An expert, extremely detailed account of John Adams’ finest hour.



The first shots in the American Revolution occurred during the Boston Massacre, and this history describes the trial that followed, certainly “the most important case in American colonial history.”

On March 5, 1770, British soldiers, harassed by a mob throwing snowballs and rocks, fired into the crowd, killing five and injuring six. Abrams, the chief legal affairs correspondent for ABC News, and prolific author Fisher (co-authors: Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency, 2018) write that the 34-year-old Adams, a successful lawyer who was sympathetic to the protestors, agreed to defend the officer and eight soldiers accused of murder. He would later write, “Counsel ought to be the very last thing an accused person should want in a free country….” This was a moderately courageous act that did his growing law practice no good. To his dying day, Adams grumbled that opponents used the trial to impugn his patriotism. This may have been true, but since then, historians have given him high marks. There were two trials. In the first, the defense had little trouble convincing the jury that Thomas Preston, the officer in charge, did not order his men to fire. In the second, Adams and colleagues strived to show that the soldiers feared for their lives, thus giving them the right to kill in self-defense. They largely succeeded. The jury exonerated six and convicted two of the lesser charge of manslaughter. The letter “m” was burned onto their thumbs as punishment. A transcript exists of the soldiers’ trial, which is perhaps too much of a good thing, as the authors quote liberally from it. Despite variations, readers will encounter perhaps 100 pages of witnesses’ descriptions of the same event followed by several lawyers’ careful reviews of those that support the case. Many readers will feel the urge to skim these parts, but on the whole, the narrative is engaging.

An expert, extremely detailed account of John Adams’ finest hour.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-01592-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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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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