A well-written, welcome work of history and advocacy.

MUSTANG

THE SAGA OF THE WILD HORSE IN THE AMERICAN WEST

A stampeding, crusading history of horses in America during the last half-millennium.

Wild horses are a problem for range-management types and government officials, especially in places where there seem to be as many horses as humans—Wyoming, South Dakota and, notably, Nevada. Thus it is that those mustangs are rounded up and, from time to time, slaughtered, a practice that Stillman (Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave, 2001) rightly condemns. Her book offers a spirited defense of the wild horse, as well as a rousing, sweeping account of the horse from the arrival of the conquistadors, who would not have been able to subdue North America without it, even as the unconquered peoples of the plains learned how to tame horses, in nature “animals of prey . . . [that] like the wide open.” More than half of the Spanish mesteños, Stillman notes, died on the crossing from Europe; enough of them survived, though, to give Hernán Cortés and his fellow soldiers the aspect of gods, or so the Aztecs thought. Lacking some of their old natural enemies, the horses multiplied and took up life in the wild. Stillman writes that in colonial Los Angeles so many of them came to the edge of town, browsed the forage and “spirited the gentled horses away” that drovers were forced to take after them with lances and herd them over cliffs into the ocean. The author relates the careers of famed horses such as Comanche, hailed as the lone survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn, and Fritz, without whom “Hollywood would have stalled at Bronco Billy, the cowboy who couldn’t ride and didn’t even have his own horse.” Stillman sometimes inclines into the mystical, but horses are, after all, inspiring creatures, so she is to be forgiven the occasional reverie—though her celebratory mood darkens, understandably, as she approaches modern times and the tenderfoot bureaucrats who govern them.

A well-written, welcome work of history and advocacy.

Pub Date: June 9, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-618-45445-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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