A narrowly focused book that reads smoothly, chronicling a newspaper’s dedication to doing “its job: tell readers about...



A retired journalist from the Riverside (California) Press-Enterprise recounts his publication’s unlikely crusade to open court proceedings to the public; two appeals reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before the 1980s, judges throughout California routinely excluded journalists and citizens from courtrooms during preliminary hearings and jury selection in cases proceeding to trial. Along with most other news organizations, the family-owned Press-Enterprise accepted the restrictions. But three extremely high-profile criminal cases led the owner/publisher and his feisty top editor to challenge judges’ decisions to close their courtrooms during consequential stages of the proceedings. In addition to fully explaining the First Amendment issues at stake, Bernstein (The Tortoise and the Hare Race Again, 2006, etc.) humanizes the narrative by offering extensive portraits of the Press-Enterprise decision-makers, the unlikely lawyers they retained, the local judges involved, and the prosecutors and defense attorneys in the three death penalty cases: a botched bank robbery that ended in a bloody fashion, the rape and murder of a high school girl, and “at least a dozen drug-induced murders of elderly hospital patients by a misguided employee.” The author has clearly conducted prodigious research about the three cases, the local judges and lawyers, the justices serving on the Supreme Court during the 1980s, and the agonizing decision-making inside the Press-Enterprise newsroom. Bernstein longs for an era when a newspaper owner would spend large amounts of money to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court—not once, but twice during the same decade—with no guarantee for any financial return on the investment. Perhaps most enlightening and impressive is the author’s acquisition of notes from the justices and their clerks about the closed-door deliberations leading to favorable decisions about the openness of hearings and jury selections.

A narrowly focused book that reads smoothly, chronicling a newspaper’s dedication to doing “its job: tell readers about shocking crimes in their own backyard.”

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4962-0201-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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