Successful niche military history for a popular audience.



Fireworks in Nazi-occupied Italy during the final year of World War II.

Prolific filmmaker and historian Lewis has written many accounts of commando derring-do across various historical eras. His current effort begins in the fall of 1944, one year into the Italian campaign. After months of slow, bitter advance up the peninsula, the Allies were stalled at the Gothic line, a heavily fortified position north of Florence. On the bright side, resistance forces in North Italy were perhaps the most effective in Europe. Fortified by air drops of supplies, arms, and members of Britain’s elite Special Air Service, they became a major thorn in the side of the German occupation. Lewis builds his story around Roy Farran and Michael Lees, two veteran British officers, describing their dramatic, if not always successful exploits in the years before they came together for Operation Tombola. Ordinarily resistance units confined themselves to acts of sabotage and ambush, but on this occasion, they received approval to target a corps headquarters housed in two well-defended villas. Lewis delivers his usual vivid account of the planning and fierce March 1945 attack, which included 50 British soldiers dropped in for the occasion and several hundred partisans including a company of Russian escaped POWs. It was largely successful, destroying the villas and causing substantial German casualties at the expense of two British dead. The operation has been called “possibly the most significant single action involving partisans in the entire history of the partisan movement.” Readers may wince at some of the author’s purple novelization in which historical characters talk, think, and reveal their emotions, but they will forgive him because he has turned up a little-known behind-the-lines spectacular led by two heroic British officers.

Successful niche military history for a popular audience.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8065-4074-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Citadel/Kensington

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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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