A well-presented, little-known sidebar to the struggle for Irish independence.



Civil War veterans plot to win Irish independence by kidnapping Canada.

By the end of the American Civil War, the movement for national liberation was moribund in Ireland, where the populace was debilitated, demoralized, and disarmed in the wake of the Great Hunger 15 years earlier. America, however, teemed with refugees from that disaster, resentful of England and now armed and battle-hardened. What could they do for their native land? Union general Thomas Sweeny of the Fenian Brotherhood had an idea: Attack poorly defended Canada, then still a colony of the crown, and trade the captured territory back to Britain in exchange for Irish independence. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, as it turned out. Under several different leaders, Fenians raided Canada from New Brunswick to Manitoba in several incidents between 1866 and 1871. None succeeded in holding Canadian territory for more than 48 hours; their principal accomplishment was to encourage Canadian confederation as an enhancement to national security. Clearly an enthusiast of Irish nationalism, Klein (Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America's First Sports Hero, 2013, etc.) manages to keep a straight face as he narrates this opéra bouffe of delusional and incompetent commanders sponsored by bitterly competing groups riddled with spies, leading tiny armies against the combined forces of the British, Canadian, and American governments. But there was nothing funny about the costs to idealistic working men in the ranks who paid for these follies with their money and, in a few cases, their lives. The author offers a thoroughly researched and engagingly written account of the leaders of America's feuding Irish émigré groups, earnest patriots all, whose clashing egos and strategies kept their groups splintered and weak. He takes the preparations for the hopeless invasions as seriously as did the men involved, although he knows as well as readers that they are all doomed to humiliating failure.

A well-presented, little-known sidebar to the struggle for Irish independence.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54260-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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