A thoroughly impressive debut.




In his first book, a former infantry sergeant–turned-historian surveys more than 200 years of the administration of American military justice.

Through the prism of select, illustrative military trials, courts-martial, and commissions, Bray’s chronological treatment stresses a few consistent themes: how unwritten rules, politics, culture, and institutional tradition shape the application of law; how the increased scale of our wars expanded the scope and power of military justice; how the interests of command authority, obedience, and discipline always rub up against rights of the accused; how “the hard journey from command authority to due process” has never been straightforward; how the issues contested have always mirrored the controversies that have riven the larger society. Some of his court-martial subjects—John C. Fremont, Billy Mitchell, and William Calley—will be known to general readers. Others include the likes of a militiaman who refused to cut his hair, the African-American Women’s Army Corps medical technicians who defied orders to scrub floors, or the only World War II soldier shot for desertion. Though his sympathies seem to lie almost uniformly with the accused, Bray never loses sight of the always-pertinent command perspective, whether the officer involved is Andrew Jackson, Winfield Scott, William Tecumseh Sherman, or John Pershing. His delightfully conversational style makes room for literary references to the works of Herman Melville, Richard Henry Dana, and Robert Penn Warren and to discursions on flogging and dueling, the class division between officers and enlisted, and the warrior mentality of professional soldiers. The author resurrects numerous stories that deserve wider attention: the strong-arm tactics by the Lincoln administration and the Union Army officer corps to ensure political uniformity within the ranks, the hidden portion of a cemetery in France that houses only the numbered graves of soldiers executed for rape, murder, and desertion, or the shocking symmetry between a massacre of Cheyenne at Sand Creek and of Vietnamese at My Lai 100 years later.

A thoroughly impressive debut.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-24340-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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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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