An engaging read enhanced by wit and a passion for social justice.


A baby boomer’s debut memoir places the author’s experiences within the context of broader cultural and world events, all from an unabashedly liberal viewpoint.

Caplan, grandson of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, was born in 1949 and grew up—and still lives—in Wallingford, Connecticut, just outside of Hartford. “I was born here, all right, but I am hardly what you would call a Connecticut Yankee. My family and I are over 220 years too late to America for that distinction,” he writes, setting the pleasantly edgy linguistic tone of the narrative. His 1950s and ’60s childhood was a happy one. Prep school at the Blair Academy in New Jersey was followed by Antioch College in Ohio, where Caplan went on to enjoy the indulgences that readers often associate with boomer counterculture—plenty of music, sex, and drugs. (“I know lots of people who cannot run for president. Too many people saw us roll, smoke, inhale, sniff, or swallow something—often, and with gusto.”) He intended to travel and be a writer but returned to Wallingford to help his mother when his father died in the winter of 1974. Caplan whiplashes back and forth in time. One moment he is in the present, talking with his dog Clio, and the next paragraph, he’s decades in the past. Even when reflecting on earlier events, he doesn’t always stick to a sequential timeline. The stream-of-memory retrospective can be confusing. Intriguing Americana tidbits are tucked into family history: for example, Caplan describes how midcentury suppliers of larger independent supermarkets like the one his father owned “dropped off” individual railroad cars “in the railroad yards of small towns and big cities....Then they sent the key to the locked boxcars to the owner of the supermarket.” And well-known factoids are presented with Caplan’s unique style of juxtaposition: “In 1970, Colin Powell was a soldier in Vietnam. He was thirty-three years old. Dick Cheney was twenty-nine. During the Vietnam War, Dick Cheney received five deferments from military service.” Still, this remains an enjoyable, free-wheeling review of the life of a boomer.

An engaging read enhanced by wit and a passion for social justice.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5328-5295-4

Page Count: 284

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2017

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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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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. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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