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A WRETCHED AND PRECARIOUS SITUATION

IN SEARCH OF THE LAST ARCTIC FRONTIER

Long, leisurely, and vastly entertaining.

The story of a 1913 Arctic expedition to investigate what the New York Tribune called “the last considerable mass of unknown land on our planet.”

Welky (History/Univ. of Central Arkansas; Marching Across the Color Line: A. Philip Randolph and Civil Rights in the World War II Era, 2013, etc.) recounts the effort by two eager young acolytes of Cmdr. Robert E. Peary to reveal the secrets of Crocker Land, a large, undiscovered landmass the famed explorer reported seeing on his failed 1906 attempt to reach the North Pole. Making magnificent use of documents and re-creating the yearslong Arctic sojourn with the drama and immediacy of a tension-filled adventure novel, the author conjures a romantic quest emblematic of the rugged manliness of the time. In the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt and with Peary’s blessing and the sponsorship of the American Museum of Natural History, the young explorers—Bowdoin graduate Donald MacMillan and Yalie George Borup—set out on a steamer with all the fanfare due an ambitious scientific exploration. Their journey, pitting a seven-man crew against the perils of Arctic life, from blizzards and ice floes to winter darkness and loneliness, involved “triumph, frustration, joy, infighting, betrayal, and murder” in “one of the harshest environments on the planet.” Working with such material and telling his story in vivid scenes rendered in wonderfully sharp declarative sentences, Welky offers a vibrant portrait of the young adventurers, their loyal Inuit helpers, and the ever present dangers of a forbidding place where, as leader MacMillan said, “the evil spirit of the Arctic is always watching.” Examining every aspect of the mission and its historical context, the author captures the can-do, all-American-boy spirit of the age, the constant fears of unforeseen disasters on the ice, and the fossil- and specimen-collecting mania that drove so much exploration. He also describes the expedition’s surprising discovery upon approaching Crocker Land in a way that enhances the fascination of his story.

Long, leisurely, and vastly entertaining.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-25441-9

Page Count: 492

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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