Lucid and well-written; a worthy companion to Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead (Mar. 2003).

A memorable study of a transformative battle, now largely “condemned to the dustbin of history.”

Former Marine officer and debut author Morris, who entered the service shortly after Gulf War I ended, offers a vivid account of the Battle of Khafji, when, in a scarcely imaginable act of hubris, Saddam Hussein sent three armored and mechanized army divisions into Saudi Arabia. The battle, which began nearly a month before Operation Desert Storm sent Americans into Iraq, lasted only three days. Yet it afforded plenty of opportunities for the fog of war to enshroud American forces; no contingency plan having been made for such an invasion, for instance, air traffic controllers did not immediately dispatch planes to relieve the coastal sector’s American and Arab Coalition defenders, so that “the greatest air force in the history of warfare was sitting idle while Marines battled Iraqi main battle tanks with rifles.” Once the communications snafus were cleared up, American planes did take to the skies—and quickly inflicted heavy losses on their own men. At the same time, American units that had been caught unaware had to avoid being cut to pieces in the crossfire between their comrades and allies and the oncoming Iraqi forces. All in a day’s work, Morris remarks: “The gods of war roll the dice, and the dumb grunts in the middle of it get to sort it out.” The battle soon turned, and, writes Morris, “American forces and their allies saw up close and for the first time the staggering psychological impact of modern precision-guided munitions upon an outmoded Third World army.” Yet the American command failed to learn the obvious lessons from Khafji—namely, that the Iraqis were less tough and less motivated than had been assumed. Had the generals done so, Morris suggests, they might have been emboldened to crush the vaunted Republican Guards the first time around “and thus taken away Saddam’s main instrument for survival,” which presumably would have made Gulf War II unnecessary.

Lucid and well-written; a worthy companion to Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead (Mar. 2003).

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-3557-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2003



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



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. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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