A scholarly enough social history but one with plenty of sex appeal.

SUPREME CITY

HOW JAZZ AGE MANHATTAN GAVE BIRTH TO MODERN AMERICA

An award-winning historian surveys the astonishing cast of characters who helped turn Manhattan into the world capital of commerce, communication and entertainment.

Except for occasional geographic detours to Harlem for the Cotton Club or the Bronx for Yankee Stadium, and a couple of temporal departures that highlight, for example, the completion of Grand Central Terminal or the opening of the George Washington Bridge, Miller (History/Lafayette Coll.; Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, 2006, etc.) confines his story to Midtown Manhattan and the 1920s. Even with these self-imposed boundaries, the narrative bursts with a dizzying succession of tales about the politicos, impresarios, merchants, sportsmen, performers, gangsters and hustlers who accounted for an unprecedented burst of creativity and achievement. Readers with even a passing acquaintance with Jazz Age New York will recognize many of Miller’s characters—Mayor Jimmy Walker, Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Duke Ellington, Jack Dempsey, Walter Chrysler, David Sarnoff, Florenz Ziegfeld—but how many know the story of Othmar Ammann, perhaps history’s greatest designer of steel bridges? Or bootlegger Owney Madden, model for his friend George Raft’s silver-screen gangster? Or Lois Long, hard-living fashion editor for Harold Ross’ New Yorker? Or boxing promoter Tex Rickard, first to recognize that each fight required an intriguing narrative to build box office sales? Or the charismatic Horace Liveright, who thought of each book he published as an event? How the speak-easies hummed and how Prohibition democratized drinking, how cosmetics queens (and mortal enemies) Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden blazed new paths for women, how Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue became fashion meccas, how “mansions in the sky” blossomed all over the city—all this and much more cram Miller’s sprightly narrative about a city so convinced of its centrality as to employ an “official greeter.”

A scholarly enough social history but one with plenty of sex appeal.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4165-5019-8

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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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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