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THE WAR BEFORE INDEPENDENCE

1775-1776

Revolutionary War fans will rejoice in this well-written work and hope that the author has more on the way.

Beck (Igniting the American Revolution: 1773-1775, 2015) continues his deeply detailed story of the American Revolution’s beginnings.

In this volume, the author focuses on the British occupation of Boston and the attempts by American forces to retake it. The first and most formidable problem was that the Colonies did not yet have an army of their own. The provincial armies and local militias were united only in their common cause, and localism doomed attempts to field a cohesive force. Men from different states would never recognize any superior but one of their own. The forces not only lacked unity; they also tended to go their own ways in battle. Disciplining troops was difficult, as all believed themselves equal; in the spirit of casting off George III’s sovereignty, soldiers rejected all authority. Even so, the author notes that the colonists did not initially intend to separate. They wished for liberty, not independence, but patriotism and a sense of duty were new ideas. It was the king’s attitude that drove them to it. Beginning with a few skirmishes and the Battle of Chelsea Creek, Beck leads up to the Battle of Bunker Hill. In the middle of the night, Americans built entrenchments out of range of bombardments from English ships. English Gen. Thomas Gage attempted to encircle them but failed. In the end, it was a bloody fight and a pyrrhic victory for him. The fall of Montreal and the siege of Quebec seem to be asides in this story until we see Col. Henry Knox bringing desperately needed artillery and cannon across frozen Lake Champlain and the Hudson. Though Beck only covers a short period, his excellent research brings to life the men who fought, providing readers with real, tangible heroes, not just hazy historic figures.

Revolutionary War fans will rejoice in this well-written work and hope that the author has more on the way.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3309-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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