A true-life thriller—and, yes, there just might be more Double Eagles out there.

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ILLEGAL TENDER

GOLD, GREED, AND THE MYSTERY OF THE LOST 1933 DOUBLE EAGLE

The former head of Sotheby’s coin department tracks one of the most coveted American coins from its Depression-era minting to a spectacular auction in July 2002, when one example sold for more than $7.5 million.

Debut author Tripp rightly begins his story of the 1933 Double Eagle, a $20 gold piece, with its designer, celebrated sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Commissioned (if not outright bullied) by Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 to restore mythic grandeur to US coinage, Saint-Gaudens created the beautiful Double Eagle. But as the incoming Roosevelt administration faced economic catastrophe in 1933—gold was fleeing the country, and banks were toppling like tenpins—his quick-thinking Treasury Secretary convinced FDR to take the country off the gold standard, recall all gold tender, and make ownership of it illegal. But wait: somebody forgot to tell the US Mint in Philadelphia, which stamped out thousands of brand-new 1933 $20 Double Eagles before finally getting the word just as the coins were about to be issued. Except for two placed on display at the Smithsonian, all Double Eagles were remelted into gold bars—supposedly. But in 1944, agents for Egypt’s King Farouk applied for—and, astonishingly, obtained—an export license for a ’33 Double Eagle, destined for the king’s prodigious coin collection. Hearing that Farouk paid more than $1,500 for his, coin dealers scattered across the US began running ads soliciting Double Eagles. A newspaper editor finally buzzed the Secret Service (first responders in counterfeit cases) and reminded them that the coin was not supposed to exist. For Agent Strang of the Secret Service, the game was afoot, and Tripp’s account of the tortuous recapture of all known “escaped” coins makes for exciting reading.

A true-life thriller—and, yes, there just might be more Double Eagles out there.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4574-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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