multilayered look at a deeply complicated war in which few emerged as heroic.

A top-notch addition to the literature on the Korean War.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6817-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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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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