Ayres a coward? Come on, give the guy a medal.


London Times journalist Ayres reluctantly joins the “elite, noble, and fucked-up profession” of Middle East war correspondent in this report from the frontlines.

Awoken at 6:30 in the morning, the author learns that his editor at the Times, a former foreign correspondent and a titan in the field, wants him to go to war. Ayres, too, is a foreign correspondent: he files stories on celebrity life in Los Angeles. Still, he does not want to let the boss down, nor lose his job. “Yes! Love to!” he blurts. Since he is embedded for a mere nine days, much of this memoir concerns how Ayres happened to arrive there in the first place. After all, here is a guy who started out his journalistic career as a financial writer—and a fraud at that, he admits, since he knew diddly about economics—before moving on to the celebrity circuit in LA. Not before witnessing the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and experiencing the anthrax craze that followed, however; both receive excellent, sinewy coverage here. Then this self-described clumsy geek hypochondriac with panic attacks gets the wake-up call, and he caves before his best instincts, scared that another will take his place and shine, scared of squandering the opportunity so many journalists desire. Outside Baghdad, waiting to die as Iraqi tanks bear down on his storm-stuck Humvee, Ayres berates himself for the cowardice of letting his journalist’s ego get the upper hand, for a selfishness that would cause his loved ones great and lasting pain. While these moments of bitterness claw at his soul, he delivers a first-rate glimpse of how terrifying are the wages of war, and not just the carnage and doom: the first time he needs to use the field as a toilet, he squats directly over a tarantula’s nest.

Ayres a coward? Come on, give the guy a medal.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-87113-895-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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